There wasn’t much to come out of the Toronto Blue Jays State of the Franchise gathering from Monday night that hasn’t been said elsewhere. That is a two-fold statement – people like Stoeten, the National Post’s John Lott, and Sportsnet’s Mike Wilner accurately and dutifully relayed the quotes and soundbites from the Jays brain trust with clarity and punctuality.

The suits representing the Jays — manager John Farrell, general manager Alex Anthopoulos, and President Paul Beeston — largely stayed on message. Beeston, forever in sales mode, bent over backwards apologizing and agreeing with nearly every complaint lobbed against him and his team. It seemed an impassioned season ticket holder could coerce The Beest to agree to just about anything by the end of the Q & A.

The veneer did not crack but, in between grass field pipe dreams and Beeston apologizing profusely for the lack of quality women’s merchandise, there was a recurring theme: the Jays need control.

The Jays ownership has very deep pockets, as we all know. Listening to the Jays front office you get a very unusual impression: sometimes you can’t even give it away. Both Paul Beeston and Alex Anthopoulos noted separate instances of offering more than players eventually signed for elsewhere – both in term and years — but still failing to land the (unnamed) players.

An oft-repeated mantra regarding team policy on long-term contracts (none longer than five years) seems short-sighted when the decision makers bend over backwards explaining how difficult attracting free agent talent can be. Hard and fast rules can be limiting, can they not?

When I asked Alex Anthopoulos if such a rule existed for the team’s bounty of prospects and recent draft picks, he said no. There is no hard and fast rule deeming some prospects untouchable, each and every one is “in play” for potential moves. Anthopoulos stressed a reluctance to fill one hole while creating two others but the methodology is clear. Trades are the only way the club can achieve that which they truly desire: control.

Acquiring young players still in the arbitration or earlier stage of their career gives the Blue Jays freedom from the free market. Freedom from the whims of players wary of playing in the American League East on a sickly green carpet in Canada. When the Jays sit down with an arbitration eligible player and slide a contract that guarantees millions of dollars in exchange for their remaining arbitration years, their agent is not fielding calls from half a dozen other interested parties.

If the Jays front office is to be believed (and you are well within your rights to not believe) this is the only time they are free to pursue the players they truly think can build up their team to contention levels.

When Alex Anthopoulos mentions the Jays having the equivalent of “five or six drafts in the last two years” it isn’t because he expects each and every draft pick to surge through the minor league system and player for the Toronto Blue Jays all the way to free agency and beyond. This team clearly seeks value by acquiring talent in both quality and quantity and moving from there. Building up a considerable pool of talent gives Anthopoulos the freedom to acquire talent closer to the big leagues with a clearer understanding of what that player can be in the future.

Which, I believe, comes back to control. The more information the team is able to acquire on a particular player, the more confidently the Jays can project into the future. The more confidently they can spend money in option-heavy contracts and count on particular players as pieces of the future.

Free agency doesn’t allow that kind of free flow of information – too much grey area and too many unknown quantities. Additionally, once a player signs a free agent contract they are instantly at the lowest point of potential trade value. Yu Darvish represents the both sides of this coin. The exclusive negotiating window might suit the team ‘s agendas perfectly but the combination of Darvish’s interest in a long term deal and all the pitfalls and unknowns represented by Darvish suggest the Blue Jays interest in the Japanese phenom was tepid at best.

Take the comments of Beeston and Anthopoulos with all the grains of salt you need. If you choose not to believe them, so be it. They certainly dismissing the company line very easy for those already so inclined. The shortcomings of the franchise are clear to the both the fans and potential players. The Blue Jays as an organization think they created a framework to limit these shortcomings and make the structure of Major League Baseball work for them.

Longtime fans and season ticket holders may demand quick fixes and, quite fairly, a better return on their entertainment investment. They award the team on the field no points for style or degree of difficulty, nor is it a real concern of theirs if the team balances their books. They want to see a winner. Better players bring winning closer to reality. The Toronto Blue Jays and many of their fans don’t see the methods for acquiring better players quite the same.

There will always be belly aching just as there will always be hardcore fans, with their team through thick and thin. The Blue Jays believe the hurdles they face do not prevent them from delivering on their (myriad) promises and putting a winning team on the field. The Toronto Blue Jays simply seek the same thing from their on-field talent that they patiently display in front of frustrated season ticket holders: control.

Comments (31)

  1. I don’t care about anything other than getting real grass. Make this happen, already.

    • You need to take this one step further. Build Toronto a REAL baseball stadium. The multi-purpose platform fails to capture the nuances of the game. The games I go to see at Comerica and Progressive Field have a far superior atmosphere, even when the stadiums are empty.

      • Are YOU going to pay for it? I am sure as shit not about to pony up any of my dough.

      • At the very least, have the Jays ever addressed why we can’t have dirt on the basepaths as opposed to just dirt cutouts at the bases?

        I would be interested to hear why this hasn’t been implemented.

        • Skydome can be made into a more traditional baseball stadium. The taxpayers shouldn’t have to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars for a new stadium when Rogers can pay millions to make some improvements to the existing stadium.

          Real grass is a start. Totally remodel the north end of the stadium (where the hotel and WIndows, Siightlines restaurants are located) so that outside light can come in during games when the dome is closed. Boom. Miller Park.

          • I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but here in the Northern Hemisphere the sun stays mostly in the Southern sky. Opening up the North end of the stadium won’t let in a whole lot of direct light.

            The major obstacle of real grass is that other uses become extremely limited. No more U2 or Bon Jovi, no more Monster Trucks or Moto-Cross, no more religious figures filling up the place for a visit, and with Molson Park in Barrie already gone and Downsview developments closing in there isn’t anywhere else in the city for these things.

            Unless they develop a way, like where the Arizona Cardinals play, so that they can roll the grass outside between baseball games, and roll it in on game day. Or some idiot privately builds an NFL stadium and the Monster Trucks go there.

      • Where are they going to build it superstar? I’d rather they play at the dome on fake grass then have to travel to etobicoke or vaughn…

  2. Great article Drew.

  3. I do like the way you help spell-it-out for people about how and why the Jays are doing things (by not signing outrageous free agent contracts) just to appease those who can’t see beyond their own nose sometimes.

    The control analogy is a good one.

  4. Drew, did you get the impression that AA was at all hamstrung by the ownership’s payroll parameters and the policy of no more than 5-year commitments to FAs?

    I didn’t see the SOTF but I understand that AA did say something to the point of convincing Beeston to let him sign Romero to a 5 year deal + option.

    Is AA’s line of thinking different from ownership and corporate (Beeston’s) policies?

    • I do not. I think the Jays are hamstrung by perceptions. High-end guys simply don’t want to come to Toronto right now. Rather than being the Orioles, the Jays are trying to get ahead of the curve and get players they like before the free agent feeding frenzy.

  5. I have to agree with the stadium comments. Rogers Centre is a mausoleum. Consider they only paid $25 mil for it and own the naming rights, I’m sure they could sink some money into fixing it up. My top 3: Better concessions, cheaper prices, new seat with more leg room (especially when Frasor pitches)!

    • They certainly did spend money on it, to minimal effect it seems.

      The Muddy York is an underrated concession stand on the 100 level. They had a nice butter chicken going on last night. Samosas on Samosas!

      • Come on man! Indian food at a baseball game? I want some philly cheesesteaks, foot long hot dogs, and batting cages! Basically I’m just jealous of Tiger’s stadium. :)

  6. Has anyone ever seen a ranking of average ticket prices Vs. team wins

  7. Did anybody ask about Darvish last night? I didn’t watch it, so I have no idea if there were any specific players asked about (except for Pineda who’s being talked about today)

  8. I just can’t stay mad at the Beest.

    • The guy spends half of these events talking about how the Jays will spend money when they are on the verge of contention, but spends the other half talking about how close the Jays actually are to contending.

      I suppose there’s no point in getting angry at him for doing his job, though.

  9. I remember reading a tweet last night about AA becoming the next team president. Was this just vaguely hinted at, or was there something more said regarding this?

  10. Great job Drew. While I did pine for a Fielder bat behind Bautista (not for that price or length though) you have to have some reason for a guy to actually come to this team. A good farm system and multi-cultural food isn’t going to do it. You’ve laid it out clearly here that the strategy is all about controlling the contract of the players on the team.

    The only way a big ticket guy is going to choose Toronto over the other available options is if the team is close to contention. (Roy Oswalt as a perfect example). AA clearly likes the trade route better because he can target guys who will not have another choice of southern pastures, or more lucrative offers. In building up a huge roster of prospects he’s laid out the groundwork to be able to acquire top-end talent should it become available. As he’s said all along – that talent generally becomes available later in the season once contending teams and pretending teams have separated in the standings. Even though the fan in me wants to win next season – his strategy is likely the ONLY way we’ll see a great baseball team in Toronto.

  11. Those poor Blue Jays. They tell us they offered more money to free-agents than anyone else but all those crazy free-agents did not want to sign.
    This is certainly not an indictment of ownership. They did all they could. Before I blamed ownership for not signing any free-agents but now that I understand that it is because of the free-agents themselves refusing to come to Toronto, I can completely understand how the slow rebuild process is the only option for building a competitive team.

  12. There is a sound clip on Mike Wilner’s blog of the media scrum that took place after the SotF main event. In it, Beest covers why they can’t have grass (multi-use), what it will take to get grass (end of multi-use) and why they don’t have more dirt on the infield (multi-use). He points out that the reason why the Rays have more dirt on the infield is because theirs is not designed to be multi-use like the SkyDome is.

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