Earlier today, most awoke to learn the news that Ervin Santana had signed with the Atlanta Braves. It confirmed what many knew all along; the Toronto Blue Jays had been thwarted once again.
Ultimately, the Blue Jays failed to do what they promised this winter … and that was overhaul the starting rotation.
In a vacuum,
not many are disappointed a fly ball pitcher like Ervin Santana decided to take his talents to the NL East with the Atlanta Braves. However, the entire situation was symbolic of how things unfolded this offseason for the Blue Jays.
was the culmination of what has
been an utterly disappointing offseason for the Blue Jays; missing out on Ervin Santana was just the cherry on top.
Many fans lashed out with vitriol after they learned the Blue Jays failed to secure Ervin Santana, but I don’t think the anger stemmed from missing out on Santana per se; that was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.
It wasn’t only Ervin
Santana, it was failing to acquire a starting pitching via trade, it was
missing out on Masahiro Tanaka and Ubaldo Jimenez, it was losing out on A.J. Burnett
… all of it.
Most teams in Major League Baseball are doing either one of two things; spending or saving. The New York Yankees are notorious spenders, the Tampa Bay Rays are notorious savers, but I’m not really sure where the Toronto Blue Jays lie.
If you asked me one year ago, I’d say they were undoubtedly spenders, but judging by their actions this winter, they look more like savers.
The Toronto Blue Jays may very well be a big market team masquerading as a small market team. Alex Anthopoulos has used all the small market excuses and tactics, and yet the Blue Jays are among the top ten payrolls in baseball.
This was a team that took on close to $190 million dollars total in additional salaries through trades and free agents signings last year. This year, they’ve taken on a grand total of (drumroll please) … $8 million dollars.
They bumped their payroll up $35.5 million dollars from 2012 to 2013, and due large in part to some back-loaded contracts, the Blue Jays 2014 payroll appears to be on track for somewhere in the neighbourhood of $133 million dollars.
As a Blue Jays fan, I would say that this offseason has probably been the most frustrating in recent memory. Brendan Kennedy used the perfect phrase on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight podcast; this is a fan base that’s become entrenched in cynicism.
It’s something that’s bubbled under the surface all winter long, but I think the Ervin Santana saga has really brought a lot of unrest from Toronto Blue Jays fans and pundits to the forefront.
If the Blue Jays only have a three year window of contention, it feels like the front office pulled the plug after year one and completely put a halt on spending. Or at the very least, with the promise that the pocketbooks will be opened up again once the team proves it can win.
Blue Jays ownership has turned a complete 180 compared to just one year ago. For a team that’s expected to compete in the American League East, the Blue Jays extremely passive offseason made no sense.
Here’s a prime example; Alex Anthopoulos made it sound like he had to pull teeth to get the cash to sign Dioner Navarro to a two-year deal, when he would wanted to do a one-year deal instead:
“I would have preferred to do one year and lower dollars but we really felt we needed to make a change there. We stretched.”
If Anthopoulos was splitting hairs over an $8 million dollar deal, you know something is drastically different in the front office. In my mind, the definition of stretching is going beyond your means – not spending at or just slightly below market value for a starting catcher.
With that in mind, I guess it’s no surprise why the Blue Jays failed to land a starting pitcher this offseason and why they missed out on Ervin Santana. They either can’t or won’t spend the cash to bring players on board, even on a one-year deal.
To me, this feels like a franchise in the midst of an identity crisis. They want to be the Yankees or Red Sox when it comes to spending, but because the Blue Jays crashed and burned so horribly last year, they’re now back to square one.
People often forget the Toronto Blue Jays were the Yankees back in the late 80’s and early 90’s and were consistently among the top-spending teams. “Spend to contend” was mantra of the Blue Jays back then. In 2014, the mantra is apparently “scratch and survive”.
Alex Anthopoulos has been taking a lot of heat for the Blue Jays inactivity, but I’m not convinced it’s entirely his doing. If his position were hanging in the balance, one would think AA would do more to set this team up to be successful this year.
Many have suspected Alex’s hands are tied in regards to payroll. The “five-year policy” also sounds like it was something instilled by Paul Beeston in particular, so in that respect Anthopoulos was already at a disadvantage when it came to luring free agents.
But it made absolutely no sense for the Blue Jays not to spend this winter … even though Paul Beeston made this promise to season ticket holders below. And after reading this, I might need to rethink what I consider to be “relentless”.
Image courtesy of Reuters/Fred Thornhill