Blue Jays State of the Franchise Recap

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Well, predictably we had a great time. The food was delicious and free: Shrimp Po’boys, shaved steak sliders, jerk chicken nachos, ice cream bar and the more standard ballpark fare (pizza, hot dogs). There was wine, beer and fountain drinks as well. There were a ton of staff. It seemed like the ratio was 1:1 guests to staff. For example, at the pizza bar, there were about 20 pizzas each with its own server. Really necessary? I’ve got hands and can grab my own slice. It wasn’t all bacchanalian revels though. We kept our wits about us and managed to stop shovelling food down our gullets long enough to tweet out and make note of everything you need to know from the night.

(See our accounts for a quick recap of last night: MuellerRyan11 and mjfmckee)

Let’s get down to the actual panel.

-It began with the march of the bigwigs to their puffy green chairs atop the home dugout. Buck gave a brief preamble and introduction of the other three men. Paul Beeston got a standing ovation, John Gibbons received healthy cheers, and Alex Anthopoulos got warm applause and a comical standing O from one guy.

-Paul gave a brief introduction as well. Like always, he referred to Buck as Albert.

-The crowd was not a fan of the new digital ticketing. The director of marketing came up to a loud chorus of boos as he attempted to explain the new system.

-Beeston, Fantasy camp will be back next November.

-AA. Durability was a huge consideration as they approached the offseason. Donaldson cited as an example (as opposed to Lawrie it would seem)

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-AA. Was lobbed a softball question as to what the biggest need of the club is currently. Bullpen. But AA did elaborate saying that they were not concerned about improving the 9th—he is fine with internal options. Any further bullpen acquisitions would likely be 7th or 8th inning guys. (Perhaps a right handed power arm? Such as… Dustin McGowan perhaps? Get on it)

-Beeston. Stated a contract had been signed earlier that day with the University of Guelph to explore and test out the natural grass possibilities for Rogers Centre. The goal is still 2018. (The stadium operations employee I talked to was much less optimistic)

-AA. He sounded very optimistic that Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion extensions would be reached before their terms are up. He said both had been enthusiastic about remaining in Toronto. He felt that someday Encarnacion and Bautista’s names could be featured on the level of excellence. Both have really bought into Toronto being their home.

-Beeston. Payroll will absolutely not go down and will absolutely go up. (more on this later)

-Gibbons. The competition for the 5th starter’s role are Marco Estrada, Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez.

-Gibbons. In regards to who the 2B will be, he mentioned Maicer Izturis first. Apparently Maicer is in the best shape he’s ever been and is eager to do a turnaround on what has so far been a frustrating contract. Ryan Goins was mentioned second but he added a caveat about his 2014 struggles. Steve Tolleson was brought up but specifically as in a platoon (with Goins presumedly). About Devon Travis, Gibbons said he had a chance to be the starting 2B but will obviously have to prove himself. After a pause, Gibbons added Kawasaki to loud cheers.

-AA. Russell Martin was a better value than Melky Cabrera especially with the acquisition of Michael Saunders. Saunders is through the roof to be here.

-Gibbons. Asked what else the team needs, he paused and said, “œJames Shields... Sorry Alex,” with a grin.

-Gibbons. In response to a question about how the top of the order is great but that the bottom of the order is very underwhelming Gibby replies, “We got a new hitting coach, what else do you want?” He then preceded to list off the batting order as he currently envisions it: Reyes, Martin, Bautista, Encarnacion, Donaldson, Navarro, Saunders, Pompey, Second baseman.

That’s the official information. Away from the panel, I was able to gather some other interesting tidbits.

-I found out last night that the money sent to Seattle does indeed roughly equalize Happ and Saunders’ salaries for 2015. That would be about 3.5m.

-The Blue Jays usually set aside 4m for injury expenses.

-Both of the above figures are part of the payroll. The amount set aside for injuries and the Saunders payment were both more than I anticipated in my payroll article a few weeks ago.

-The turf looks and apparently feels better. It seems fresher and as grass-like as turf can be. I was told it is indeed thicker than the old rug. The under-layer of dirt and rubber has not been put in yet. The ball should not be quite as live on it.

–Aaron Sanchez will be stretched out for spring training but could still be in the bullpen.

After the panel, Gibbons, AA, Buck and Beeston all mingled with the crowd extensively and took pictures with fans. Beeston had the biggest crowd around him and seemed to be having a marvellous time. All four were very personable, humourous, gracious (I couldn’t imagine keeping a good attitude with all the idiotic comments they had to deal with) and friendly. It is a business and they need to win or they will be gone, but these are good guys.

Thanks to our Editor at Jays Journal, Kyle Franzoni, for arranging things with the Blue Jays and to the Blue Jays for extending the invitation to attend.

Next: Sean Reid Foley