David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

(Not So) Hidden Message From AA: We Can't Compete


So, the Toronto Blue Jays struck out…again. Alex Anthopoulos’ strike out rate is worse than that of Colby Rasmus and bordering on J.P. Arencibia‘s. The only good news to come from Ervin Santana signing with the Atlanta Braves is that the drama of the off season is hopefully over. For months, we’ve been sucked in to the rumor mill, had our hopes filled and deflated and with them had our belief in this team questioned…repeatedly. I have been one of those to defend Alex Anthopoulos. I even think his job is safe. But, there is a clear message being sent from this team.

From all of the non events of the last few months, we can read between the lines to see the message being sent to Blue Jays fans and players alike. The Blue Jays can’t compete in dollars. The Blue Jays can’t compete in years. The Blue Jays can’t compete in venue. The Blue Jays can’t compete!

Dollars- Setting aside the list of players the Yankees opened the vault for, we only need to look at one example to see the Blue Jays inability to compete. It was made very clear when Masahiro Tanaka was being pursued that there is no way the Blue Jays can compete with the dollars of the New York Yankees.  There is no way the Blue Jays would beat a 7yr/$155M offer. Even if they could, the Yankees would just raise their offer. Quite simply, there is nothing any team can do if the Yankees get involved in a bidding war. But, the Blue Jays did try. They did offer up the $20M (refundable) posting fee to at least enter the discussion. It didn’t last long. But, hey. They tried.

Years- When Ubaldo Jimenez signed with the Baltimore Orioles for a 4yr/$50M contract, it was clear that there was another issue. According to this piece by John Lott of the National Post, the Blue Jays would not exceed 3yrs. AA was not willing to compete with 4yrs. However, Jays fans had to endure the pursuit nonetheless. In the end, the message was clear. Jimenez would help the team, but the front office was not willing to compete to get him. They wanted to proceed on their terms. So we waited.

Venue/League- Fans were treated to the possibility that the Blue Jays were about to win their game of “Chicken” when we heard that Ervin Santana was considering a contract offer from AA. Since Santana’s asking price (and contract length) had come down to what AA had targeted, we were left with no choice but to assume the Blue Jays would enter the competition. After all, AA could not have drawn it up any better. Madness ensued. And, once again fans were treated to a roller coaster ride. Then the ride crashed. The Atlanta Braves swooped in to cover the spots left in their rotation by injuries to Kris Medlin and Brandon Beachy. The Blue Jays were once again losers in one of their pursuits. The response? John Lott quotes Alex Anthopoulos, who appeared on the Jeff Blair radio show:

“From what I was told, we couldn’t compete with the NL. The National League is where he wanted to be. So it was not money, it was not years,”

So there you have it. AA had Santana on dollars. He had him on years. But lost him because of the league. From the beginning, people were worried about Santana giving up bombs in the very hitter friendly confines of Rogers Centre. Apparently, Santana was worried too. AA later hinted that he thought there was a done deal with Santana in place:

“Normally, when things really leak around the Toronto Blue Jays to an extreme degree, they’re normally done… Sometimes, when there’s a tonne of fire, that’s only when things are done. That’s just a general statement that I’ll make.”

If there was smoke, there is supposed to be fire. AA thought he had his man. Realistically speaking, it is easy to understand all of this. If you are a pitcher who wishes to build his stock going into next off season in the hopes of avoiding the debacle that happened this winter, you go to the NL and play a lot of your games against the New York Mets and Miami Marlins. Makes sense. But, the response of “Well, we tried, but we couldn’t compete”…it just doesn’t sit right.

With fans and players alike almost desperate (as Jays Journal’s Ryan Mueller points out) the latest developments are going to be hard to get over. Paul Beeston has put it to fans that if they show increased interest at the gate, etc. the team will show increased winning product on the field. It is almost an opposite of Field of Dreams: “If you come, we’ll build it”. Fans have done that. According to Forbes.com, the Toronto Blue Jays have shown a revenue of $203M for 2013. The fans are living up to their end of the bargain. Yet, the Blue Jays continue to send the wrong message: “We can’t compete.”

As hard as it is to be a fan and hear this message, imagine being a player and watching this all unfold around you. The fact that AA did pursue upgrades tells players that the team needs to be improved, that it is not good enough to compete. And then each time one of these pursuits falls through, the team you play for is saying, “We can’t (or won’t) compete.” Now, there will be those who say that they are professionals and they get paid a lot to shut up and do their jobs. But, how hard would it be to do that when your boss is telling you that it won’t really matter anyway?

Of course, one could look at it another way: maybe Blue Jays management is telling its players that they don’t need to fork over lots of money or years to anyone. Maybe management is trying to tell its players that it believes in what they have. The question is: are the players buying it? The fans sure aren’t.

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Tags: Alex Anthopoulos Ervin Santana Toronto Blue Jays

  • RyanMueller

    Very good article Shaun. All your points are very fair and true. With Santana out of the picture this really opens the door for marcus and drew to secure a rotation spot

  • Hussein Mire

    Okay enough JJ writers.
    I’m a pessimistic sports fan and I have had it with your nonsense. We didn’t
    sign Ervin Santana (we can’t compete)! We didn’t sign Ubaldo Jimenez
    (we can’t compete)! Stop it stop it. With the exception of the Rays, every
    other AL east team has some potential major flaws. Yanks
    their entire rotation is filled with question marks. Sabathia’s 2013,
    was it a bad year or beginning of the end? I understand he lost a
    bunch if weight but losing a bunch of weight did not help Brett Cecil in 2012.
    Kuroda completely stunk it up in the second half last year. Tanaka
    could either be a stud or a complete bust as most Japanese pitcher have been.
    I’m not sure who the hell their fourth and fifth starters are. BTW no more
    Mo and remember Robertson was replace by Soriano in 2012. The Orioles have the
    same questions about their rotation the blue jays do. Plus questions about
    their bullpen, although i really like Tommy Hunter and expect him to be an All
    Star this year (if he can slice HR rate by about half). The Red Sox, the team
    that aside from the closer(s) had tremendous luck with a bunch of guys either
    having bounce back (Napoli, Victorino) or career years (Salty [I know he is a
    Marlin now but he did have a good offensive season in ‘13 for the sox] Buchholz
    [when he was healthy], Nava). Very easily a lot of those guys can backslide or
    not pan out Bradley Jr. or Bogaerts. But let’s not over panic a setback.

    Yes facts about this team
    have changed but their situation is no grimmer than most teams in baseball.
    Show of hands, haw many people picked Cleveland to make the postseason…hmmm…
    crickets exactly. So relax and stop fretting over every little potential
    disaster.

    Suggestions for Blue Jays
    Roster in 2014

    SP’s

    Dickey

    Faberge Egg

    Buehrle

    Hutchison

    Best of this Trio
    (Stroman, McGowan, Romero)

    BP’s

    Cecil

    Delabar

    Janssen

    Jeffress

    Loup

    McGowan (if not an SP)

    Rogers

    Santos

    Buh bye crap sandwich

    (Happ, Redmond)

    Bench

    *Kratz/Thole

    *Sierra

    *Izturis

    **Gose (speed/ D)/ Dan
    Johnson (Power)

    * = Locks / ** = (Depends
    whether McGowan is and SP or not)

    Line Up

    Reyes

    Melky

    Joey

    Eddie

    Grizzly

    Fiery

    Sweet home

    Pudgy

    Gold Glove

    • DJYC

      Totally agree with Hussein on this point. There are too many articles here that are full of hyperbole (both overly optimistic – last year; or overly pessimistic – this year). Guys, grow some perspective.

    • Davidldls

      Well I can see why you do not write.

      • Hussein Mire

        I’m doing this on my phone what is your criticism exactly

        • Adam Sproule

          David is a troll. Probably a Yankee fan. Dont worry about his dumb comments Hussein

          • Hussein Mire

            Thanks!

    • Erik Trenouth

      Mostly good points, but I think everyone is more harsh on Morrow than he warrants. He has had the exact same number of DL trips as Bautista the last 4 years, and no one is worried about Bautista.

      • Hussein Mire

        I get that Jose has been hurt the last two years but before that he averaged 155.5 games in 2010-2011. Morrow has not even done that. Also, losing position player hurts but a pitcher loss is more painful.

        Example (Evan Longoria and the Rays)

        2011 Longo misses 29 games Rays make playoffs on final day with Longo hitting walk off homer

        2012 Longo misses 88 games. Rays still win 90.

        The reason why the Rays have been so good has been 1) quality of the pitchers 2) healthy rotation.

  • Adam Sproule

    I must say I can’t stand the Yankees. Spend all that money and I hope they tank. As for the braves grabbing santana I really can’t blame him. Maybe after he destroys those crappy NL teams we can sign him next year. Haha.

    Go Jays Go !!!!!!

    • Davidldls

      ?Ok.

      • Adam Sproule

        ? Very funny. How original.

  • Andrew Cappell

    I have to tamp down my rage every time someone mentions the Jays’ “inability” to compete financially. Rogers has a lot more money to throw around than the Steinbrenners. They just signed a $5 BILLION deal to broadcast hockey. The issue is not an inability to compete financially – rather, it’s Rogers’ seeming reluctance to pony up. It kind of looked like that reluctance was falling by the wayside last year, but may be coming back into effect this year, presumably because of how disastrous last season was. The Jays could have afforded to pay what guys like Tanaka and Cano ultimately got. They chose not to.

    • http://www.jaysjournal.com Shaun Doyle

      I share your frustration with what appears to be more of a “won’t” compete, rather than “can’t”. Although, handing out silly contracts (as stated below) is not the answer, either.

  • Erik Trenouth

    I think you need to change a couple of your “can’t” to “not stupid enough” for your examples.

    The Jays weren’t stupid enough to spend $175mil over 7 years on what can best be viewed as a #1 prospect, and more realistically be viewed as top 50 prospect.

    The Jays weren’t stupid enough to spend $50mil over 4 years on a pitcher who has had 2 good half seasons over his entire career.

    • RyanMueller

      that deserves a slow clap Erik. I applaud you

    • http://www.jaysjournal.com Shaun Doyle

      I agree on the “not stupid enough”. That’s a more fair way to put it. In my piece that says AA job is safe, there was a quote that says GM’s just have to be not stupid. They don’t need to be smart. So, in that sense, AA is doing the right thing. It isn’t sexy, but it might be the best way to go.

      But if you add up his comments and infer a bit, it is interesting.