Is Alex Anthopoulos Tempering Expectations?
The question at the end of the 2013 was “how will the Blue Jays repair their rotation?” But over time, that question has progressed to “will they even upgrade their starting rotation at all?”
It’s a query that’s been covered to death this offseason when it comes to the Toronto Blue Jays (see last week’s post), and frankly it’s the same one that’s going to resonate until Opening Day … or whenever do they add some starting pitching.
But in recent weeks, I’ve noticed a particular trend when it comes to Alex Anthopoulos; he really has begun to gear down and temper expectations for the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays season.
It seems like AA has really let his foot off the gas in particular when it comes to his quest for starting pitchers. At no point during the Winter Meetings has he declared a “need” for pitching, but just casually mentioning the Blue Jays could be in on particular free agents if the price comes down.
Jeff Blair acknowledged this on his show yesterday and I tend to agree with him;
Alex Anthopoulos could be deliberately dampening expectations this time around.
The reason for this is potentially two-fold. One, is to better manage fan expectations. After what transpired last offseason, the Blue Jays fan base when absolutely ballistic. Not surprisingly, expectations got incredibly out of hand going into the 2013 season.
Once that bar for expectations was set so incredibly high, anything less than a playoff appearance was viewed as a disappointment. And not only did the Blue Jays fail to make the postseason, they finished 2013 about as horribly as a preseason World Series favourite could.
So in that sense, Alex Anthopoulos is perhaps hoping to under promise and over deliver with this roster going into 2014.
The second reason why the front office could be gearing down is because the Blue Jays don’t want other teams to think they’re desperate. Truthfully, the Blue Jays are in dire need of improving their rotation, but they certainly aren’t letting on like they are.
If the Blue Jays publicly stated just how badly they needed starting pitching, executives from other teams and player’s agents would begin circling like sharks. Interested teams would likely fire over their low-ball offers for Toronto’s best players and/or prospects.
That invariably would drive up the price for any prospective free agent or any other team seeking return in trade for a starting pitcher. So by playing it cool, I guess the Blue Jays are avoiding falling into a trap where they feel they need to make a trade or free agent signing.
Who knows just how much that would drive up the price for a starting pitcher, but chances are once those executives or agents got wind of just how desperate the Blue Jays are, they would look to exploit that in the best way possible.
The Blue Jays are in a very precarious position because they have a myriad of hurdles to overcome to sign a free agent starting pitcher; there’s the “five year maximum” contract policy, and then of course there’s the issue of overpaying a free agent to come to Toronto.
Although when it comes to the Blue Jays five year maximum contract policy, at least Alex Anthopoulos has recently stated there may be a bit of wiggle room to make it a maximum of six years now.
Not to mention, as recently as yesterday, AA referred to the Blue Jays window of contention being a five year window as opposed to three. That has all the makings of a General Manager who doesn’t feel like he needs to contend now (or at least is giving that impression).
It’s also plausible that Alex Anthopoulos really could be waiting until the market cools off and may sign a starting pitcher in January or February. The Cleveland Indians managed to add Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher late in the offseason, and they ended up making the playoffs.
So it is fathomable the Blue Jays may just be biding time to sign that starter they really need, but they also run the danger in that particular player signing elsewhere. And if it’s a tradable asset they’re after, the longer they wait … the likelier it is that player will disappear as well.
Fans should begin preparing themselves for the likely scenario that the Toronto Blue Jays could begin the 2014 season with the very same starting rotation they have. The Roy Halladay signing may very well be the only pitcher the Blue Jays “add” this offseason.
The Blue Jays also could just stand pat with their current depth of starting pitchers. They may not get a second baseman, they may not find a platoon partner for Adam Lind, and they may not find some outfield help.
But then again, they could also blow everybody out of the water like they did last offseason. Isn’t it fun to speculate?
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