There’s one thing that the Yu Darvish sweepstakes taught me, and it seems to be the same thing as that Jays fans have been waiting for since J.P. Ricciardi blew millions on B.J. Ryan, A.J. Burnett, and the rest of what I like to call “the lost cause” candidates. It’s the same thing that took Toronto fans by storm and united them in one constant voice that said “show us you really want to win”, and it’s the “One” thing that they can all agree upon. Go out there and prove you want to win by being aggressive not only in the minors and international markets, and in the trade market, but also in the free agent market. Well, when that aggressiveness and risk are both appropriate, that is.
Maybe it was the Alex Rios and the Vernon Wells contracts, or maybe it’s the fact that they want to become a patient franchise in the mould of the Atlanta Braves, but there’s “One” thing holding Jays management back from making a big move to jump the Jays ahead a notch. They just generally don’t seem to believe that they are in fact 1 or 2 moves away from being a real threat to win a world series. Sometimes, the move not made can be seen as the move that saved the franchise from a huge mistake. Or, sometimes, the move not made can be seen as the move that should have been made in order to take an appropriate risk.
And there it is again, the “One” thing that every Jays fan is waiting for the Jays franchise to do under Alex Anthopoulos: Appropriate risk!!
Because, they all know that once he does make that or those move(s), the Jays will be a force to be reckoned with.
Whether it’s bidding for Yu Darvish, a move that was surprisingly popular amongst Jays fans, or going after someone like Prince Fielder, Jays fans are searching for that moment in Jays history when management will tell them “here we go!” or “hang on to your hard hats because we’re going for a ride!” and will take the appropriate risks to get the Jays there.
Having said that, was spending as much as the Reds or Nats did in return for Matt Latos or Gio Gonzalez an appropriate risk? In my humble opinion, definitely not. Was over-bidding for Yu Darvish an appropriate risk? Definitely, if ownership wasn’t going to collapse all other spending based on that one huge signing. If Rogers said we’ll add Darvish at any cost without team budget repercussions, then the Jays would have been crazy to not outbid the Rangers, because it would simply be ownership money without any cost in prospects. Whereas acquiring Latos or Gonzalez was going to cost a very steep price in prospects.
The difference in Prince Fielder’s case is that everyone has different projections in what kind of player he’ll be by 2016 and beyond. Will his weight affect his play, and if so, by how much? Will he be able to perform as David Ortiz and Kirby Puckett did, or will he be worth a fraction of his salary at that time? Nobody knows for certain, therefore, it’s safe to say that an “appropriate risk” for Alex Anthopoulos and the Jays in Fielder’s case is to assume risk for the next 5-6 years and leave it at that. If they can get him signed in that term, without any bells and whistles attached to his signing – an Alex Anthopoulos trait – then get it done! If not, a much more likely scenario, let him sign elsewhere.
Listen. First base is about the easiest position to fill in all of baseball. Where it gets hard is when you want an ABOVE average first baseman that stands out. Then everything gets much thinner. The way I see it is that the Jays have Adam Lind signed very cheaply for the foreseeable future, have David Cooper, Michael McDade, and numerous other prospects who could switch to that position if need be, to fill the first base position. Until they can get a reasonable upgrade that is deemed an appropriate risk for the franchise to take, that’s what they should work with.
The real need for the Jays organization right now lies in the rotation and the 8th inning of the pen. Those 2 issues would help the Jays out a whole lot more than replacing Adam Lind, who could easily bounce back with a .280 or above average and his usual 25+ HRs. Such a boost in production would instantly make him either a productive part of the lineup or a very nice trade piece for Alex Anthopoulos. Having said that, I entirely believe that the projected pen pieces (Santos, Janssen, Litsch, Perez, Carreno, Villanueva, and possibly Farquhar) are good enough to get the job done in 2012. Would a veteran taking the place of Farquhar make them better? Possibly, but it’s also no guarantee, as both Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco proved in 2011. I say give the young guys a chance and take it from there in the case of the pen.
Unlike the pen, however, the rotation may need one extra arm in order to ensure its effectiveness and depth is sustained in 2012. Do the current projections of Romero, Morrow, Cecil, Alvarez, and McGowan feel like enough to get the Jays through the first part of 2012? Perhaps, but with Brad Mills gone and few “ready” options remaining in AAA, it seems like the Jays could use at least 1 innings eater. An option which has been suggested by some is to complete a trade with the Royals for Greg Holland. I’m not sure what it would take, but if the Jays were to sign someone like Roy Oswalt or Hideki Kuroda and trade Brett Cecil in a package for Greg Holland, they may wind up on the better part of the equation. Holland would really solidify the back end of the pen, and the Jays would get a more experienced rotation. Although I’m a fan of these moves, I just don’t see them happening for a few reasons. The Jays believe Cecil is better than he has shown, they don’t want to commit big money to veterans who will block their young players, and they want to add players who will be with the team long-term. Since Oswalt and Kuroda both seem to be 1-3 year additions at high cost, neither seems to be a match. However, Holland remains an interesting trade target who would fit right in with the AA model of acquiring the best potential at a certain position who is under control long term. If the cost matches the Jays expectations, and they want him to be a Jays pitcher, I’m sure they’ll find a way to get that deal done, leaving the rotation strength as the lone soft spot in the Jays roster for 2012.
The truth of it all is that the Jays have “waves” of talent coming up to challenge current Jays pitchers for spots in the rotation. Do you really think that Henderson Alvarez can rest easy now and breeze through seasons after earning a look last season? Not at all. He has to fend off Deck McGuire, Drew Hutchison, Asher Wojciechowski, Chad Jenkins, Justin Nicolino, Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Sanchez, ect.. ect… That’s no easy feat, and neither is holding those players back from the MLB squad once they’re ready. With the first 4 on my list possibly ready to make an appearance with the Jays by the end of 2012 if needed, there’s little doubt in my mind that the talent of the Jays rotation is much deeper than initially meets the casual observer’s eye. The question really becomes this: how quickly do the Jays want these pitchers to move up the ranks, and how much faith do they have in their abilities to deal with adversity in 2012? If the Jays are aggressive on both counts, then we could see a few of these pitchers in Toronto by season’s end. If they decide on the slower route of things for whatever reason, then adding a veteran or two makes a whole lot of sense. We should find out where the Jays stand on the issue by the end of spring training, when all inclinations should have been acted on.
Without the appropriation of 20+ million a season to one player, the Jays are setting themselves up to lock up their own future stars, an issue which may become much more important than any current FA signing. When players like Brett Lawrie, J. P. Arencibia, and Colby Rasmus need to be extended or re-signed, the Jays will need to have the money to do so. Essentially, what you don’t want to have happen is to not be able to sign your up-and-coming players as aggressively as the Rays have done with players like Evan Longoria and Matt Moore. The earlier you can extended such budding stars, the easier it is to get them under control for a long period of time at an affordable rate.
Therefore, with that in mind, I ask Jays fans to be more patient at this crucial junction in Jays franchise progression towards greatness. Let our prospects take one more step before making demands from management that may require a risk to be taken. Believe me, with one more step from the greatest group of Jays prospects ever assembled in Jays history, the franchise is headed in the right direction and will be ready to take as many appropriate risks as necessary to make them a real powerhouse in 2013. Until then, enjoy the growth of our many talents and those who join them from the minor league ranks!
Remember, Alex Anthopoulos went out there and acquired a closer for good reason. He knows the Jays are close, and was therefore ready to commit to making that position a real priority for the Jays. If the Jays are well within the race by mid-2012, I believe he’ll make the right moves and will take the appropriate risks to give the Jays the best chance to get to the playoffs.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!