Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays GM Not to Blame for Off Season Disappointment

In the wake of Ubaldo Jimenez becoming a member of the Baltimore Orioles (don’t worry, I’m not getting into that), I started thinking. All in all, it’s been a winter of writing, reading and subsequent hand wringing among those interested in the Toronto Blue Jays. This obsession attention among fans has, in some cases, turned ugly. Some are calling for Alex Anthopoulos to be on the chopping block. Some fans are vowing to take out their frustration at the box office and not go to games, etc. I guess time will tell if that ire continues. If they Jays play well, look for the bandwagon to become more crowded.

Regardless, it got me thinking about how such a mess had been created in the first place. On the surface, it would appear that Anthopoulos is at fault. But, can we really blame Alex Anthopoulos for the frustration and anger over a mess of an offseason? At the risk of sounding old, perhaps we should blame social media.

The problems that existed for the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays have been hashed and rehashed many, many times. Injuries and lack of depth were probably the biggest problem that inflicted last year’s version of the Jays. Defense also was a glaring area of concern. So, the priorities for the offseason were very clear. Anthopoulos went to baseball’s winter  grocery store with a specific list of items:

  1. Starting Pitcher (2)
  2. Catcher
  3. Second Base

Because the area of need was so obvious AND because baseball “news” is more like an act of inferring, the Blue Jays were “linked” to many different free agents and some other teams for trades. As always, there is a race to be the one to “leak” a story. So, if there is even a hint that a team may be leaning toward a player in any way, you want to jump on it. Enter baseball’s new art of speculation. The Blue Jays have been “linked” in one way or another to most of the bigger name free agents this offseason. There were rumours of Jose Bautista being a potential trade chip (Yeah, right. He’s the Face of the Franchise), Adam Lind on the move, Jays wanting to trade for Jeff Samardzija, Jays possibly trading for Brett Anderson, etc. That is not to mention the ad nausium speculation over free agent starting pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, A.J. Burnett, Bronson Arroyo and the bigger nail biter: Masahiro Tanaka. Depending on the “linking” and who wrote it, Blue Jays fans became more and more engrossed with the idea that the Jays MUST land one (or more) of the free agents. Every tweet about the Blue Jays having “interest” is another missed opportunity in the eye of fans. It seems like every year Toronto is mentioned in some fashion to a free agent, but this year it seemed like more of an ultimate necessity. It was as though the universe would implode worse than the 2013 season if AA did not reel in one of the free agents.

But, can we actually blame Alex Anthopoulos for our frustration? Not that he would, but he never said something like, “Yes, Team X has asked us about Jose Bautista and they’re offering Player Z”. He never gave us an account of conversations he had with any player agent. He never admitted any more than superficial interest in any player. Any comments he did make were meant to let fans know that he was working to address areas of need without breaking the bank and/ or making a silly deal.

More so this year than in the past, Anthopoulos has been more…cognizant… of fans being on the edge of their seats. He admits that he has been in contact with agents and other clubs. But, why would he give us more than that? Given that anything he says will be over scrutinized and maybe even bent and twisted to match headline selling speculations, why would he say more than what we already know? We know he’s been working. The details usually come out later as is the case with Ian Kinsler. We found out that Alex Anthopoulos seems a little miffed that he didn’t get a chance to enter the conversation about Doug Fister. But, until we hear these things, fans assume nothing is happening because nothing has happened.

Now, this is not to let Anthopoulos off the hook completely. The whole back and forth about the club’s policy of limiting free agent contracts to 5 years (now a guideline) was head scratching to say the least. He has made comments about the Jays being active if the right value presents itself. And, while it is not clear on what exactly that value has to be for him to jump, we have no choice but to accept that he has a plan. Perhaps that is what is so frustrating. Fans just do not see a plan. I’m not sure what fans really want. If the Blue Jays had signed Ervin Santana back in November for his asking price of $100 million, fans would have been screaming about overpaying and whether Santana is worth that.

Perhaps Alex Anthopoulos has nerves of steel and will prove us all wrong. Maybe standing pat is the right way to go. Afterall, can we really say that a year of a healthy Brandon Morrow, J.A. Happ, Drew Hucthison, Kyle Drabek, Esmil Rogers, and maybe even Marcus Stroman will not be better than a year that saw only two members of the starting  pitching staff (R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle) win more than 10 games?! I’d take the prospects of this year’s staff over last year’s debacle any day.

Remember, the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays are pretty much the same team that was picked to win the World Series last year. They are healthy. They improved at catcher. They have a more consistent solution at second. And, they have a deeper well of pitching (No more Chien-Ming Wang et al). Considering that, there is plenty of reason for fans to be excited this year.

If you’re not excited, it is understandable. If you are upset with the apparent lack of “doing” by the club, it is understandable. Just don’t blame the Ninja GM. If anyone is to blame for your disappointment in the Toronto Blue Jays, maybe it is the people who write about them.

Oh, wait.

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  • Justin Jay

    If they’re going to fire AA, they should have done it at the end of last season or when they become out of it this season. He’s here now, so you have to let the guy see the season through and give his guys a chance to show he was justified in not being active this off season

    • Shaun Doyle

      I think he was trying harder this year to appease fans and give more insight (or at least the appearance) into what he was doing in an attempt to reassure them. He had to do damage control after such a disappointing season. Maybe he tried too hard. It would have been better if he hadn’t. No way should he be fired for this off season. I still think this is the same team, if not better than last year. Healthier and deeper. Sometimes fans forget that options are not done deals. We forget just how hard it is sometimes to address a team’s needs. There are 30 other clubs with agendas, not to mention players and their agents. The lining up that AA refers to isn’t always a sure bet. No matter how hard fans want to believe the rumours.

      • Justin Jay

        I don’t disagree with you. How much can you do? Is it worth putting big money into an unproven pitcher? No. Is it worth bringing in a 30+ 2B and signing him to a 10 yr contract? No. It would have been nice to get McCann, but I don’t think Navarro is a bad signing. Could the Jays use Santana? Yes, but I don’t feel he’ll be the difference maker a guy like Stroman could be. I know that’s saying a lot for Stroman, but he looked a electric at times in the AFL.

        So AA should definitely not be fired for the offseason. He should be allowed to see it play out. Also, even though it is difficult to sign players due to 29 other teams being involved, that’s not suppose to matter. It’s the team’s job to make themselves appear better than those 29 other teams. So that IS on the front office.

        • Shaun Doyle

          There are things beyond their control. They can’t, and shouldn’t, match Yankee money. The taxes, the turf, etc are other reasons free agents might not want to come. Or, maybe there is a ban on their dog. Some would say that just means the Jays have to work harder, pay more etc. AA has this job because it is a business and he is working on cost effectiveness. I think fans might be angered because it would appear winning is secondary to that.

          Love the dialogue on this.

          • Jason Kerr

            Cost effectiveness is one thing, but winning games can off set that one symptom and I agree with they shouldn’t and can’t match Yankee money, if money won championships Tampa Bay would have long ago finished below the Jays.

          • Justin Jay

            When you’re a contender, players will flock to your team. That’s the X-Factor. Winning cures a lot of ills.

          • Justin Jay

            I actually think the Jays CAN match Yankee money, but why should they? Jason’s point is dead on that it comes down to doing what the Rays do to develop players and see to it that the minor clubs are given everything necessary to put our players on track to play in the pros. That includes things like biomechanical analysis. That includes, especially with our young arms that have upside, to make sure somebody who truly understands pitching mechanics in regards to arm and shoulder wear, are working with the pitchers to make them durable as well. As I keep saying, why is it the Cards and A’s can churn these young arms out and the Jays keep drafting arms and they keep getting hurt?
            Fans need to understand it shouldn’t be about short term only. Does Cano put Toronto in the playoffs? No. Does Jimenez with Goins at 2B? Maybe, but it’s not definitive. Same with Santana. There are too many variables and that’s this teams biggest problem. The ONLY consistent guy on this team is… ready? Casey Janssen! Even EE you have to be wary about. Bautista hasn’t finished the last two seasons and has appeared streaky. Do you put a ton of money into a team you’re that unsure of? Nope! BUT if the team is still in it in July, you bet you start making moves to stay in it. That’s where the Jays are at, at this point.

  • Justin Jay

    To add a bit more, the only thing I blame AA for is the way he misled the fanbase as far as direction they were heading. I felt he should have just said “We’re exploring all options” and left it at that. Targetting one market over the other raised false hopes as to where much of his activity would lie.

    • JoseJose

      He said it to sell tickets. It worked on me, I bought my flex pack on the first day they were available. :(
      I’m still hopeful but I have a feeling that Rogers has decide not to invest any more into this team.

  • Quincy-Sam

    Why fire him? He made deals that had everyone applauding at the time a year ago. The guys had the talent, but JJ simply did not perform to anyone’s expectations. Reyes was hurt. Dickey had a bad start, (as did Buerle but that was normal for him) but good most of the season. And what he gave up are still just prospects. Don’t forget our pitching was a shambles due to injuries and somehow he got 3 quality starters far better than the FAs available this year. None of them were bad trades, so I wish people would stop whining.

    The only FAs available this year of interest were Cano, Tanaka, and McCann. Not blaming AA for paying the prices other teams did. No fault to AA or Jays there. I didn’t like any of the FA pitchers. The trade rumors had Jays linked to Bailey, Phillips, Shark, Price and Beckam, with Sanchez and Stroman being moved to get them. No thanks. Interesting to note that no other team paid the asking price either so they are still with their teams.

    So now what. AA has to move about 3 guys without options by the end of spring training. There will be a deal or two in the coming weeks and not for a fifth starter. I wouldn’t rule out any of the guys rumored and listed above, but at a far more reasonable asking price. Fair to both teams and probably a package deal. Maybe he gets Diaz, if so scratch Phillips or Beckham. If not, watch closely. And since no team seems to want to trade their ace (except Price) as the TV money allows most teams to keep their better players, don’t expect a trade for one. Stop blaming AA and realize not many teams haven’t traded anyone he might want except Kinsler or Fister. And fans should realize AA is not the only GM with a 5 year limit on contracts or unwilling to trade for players on the decline (age).

    AA has his core players. He has lots of pitchers and quite capable of being a solid 5 if healthy. And he hasn’t traded his top prospects this year. No trades for the sake of a trade. Maybe we haven’t gotten better, but haven’t gotten worse either. Maybe it’s spring training but I think Jays are going to be far better than anyone expects as basically the same team that everyone thought was a shoe in to take to WS at this time last year. We will miss DeRosa, Oliver and the Johnson that should have been. Cabrerra and Izturis, have to perform or be released mid year. Navarro can’t be as bad as JPA was. And surely pitching injuries won’t kill us for a third year in a row.

    Regardless of what anyone else thinks, the Jays should be quite capable of winning 85-90 games from what AA has put together. And he ain’t done yet.

    He may not make the big splash he did last year, but he hasn’t messed up either despite Johnson or Yan Gnomes deals. Jays just have to have players rebound and stay healthy and they will contend.

    AA is fine. He can’t win every trade, have every draft choice be an all-star or sign FAs that either want too much money or term (if willing to come to Canada).
    There really isn’t a reason to fire him at this point. If he keeps doing things the way he has, there will be post season play for the Jays before he is done.

    • Justin Jay

      When Syndergaard becomes a Top starter and d’Arnaud becomes an All Star for the Mets… you’ll understand why the Dickey trade was not good. The Marlins trade was GREAT. I would be happy to see him do that again in a heartbeat. JJ was worth the gamble. The Jays still came away with the best player in that trade in getting Reyes. You can’t say that about the Dickey trade

      • Quincy-Sam

        I loved the Marlins trade as AA only gave up money. I suspect he wanted these guys the year before but FAs don’t make Toronto a top choice and told no. Despite Johnson and Bonifacio’s performance, Jays still way ahead.

        I didn’t like the Dickey trade for what he gave up. He won me over after. But picture the Jays staff without him last year (or this one). If he puts up 15+ wins each of the next two years, what he gave up hardly a one sided deal. If he gets 18-20 wins (not crazy), gonna look a whole lot better than it does now. Maybe the prospects do become all stars, but they haven’t done it yet. If the Dickey trade was what put us over the top to put us in the playoffs last year, worth the cost.

        Time may prove you right, and have the Mets clear winners. Your point is valid. But if the world had gone as according to Hoyle, Jays could very well have been top dog for the 3 years Dickey was to play for the Jays.

        I’ll call the trade fair to both teams for now, even if Jays (should have been) short term winners while Mets probably the long term ones. And of course the Mets will trade both of them for prospects or lose them as FAs long before they win a WS.

        • Shaun Doyle

          I agree totally with what you said above. I don’t like what we gave up to get Dickey, but it would be easier to take if there were playoff baseball in Toronto.

  • thestever

    yeah stupid rogers and paul beeston are the real people to blame

  • Jason Kerr

    I don’t blame AA for not signing a starter, however I am frustrated at the lack of movement maybe because I was around in ’92 and ’93 and enjoyed those two seasons and then stepped away (well because that’s what kids do).

    I know that AA has a plan everyone knows that he has to have some sort of plan otherwise he would definitely have been ‘released’ already. The Dickey trade although maybe not good, but you could also say that if the Blue Jays overcome the odds (a la BoSox season) and Dickey has another Cy Young season and the Jays win the World Series will the trade then be good?

    I think that AA took the risk with Dickey in hopes that bringing in a veteran type pitcher would unite the bullpen give experience to the crew they have?

    Not really sure though because I honestly have only been following the Jays hard since the beginning of last seasons spring training.

    • Justin Jay

      There is no record for Dickey being able to repeat his performance. And granted that 39 may be considered “young” for a knuckleballer, I don’t buy that BS. You still have to go through the rigors of training and a 162 game season as a 39 yr old player and that can’t be easy. So seeing another Cy Young isn’t impossible, but is unlikely… and honestly, I don’t care what kind of hybrid knuckleballer he is, this team needs Morrow to be the Ace right now and a young arm on the back end of the rotation to step up.

  • D-Rock W

    Lets look at AA’s terrible moves
    1. Hired John Gibbons
    2. Did not hire an experienced hitting coach and went with Chad Mottola
    3. Halladay Trade – Did not get one significant piece for the best pitcher in the game.
    4. Dickey Trade – Traded something that might have been significant and the Jays top prospect for a 39 yr old.
    5. Failed to address any holes this year after an epic collapse last year.
    6. Did not fire John Gibbons.
    He is hardly blameless. Not to mention all the rhetoric he spews like he actually believes this team has a chance. Prepare for a 4th place finish at best blue jay fans.

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