I realize people may be getting a bit tired of the John Farrell soap opera and its recent conclusion. So, aside from the title of this post, and some general intro, I hope to move away from Farrell as quickly as I can. As I stated in Jays Journal’s first (and very successful) round table discussion, from a purely baseball standpoint I really didn’t care whether Farrell stayed or not. I believe the difference between JF and whomever the Jays hire will be nominal at best.
What I’m interested in is how this affects Alex Anthopolous. Tactically, I think this is a pretty schrewd move from Anthopolous. No doubt, he’ll take his fair share of hits. Hell, Farrell even threw him under the bus at his Boston press conference saying that AA indicated if a similar situation arose for him, he may have taken it. Farrell also made it clear that he expressed interest in the Boston job as early as 2011.
These statements have some questioning why, if his heart wasn’t in the job, wasn’t he let go last year or even hired at all? I really
don’t think this can be pinned on Alex. People lie at interviews. Am going to admit that I have once or twice. If Farrell was asked during his interviews with the Jays organization if he would potentially jump ship if Boston came a calling, I doubt very seriously he would have hesitated even for a second before professing all things Blue Jay. He wanted to manage. No one could predict the Sox going off the rails in 2011, costing Terry Francona his job. Farrell obviously felt he needed to move to get the corner office.
So why wasn’t he allowed to move in 2011 then? From all accounts, the Jays manager search was pretty exhaustive. I would think Anthopolous wasn’t overly keen to go through the process again a year later. Nor did he want to give up on Farrell after what was a reasonably decent debut. He still thought he had his manager for the forseeable future. Why give him to a division rival?
Now that he is gone, AA will probably take the odd hit about letting him leave now, and for Mike Aviles no less. I don’t want to dwell on the compensation, but let’s be honest, unrealistic expectations had people worked in a frenzy about who the Jays should demand. Farrell was a sub .500 manager with two seasons experience and more questions than answers. The fact we got anything should be applauded. Aviles will do a job next season, either as starting second basemen (worst case) or as a utility infielder (best case). He also provides some flexibility if the Jays decide to move one or both of Yunel Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria.
Why was he allowed to move then?
The sample size got larger. After an 81 win season one, season two didn’t go so well, garnering eight fewer wins, with, what was agreed in spring training, a better team. True, that team was decimated by injuries, but the news that Farrell expressed interest in a move last year may go a ways towards explaining some of other stuff that went on. I am only speculating here, but as the clubhouse did seem to lack discipline, and comments were made on the lack of communication between coaching staff and players, could this have been a by-product of Farrell’s disappointment over not having been let go when Boston’s job became available? It’s possible he had checked out already.
Where does this leave Anthopolous then? For me, he’s just bought himself another year of grace. Don’t get me wrong, if he does nothing aside from hire a new manager this off-season he will be skewered. But I don’t think he now feels the pressure to go out and make a blockbuster deal or overpay the top free agent pitcher on the market. If he doesn’t see any value this winter, I think AA will be content to sign a starter that will slot in as a third or fourth and possibly fill one of the holes in left, first, or second.
We don’t know exactly what is going to play out with the coaching staff. There is a very real chance Farrell’s departure isn’t the last. If we see a wholesale regime change, with a young team, surely it will take at least a year for the players to acclimatize to the new manager’s message. And in a lot of ways that’s true. Making a managerial switch now, allows Anthopolous the luxury of not having to make moves he doesn’t feel comfortable with in order to fill the gaps with veteran, albeit average talent. It gives the minor league system, and it’s high end prospects, ie Anthony Gose, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, Noah Syndergaard, and Aaron Sanchez another year to mature.
Next season is important, but if the Jays don’t contend, which is a very strong possibility, the priority for the new coaching staff, in conjunction with the front office, will be to evaluate the talent available at the major league level. If Farrell were still in place, vying for a new contract, lineup flexibility may have been sacrificed for wins.
Farrell’s defection allows the Jays more roster flexibility, a soft shield against potentially poor roster moves, and adds a player to the roster. Anthopolous has done well here. I don’t believe he will now take a step back from improving the roster in the hopes that 2014 sees minor league talent graduate. But with a new manager now at the top of his priority list, the pressure to fill too many holes may have lessened somewhat.