Blue Jays’ Shapiro/Atkins: A One Year (Almost) Report Card

Dec 4, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro (left) welcomes new club general manager Ross Atkins during a media conference at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 4, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro (left) welcomes new club general manager Ross Atkins during a media conference at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

Now that Shapiro and Atkins have survived their first trade deadline, the timing is right for an evaluation of their performance to date.

When Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins joined the Blue Jays, they faced an uphill battle for recognition and acceptance.  Alex Anthopoulos was a fan favourite, not least for the Jays’ success in 2015.  And one of Shapiro’s first decisions was to not pursue a long-term extension for David Price, which was not <ahem> universally well received.

But now that a year (almost) has passed, let’s take a look at the decisions the Shapkins team has made, and how well (or not) they have turned out.

A few caveats:  in doing this evaluation, I will be looking at performance to date.  Liam Hendriks could turn into the second Mariano Rivera, or he could be the next Saul Rivera.  And I will only be looking at the major transactions (as I see them).


November 13 – signed Estrada for 2/$26m

So far in 2016, Estrada’s 3.02 ERA is 18th in the majors among qualified starters.  While his advanced stats (xFIP, SIERA) predict that he will be unable to keep up this pace, so far he has been an enormous bargain at a $13m AAV.  Grade = A

November 20 – traded Liam Hendriks to Oakland for Jesse Chavez

So far, no clear winner in this one.  Chavez pitched 41 innings for Toronto to a 4.57 ERA, while Hendriks has pitched 37 innings for Oakland to a 4.54 ERA.  Hendriks might have more upside – he has had some good stretches – but it is hard to call Oakland a clear winner yet.  Grade = C

November 27 – signed J.A. Happ for 3/$36

There was considerable question about whether Happ could sustain his excellent performance from the second half of 2015.  But so far in 2016, Happ has pitched 131 innings to a 3.16 ERA.  As with Estrada, Happ has been a huge bargain at a $12m AAV.  Grade = A,

December 11 – signed Darwin Barney for 1/$1.05m

This is clearly not as major a signing as Happ or Estrada.  But signing Barney gave the Blue Jays further infield flexibility.  The knock against this signing was that Barney’s hitting made Josh Thole look like Mike Piazza.  But so far in 2016, Barney has had 236 PAs with a bad-but-bearable 83 wRC+.  A role player, but a valuable one.  Grade – B

More from Toronto Blue Jays News

May 31 – traded Sean Ratcliffe for Jason Grilli + cash

Grilli was a gamble: he had pitched to a 3.07 ERA from 2011-2015, but was struggling with Atlanta in 2016.  Since coming to the Blue Jays, he appears to have rediscovered his old mojo, pitching to a 2.18 ERA over his first 20 Jays innings and filling a valuable setup role for Roberto Osuna.  And Grilli has a $3m team option for 2017 that is increasingly looking like a no-brainer.  Still early, but looking good.  Grade = B+

July 16 – re-signed Justin Smoak for 2/$8.5m

This extension was a bit of a head-scratcher.  Smoak’s fielding UZR/150 in 2016 of -2.5 is almost a career low, and his wRC+ of 97 is also disappointing.  Granted, the 2016 free agent class at 1B is unimpressive and it is far from certain that Edwin or Jose will be manning that bag in 2017, but still … Grade = C.

July 26 – traded Hansel Rodriguez for Melvin Upton + cash

Too early to judge this trade.  But … getting a player of Upton’s calibre for only $5 million for 1.5 seasons (less than mlb average) while only giving up your 18th highest ranked prospect, who is still pitching in Rookie League ball seems like an awfully good gamble.  Particularly when Upton can play all three outfield positions, with a decent bat and excellent base-running ability.  Perhaps the best 4th outfielder in baseball?  Grade = A

Other trades – too early to tell

Trading Chavez for Mike Bolsinger seems like a win.  Bolsinger had a 3.62 ERA over 109 innings (21 starts) in 2015 for the Dodgers, and does not become a free agent until 2022.

I have a higher opinion of Drew Hutchison than most, and am sorry to lose him, but acquiring Francisco Liriano for 1.5 years plus two prospects that ranks as #4 and #5 in the Blue Jays system seems like a pretty good deal.

The bottom line

While Team Shapkins have not made any deals of Donaldson or Tulo magnitude in the 10 months since their arrival, their record is pretty darn good.  The Happ and Estrada signings look brilliant, and Grilli, Upton and Liriano have significant upside at a reasonable cost.  And the lesser deals – Lake, Floyd, Montero, etc – are/were also looking good.  On the whole, I am impressed.  Final Grade = B+.

Next: Breaking down the Blue Jays trade deadline moves

Twitter:  @KeeganMatheson