With a disappointing season like the Blue Jays have had, change was inevitable, as we’re seeing this week prior to the non-waiver trade deadline. While most are needed, some changes can wait.
The 2018 season hasn’t exactly gone as planned, which is why we’re seeing the Blue Jays in an aggressive sell mode this week as the trade deadline draws near. There were reports on Wednesday night that a trade of Seunghwan Oh to the Rockies was almost finalized, and plenty of rumours circling around J.A. Happ, who could be traded by the time I’m done writing this article for all I know.
That’s what happens when a team disappoints, especially for the second season in a row. After finishing 76-86 in 2017, the Blue Jays haven’t been much better this year, currently sitting at 46-55 after their latest loss to the Minnesota Twins. And when there are as many veteran pieces on a roster as there are in Toronto, that combination solidifies that it’s time to make other plans.
The Blue Jays will obviously have to focus their improvement efforts on the roster, but don’t be surprised if there is major turnover with the coaching staff as well. For what it’s worth though, I hope that part of the plan waits for the offseason, for a couple of reasons.
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First and foremost, I feel like John Gibbons has earned that sort of send off and respect from the Blue Jays. While he’s never been able to bring a World Series ring to the city in his two tenures as the bench boss, he’s been a very likeable character who has found a lot of success. Other than the two World Series titles in 1992-93, I would argue there’s never been a more exciting time in team history than what happened in 2015 and 2016. Sure, Gibbons had a talented roster to work with, but any successful manager does. Do you think Alex Cora or Aaron Boone are having their success as rookie managers if they were working in Toronto? Coaching is important, but let’s not get carried away here.
The fact is, other than Cito Gaston, no skipper has had as much success with the Blue Jays as Gibbons has managed. He’s been with the team for parts of 11 seasons (2004-08, 2013-present), and has worked well with a variety of front office executives, even earning a much longer stay than many expected once Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins took over. He won them over, just as he’s won over many of the Blue Jays players and fans. I know some of you reading this don’t like him, or won’t agree that he deserves to see the season through, but I feel he’s earned that much.
Beyond that though, I really feel the Blue Jays would be best served to wait until the offseason to evaluate who their next manager will be, assuming that it’s not Gibbons. He remains under contract, but after the way the last two seasons have gone I think it’s fair to expect Shapiro and Atkins to find “their guy”. While they may already have that person in mind with Eric Wedge lingering in the wings, I hope the search goes far beyond that, and the offseason is the best time for that sort of thing.
Maybe Wedge is a great baseball mind who would make a great coach, but I would argue that the next manager should be selected based on a few important factors. It’s also possible that Wedge will fit the criteria, but wouldn’t you want to pick the best coach for the job he’s about to face? We’re looking at a minimum of two to three seasons before the team is competitive again, assuming this rebuild goes into action as it appears it will. I believe this organization has the pieces for a quick turn around, but they still have to compete with the Red Sox and Yankees in the AL East, so a rebuild isn’t that simple.
The best manager for the job will be one that can work with young players and help them reach their greatest potential as big leaguers. Once the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and many others hit the highest level, it’s imperative that they’re given the guidance they need as young players. Some skippers are great at working with veterans, and others are better with youngsters. Again, maybe Wedge is that guy, but without a big league resume it’s hard to know for sure. I appreciate the value of a good working relationship with the front office, but that has to be secondary here.
If you’re going to cast the widest net you can in search of the next manager, waiting for the winter would be the best time. If Shapiro and Atkins are intent on handing the gig to Wedge when they decide to make the move, it could come before this season is over. However, for the sake of respecting the job John Gibbons has done, and making the best choice possible, I hope they let this season play out before making a move. I believe that it’s not only the smart thing, but also the right thing to do.