Monday, February 24, 2014
The Blue Jays Underwhelming Offseason
By Ian Hunter
What a difference one year makes. In 2013, the Toronto Blue Jays spared no expense to ensure a winning team. This year, they have spared every expense. Passive and pensive; two words that describe the Blue Jays offseason in a nutshell.
It's a strange departure from a team that went all-in with a flurry of offseason moves last winter, to a team that has sat on their proverbial hands this time around.
Rather than address the glaring holes on the roster, Alex Anthopoulos has decided to sit back and take the internal approach. Aside from signing a new catcher, the Blue Jays will more or less will be relying on the same roster as last year to turn their fate around.
Up until about a week ago, the Blue Jays and the Orioles were two teams who drew the very same criticism for lack of moves this offseason. But by inking both Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz, the O's have suddenly vaulted the Blue Jays in transactions.
For me, I look at the Blue Jays and the Orioles and see two teams going in two completely directions. For all the questionable moves the O's have made the past few years, at least they took a proactive approach this offseason and signed some players.
The Los Angeles Angels were also in a very similar position as the Blue Jays, but they addressed their weaknesses via trade and free agency. The Angels did so in a relatively cheap fashion, proving it doesn't take Yankees-type money to plug holes on the roster.
Teams like the Orioles and Angels were aggressive this offseason while the Blue Jays remained completely passive. If given the choice, I'd rather the Blue Jays go for it like they did last year and fail miserably than do nothing and fail miserably.
For all the criticism J.P. Ricciardi took during his tenure as Blue Jays GM, at least he was aggressive. His moves may not have always been the right ones, but at least he did something in an attempt to better the team.
The Blue Jays may have overpaid for the services of A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan, but they can't be faulted them for signing some of the best players on the market at the time. They may have been big contracts, but they weren't bad deals for the Blue Jays by any means.
If the Blue Jays went out tomorrow and signed Ervin Santana and Stephen Drew, most would laud them for at least trying to make another run at it ... rather than just hoping an inordinate amount of scenarios break in their favour this year.
Stoeten brought up a lot of great points at DJF last week which were fleshed out in his "Ubaldo to Orioles" post, which best describes the frustration that has boiled over from the Blue Jays fan base at the lack of activity this offseason.
Judging by how the club failed to bring in any reinforcements this winter, you'd never know the Blue Jays were in year two of their massive push for the postseason. So it's no shock why experts like Johah Keri have stated the Blue Jays "look like a last-place team".
Nearly nobody is praising the Blue Jays for their penny-pinching ways this winter. It's almost as if Alex Anthopoulos is worried about signing free agents to a multi-year contract because he doesn't want to leave the burden of that contract to the next Blue Jays GM.
To me, that signals one of either two things; the organization is actually confident this team can contend with the roster constructed as is, or AA's hands are tied when it comes to free agent spending due to budget constraints.
If you asked people at the beginning of the offseason, most would have pegged the Blue Jays to sign at least one free agent starting pitcher and perhaps bring in another starter via trade. But they did neither of those things.
The sense of urgency to win simply isn't there, which is completely frustrating for any fan ... let alone one that hasn't seen their team make the playoffs in over 20 years.
It's almost as if we've gone back in time three or four years and expectations have reverted back to simply finishing with a .500 record. After they failed to live up to expectations last year, it's like the Blue Jays are perfectly content remaining the little brother of the AL East.
I don't know if Alex Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston are delusional, but they can't seriously think this Blue Jays team can contend the way it is constructed right now. And if they don't think the team is playoff worthy, they should remedy the situation immediately.
The best analogy I can use for the Blue Jays season borrows heavily from Shi Davidi's in "Great Expectations: The Lost Blue Jays Season".
There are a couple of ways to fix a house; one is to use the best materials possible and spare no expense to ensure the longevity of the project. Alternatively, you could repair your home simply using supplies from the dollar store.
In case you were wondering, the Yankees were the former in that analogy and the Blue Jays were the latter. On one end of the spectrum, the Yankees paid through the nose to ensure they return to the playoffs, while on the other end, the Blue Jays totally cheaped out.
With this in mind, it's no surprise as to why fans have become disenchanted with the Blue Jays this offseason.
It's alarming that they've been so incredibly passive in free agency and trade and yet somehow expect to compete with the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays this year. And the Blue Jays are also expecting fans to "have faith" even though they've pretty much nothing.
If Alex Anthopoulos really thinks he can get away with it, then kudos to him. I will happily take it all back if it all pans out and the Blue Jays somehow miraculously make the playoffs this year. I will gladly admit I was wrong.
But until then, there's nothing they can do to convince me that doing almost nothing was the right thing to do.
Image via AP/The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn