Toronto Blue Jays News

Blue Jays front office still deserves credit despite recent struggles

Dec 4, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Blue Jays new general manager Ross Atkins (right) talks to the media along with club president Mark Shapiro during a media conference at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 4, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Blue Jays new general manager Ross Atkins (right) talks to the media along with club president Mark Shapiro during a media conference at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /
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Despite the recent struggles of the team, Blue Jays fans have to be pleased with meaningful baseball to watch in September and being in playoff position with less than 25 games remaining

Here we are on September 9th and the Blue Jays currently sit in a playoff spot. Granted they are one game back of first in the A.L. East as of this writing, but they play the East-leading Red Sox three times this weekend in what may be the biggest series of the season for both clubs..

As I read about Alex Anthopoulos being considered for the president’s job with the Minnesota Twins, I couldn’t help but think back to October 29th, when it seemed the Blue Jays 2017 season was going to be doomed before it started. We lost our charismatic GM, the man responsible for bringing in the likes of David Price, Troy Tulowitzki, and building the first Blue Jays playoff team since 1993. How could we let him get away like that?

I’ll be the first to admit that I was extremely upset with Anthopoulos’ departure, and equally unimpressed with the addition of Mark Shapiro and his bringing Ross Atkins aboard. Knowing how well-liked Anthopoulos was amongst the players, it was a scary proposition to think about losing the GM, and having so many key players coming into free agency between the 2016 and ’17 seasons.

My how a year can change your perspective.

Fast forward a little over 10 months, and there has been little to complain about from the new Blue Jays regime. Yes, David Price signed with the rival Boston Red Sox, but his over-sized contract and the performances of Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ have made it easy to forget the anger we felt when Price signed with a division rival.

In fact, the Estrada and Happ signings were just a few of the savvy moves the new front office has made, and the results have been nearly universally positive. No front office is perfect with their additions, but it’s worth taking a moment to consider how well some moves have paid off.

  • Signing J.A. Happ– 17-4 with a 3.34 ERA over 164.1 innings, and some down ballot Cy Young consideration. For $12 million a season, that’s an absolute bargain in today’s pitching market.
  • Re-signing Estrada– He has struggled a bit lately, but Estrada still sports a 3.56 ERA over 24 starts, and a WHIP of 1.105. Estrada was a first time All-Star this season and has been outstanding when fully healthy.
  • Making

    – Remember all that silly talk back in spring training about Sanchez being used in the bullpen? It’s hard to imagine the Blue Jays being in the same place in the standings without the hard-throwing right-hander. Sanchez will also likely receive down ballot Cy Young consideration, as he’s currently 13-2 with a 2.92 ERA over 26 starts and 169.1 innings pitched.

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  • Re-signing Darwin Barney– In what seemed like a minor move, bringing back Barney has paid huge dividends for the Blue Jays in 2016. The versatile infielder (and now capable outfielder as well), has hit .269/.321/.379, and capably filled in at nearly every position on the diamond. Given the struggles of Ryan Goins this season, Barney’s strong play, especially in the first half, has been a key to the success of the club.
  • Keeping John Gibbons– Whether you’re a fan of the skipper or he drives you nuts, it’s difficult to argue with the success the team has had again in 2016. With Anthopoulos’ departure, there was talk that perhaps the new front office would like to bring in “their guy”, but instead they opted to give the familiar face another go around. It’s easy to pick on a manager, but it’s tough to argue with the results. Gibbons is a familiar and comfortable leader to the veterans in the clubhouse, and he’s done another fine job guiding the club.
  • Deadline/Pre-deadline trades– Adding the likes of Jason Grilli, Joaquin Benoit, Melvin Upton Jr, Dioner Navarro, Scott Feldman, and more has provided a big boost to the Blue Jays this season. They didn’t make any blockbuster deals to rival their 2015 frenzy, but they didn’t really have to with this roster. They found an effective, low-cost way to improve in some crucial areas, and also spent their resources intelligently. We would have all loved to see a dream addition in the form of someone like Joey Votto, but it wasn’t the realistic or necessary thing for this season.
  • Not re-signing Bautista/Encarnacion last offseason– It’s been a tough year for Jose Bautista as he’s battled injuries and ineffectiveness so far. The timing isn’t great for him personally as he’s set to be a free agent. It was reported that he was looking for five or more years at more than 100 million, a figure that seems unattainable for the two-time A.L. home run leader now. Edwin Encarnacion will likely end up more coveted on the upcoming free agent market, but re-upping with him and not Bautista was never a realistic option in terms of clubhouse harmony. The front office will go into the 2016 offseason with a much different perspective on both players than when they first took over, and likely a much better idea of their plans going forward.
  • Nobody is perfect, and the Atkins/Shapiro combination hasn’t been either (see: Drew Storen), but considering the feelings expressed by most Blue Jay fans upon AA’s departure, it’s a welcome and pleasant surprise that I’d say something like this:

    My how a year can change a perspective…. even mine.

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