Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Should the Blue Jays Spend Like It's 2005?

By
Courtesy of CBC
2005 - it was a great time to be a Blue Jays fan.

I remember that offseason quite vividly because it was one of the main reasons why I became interested in the Toronto Blue Jays again. The multitude of moves the front office pulled off during the 2005 offseason piqued my curiosity and brought be back into the fold as a Blue Jays fan.

The signing of A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan, the acquisition Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay, all those things cultivated excitement about the team ... something that had been absent for quite a few years.

What the front office did during the 2005 offseason sent a very clear message - they were not afraid to spend to contend.

Money was seemingly spent frivolously; a polar opposite compared to the cost-controlled days of today. While we didn't know it at the time, it was also effectively the death of any five-year contracts delved out to free agents.

It's hard to believe it's been seven years since then, but the Blue Jays find themselves in a similar position now as they did following the 2005 season. The team was middling in the AL East, but with the moves they made, Toronto quickly vaulted themselves back into contention.

The results from those transactions may have come with mixed results, but ultimately there was no doubt about what J.P. Ricciardi was trying to do; no matter the cost, he was trying to put together a winning team.

With Alex Anthopoulos at the helm of this current regime, sometimes I'm not entirely sure of what his motivation is. It feels like he's perennially building towards a winner, but at the same time it also feels like this team is constantly in a construction zone.

Many pundits are saying it's imperative the Blue Jays need to make some big free agent signings and/or trades this offseason. While there's nothing I'd love more than to see them open up the pocketbooks, the trend in recent weeks actually leans towards the opposite.

One lucrative cost-cutting measure was the "decline and sign" of Rajai Davis, which that saved the Blue Jays $500,000 dollars. Mike Aviles was due to get a salary bump in arbitration, and he was traded for Esmil Rogers. Another move that probably saved a couple million dollars.

All these shrewd moves by Alex Anthopoulos means either one of two things; the Blue Jays are either saving every nickel and dime possible to put towards some sort of spending spree, or they're just saving every nickel and dime.

AA is no stranger to delving out contract extensions to players already in the organization, but he has yet to sign a free agent to longer than a two year contract. In fact, the most amount of money a free agent has ever commanded is Darren Oliver at $4.5 million.

So who's to say the purse strings will suddenly fly open this offseason? Alex himself even said they would have to get "creative" with the money they have available. The definition of "creative" isn't overpaying the most sought after free agent starting pitchers.

People like to picture Rogers as a bottomless pit of money the Blue Jays can dip into at any time, but it sounds like the funds the Blue Jays have to work with are much more limited than they let on.

Why else then would the organization perform some creative accounting to save themselves $500,000 dollars? Unlike the cult classic, it's not like Alex Anthopoulos has been written a blank cheque and has the free will to spend frivolously.

Just because the Blue Jays should go out and sign Edwin Jackson or Zack Greinke, doesn't mean they will. But does that mean those are necessarily the best moves for the club at this very moment? The answer to that should undoubtedly be yes.

If the Blue Jays decide that this offseason will be the second coming of the 2005 offseason spending spree, it might keep the villagers from revolting for a short while, but ultimately what will keep the fans coming back is a winning product.

One quality of the J.P. Ricciardi regime that I really miss is the transparency. There was no such thing as a cone of silence, and he never backed away from questions. Heck, J.P. even answered questions from fans with Mike Wilner on Jays Talk.

I wish I could call in to "Wednesdays with J.P." today and ask J.P. Ricciardi if he could do it all over again, would he still sign B.J. Ryan, A.J. Burnett and Frank Thomas to those huge contracts. I'm willing to bet that he would ... because signing those players immediately made the Blue Jays better, not worse.

More often than not, there are more perils to not signing a free agent than by signing one. Even though it would likely be a great deal of money, the Blue Jays wouldn't be in danger of mortgaging the future by opening the vault and bringing in some free agents.

On the other hand, they could very well be handicapping themselves by sitting idly by and counting nickels and dimes. Unless Alex Anthopoulos has an extra $20 million rolled up in change somewhere, I'm not holding my breath that this offseason will mimic what happened in 2005.

7 comments:

  1. I think if the Jays have an opportunity to acquire an impact player they should consider it. However I don't like the idea of spending big money on mid tier players and never support spending for the sake of spending.

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    1. No, it doesn't make sense to blow a hole in the budget just because everyone thinks they should. Truth be told, the Blue Jays could probably survive with the starting rotation in its current state. I say "survive" but not "compete".

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  2. Damasos Burnt ShirtNovember 9, 2012 at 12:12 AM

    If the deal makes sense depending on what Rogers beancounters allow and the length of the contract. Outside of that... I would love for the Jays to sign Greinke, but it isn't going to happen.

    As much as I would like that the Jays made a 2005 like splash, I am also thankful that the Jays do not have a twit like Godfrey running the organization.



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  3. I really hope the Jays decide throw around at least a little bit of money this year. I don't expect this to be another 2005 though. I remember at the time of those signings being incredibly happy that we had brought in some huge free agents, but clearly that didn't work out, and it left the team handcuffed for a number of years afterwards.
    I would like to see them spend, but in a slightly more responsible way. Now, is any of that possible with all of the other big spenders on the market, probably not.

    The one thing that does worry me about all of this is; when AA first started, I had complete faith in what he said, and I wasn't upset that he didn't throw around the cash, in fact I respected him for it. But as time passes, it seems more and more like he doesn't have the cash to throw around, and he's just finding new ways of telling us why he couldn't land another free agent.

    Either way, this is a huge offseason, let's hope they can get something done.

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    1. Totally agree with you - he can only use the "rebuilding" excuse for so long. Eventually, something is going to need to happen. Otherwise we might be in another "five year plan" here.

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  4. With the issue of free agents, I think the underlying question is: what is the best way to build a winning MLB baseball team? From my observation - casual as that may be – most winning teams are built from the ground up with homegrown players through the minor leagues, and via trades for young players. Especially teams that win year after year.

    Look at the Rays of recent vintage, who built their foundation with drafted studs like David Price, Evan Longoria, etc. Or the WS champion Giants, who netted Lincecum, Bumgarner and Posey in three consecutive draft years. Or even the recent dynasty Yankees, who developed their 'core four' of Jeter, Posada, Rivera, and Pettitte.

    Or our own Blue Jays. The '92-'93 WS Blue Jay rosters arrived from many previous years of winning, contending Blue Jays teams - stretching all the way back to 1983. Free agents are good and all, but they should be signed selectively, and only to complement an already good team after its foundational from-the-ground-up players have matured and learned to play together. Too many free agents too soon, and you get the 2012 Miami Marlins.

    For a good look at the embryonic contending '83-93 Blue Jays, I suggest checking out the book 'OK OK Blue Jays' by John Robertson. It's not a work of literary or journalistic genius, but it captures the flavor of a young, hustling, homegrown team beginning to gel. It gives a tantalizing view of tonnes of talented young players like Dave Stieb, Jesse Barfield, a 23-yr old Lloyd Moseby, Damaso Garcia, and rookie phenom Tony Fernandez. Not all these guys were around for the World Series years 9 yrs later, but these guys came close several times in the 80's, and built a winning culture which was carried on by later players who they were traded away for (eg. Fernandez+McGriff for Alomar+Carter). Good talented players can be traded for other good talented players.

    This was how Pat Gillick built winning rosters, and I think it's how Alex Anthopoulos is trying to do it now. Anthopoulos should stick with his plan and not blow his powder like Ricciardi did in 2005.

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    Replies
    1. Very true - it all started with the Drive of '85, and the Blue Jays team of the mid-to-late 80's was built predominantly from the ground up. It wasn't until much later in 1992 and 1993 when Toronto started going after the top free agents in Jack Morris, Dave Winfield, Dave Stewart and Paul Molitor.

      I guess the big problem is getting the current roster to that point so signing a big name free agent would help put them over the top, like Morris/Winfield in 1992 and Stewart/Molitor in 1993.

      And thanks for the book recommendation. I'll have to add it to my offseason reading list, thanks!

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