(Friday’s) transactions may have allowed new team president Mark Shapiro an opportunity to slip in a relatively unnoticed, yet significant comment.
With just over two weeks until Opening day, the picture for 2016 is starting to become a little clearer by the day. Friday brought plenty of news for the Blue Jays, starting with Rafael Soriano announcing his retirement. Then came the same decision from veteran right-hander Brad Penny, and also the news that Dalton Pompey had been optioned to minor league camp.
Those three transactions may have allowed new team president Mark Shapiro an opportunity to slip in a relatively unnoticed, yet significant comment. Sportnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith captured Shapiro’s words on Friday with this tweet:
It’s not as if Shapiro is the only president in the MLB that has this policy, but given the Jays recent history in their front office, any announced restrictions have the potential to be a sore spot.
In case anyone has already forgotten, former president Paul Beeston and now-Dodger asset Alex Anthopoulos had a policy against contracts that extended beyond five years. Beeston in particular was adamant that the policy was important for the Jays, much to the chagrin of Bluebird fans. Despite the arguably sound rationale (see: Vernon Wells’ contract), it drew the ire of many fans and agents (who cares about Scott Boras’ opinion though), and eliminated the Jays from pursuing several free agents in recent seasons.
Although very few fans were excited to see Beeston, and especially Anthopoulos depart following the 2015, many (myself included), wondered if that meant their policy would go with them? I was encouraged to hear Shapiro discuss that there wouldn’t be any hard restrictions in their pursuit of free agents.
It’s not as if I was hoping the Jays would suddenly start throwing money around like the Dodgers or Yankees. That said, throwing this policy out would make it POSSIBLE the Jays could pursue the likes of a… say, David Price. We all know how that played out this offseason, and I actually think the Jays have had a solid offseason, despite the loss of the left-handed ace. It wouldn’t be something a club like the Jays could use frequently, but in a couple years if Marcus Stroman wanted a 6 or 7 year deal and was worth the risk, it would be a shame to not at least be able to have the discussion.
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And that brings us to Shapiro’s statement on Friday. Is a restriction on player options ultimately going to have a similar effect in free agency? Do players care about options, as much as contract length, dollars, or opt outs? Would Shapiro and Atkins entertain opt out contracts?
These are important questions to answer as baseball continues to evolve, and the money grows to numbers never before seen in the game. With new billion-dollar TV deals popping up around the league all the time, teams are getting more creative with how they allocate their resources. We’ve seen recent examples of contracts with opt-outs this offseason like Price, Jason Heyward, Yoenis Cespedes, Wei-Yei Chen, and more.
Regarding opt-out clauses, Shapiro said, “I think there are some instances where they are valuable. In some ways they’re just another form of player option, which is ridiculous.”
The most important thing to take away from all of this is that Shapiro is at least open minded when it comes to each scenario, something that couldn’t be said for Beeston during his tenure. It’s also hard to blame Shapiro or any other front office for not wanting to give more control to the players. We saw how that worked against the Dodgers this offseason when Zack Greinke spurned them and signed with division rival Diamondbacks, and no president or GM wants to pick up the pieces after something like that.
A quote my Dad used to use comes to mind when I imagine all kinds of free agent scenarios. When I would be upset as a kid about losing a game, or a girlfriend, or anything like that he would reply with, “well, it’s better to have loved (or played) and lost, than to have never loved at all”.
If I haven’t lost you with that… would you rather have a few seasons of Price or Greinke knowing you’ll get burned with an opt-out, or bad years on the end of the contract? Are you happy to be rid of Beeston’s hard policy? Do the statements made by Shapiro bother you at all?
Me? I just hope that if the right type of opportunity comes along, whenever that may be (Stroman? Donaldson?), that we won’t have a ready made excuse for why it couldn’t be done. So far, I like what I’m hearing from the new regime, but we’re also hearing and learning more every day.