After spending the past five seasons as the Toronto Blue Jays president and Chief Executive Officer, Mark Shapiro has agreed to another contract extension that will keep him North of the border for another five years.
With longtime executive Paul Beeston retiring at the conclusion of the 2015 season, the Toronto Blue Jays were looking for a replacement with experience in the MLB front office scene. Enter Mark Shapiro.
On August 31, 2015, with over two decades of experience in the Cleveland Indians organization, Mark Shapiro jumped ship and signed on with the Toronto Blue Jays to become their next president and CEO of the organization, taking over the reins as the team was gearing towards another playoff race in 2016.
Since joining the Blue Jays organization prior to the 2016 season, the team’s record stands at 337-371, with Shapiro inheriting a veteran club and a depleted farm system at the time of his inauguration. The Blue Jays have made the playoff’s twice under his tenure so far, reaching the ALCS in 2016 (with the inherited club) and last year, where the team was bounced during the Wild Card series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Shapiro’s first act as President/CEO during the 2015/2016 off-season was finding a new general manager as Alex Anthopolous would reject a contract extension and later sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He wound up bringing in another Cleveland executive in Ross Atkins as his replacement. Anthopolous had built the Blue Jays to be a playoff contender over the past two seasons, selling off most of the farm system in order to acquire players like David Price, Troy Tulowitzki, and Josh Donaldson.
During Shapiro’s tenure, the organization has drafted pretty well (with many praises going towards the scouting department as well), securing the likes of Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Nate Pearson, Jordan Groshans, and Alek Manoah. The organization has also signed some impressive international prospects under Shapiro, including Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and top prospect Orelvis Martinez. Many of these players make up the Blue Jays roster right now or have the potential to play a big part of the future moving forward (it should be noted that Bichette, Biggio, Gurriel Jr. were both drafted in 2016, so the homework was most likely done before Shapiro/Atkins got there, hence the three cheers for the scouting department).
The organization has also had some pretty successful trades and free-agent signings, using veteran free agent pitchers on one-year contracts and flipping them at the trade deadline to secure one or two prospects in the process. The Blue Jays also traded Marcus Stroman in exchange for prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson, both of whom have starter potential and have found themselves on the top 30 prospect list since being acquired.
They also traded Francisco Liriano to the Houston Astros in exchange for Teoscar Hernandez in 2017, while also acquiring closer Ken Giles in a separate trade with the Astros the next season. Shapiro and co. also signed pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu during 2019/2020 off-season, one of the biggest off-season free agent signings in the organization’s history in terms of payroll commitment and status.
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To top it off, Shapiro oversaw the Blue Jays transformation in Dunedin this past year, where the organization updated its facilities and ballpark to become more modernized. This was by no means a small effort, and the Blue Jays now have a modern training facility that can be utilized to hopefully train Blue Jays prospects throughout the entire year.
Of course, not everything has been sunshine and rainbows since Shapiro joined the Blue Jays.
Like I mentioned earlier, he and Atkins received a lot of harsh criticism from the fanbase when veteran players started to leave after the 2016 season. The organization was tearing down the veteran team that Shapiro had inherited and the fans were none too happy to see a team not only losing but also seeing their favourite players head to other organizations.
Shapiro also oversaw some not so pleasant scenarios, like the drama that unfolded with Stroman that lead to him being traded away, and had the front office and starting pitcher ‘jarring’ back at each other throughout the entire first half of the 2019 season. Both sides could not come to an agreement, which eventually saw Stroman head to the New York Mets, but the team did at least net a positive return in Kay and SWR when the dust settled.
While they did have some good trades, they also had some bad trades, like sending Josh Donaldson to Cleveland for Julian Merryweather. Donaldson was heading to free agency that off-season and while he did battle injuries during the 2018 season that hurt his trade value, the Blue Jays had to settle for just one player when there were reports of the St. Louis Cardinals offering up a better package before the season began for Donaldson’s services. They also traded away veterans Kevin Pillar and Aaron Sanchez, yielding younger players like Alen Hanson and Derek Fisher who just didn’t pan out with the organization (or haven’t as of yet).
While this list obviously doesn’t summarize everything about Shapiro’s tenure since he joined the Blue Jays, one can agree that the current roster does look very promising moving forward.
The team is younger and poised to become a legitimate contender within the A.L. East backed by the rebuild that Shapiro and his front office have executed since joining the team prior to 2016. Rogers liked enough of what they saw to bring Shapiro back for another five years and he’ll be at the helm for the foreseeable future.