Since the Detroit Tigers landed big slugging 1B/DH Prince Fielder and signed him to a massive nine-year $214 million dollar contract I have heard (and read) from a lot of Blue Jays fans – and the general consensus is they are fed up, frustrated and upset. They heard the rumblings that the Jays were going to be potential players on this year’s free agent market, that the team had permission to spend, not as much as the New York Yankees but at least to the level of the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Angels.
Alex Anthopoulos doesn’t make many mistakes and hasn’t taken much in the way of criticism since he took over the reins from J.P. Ricciardi but this offseason he has done a poor job at one thing, controlling the expectations of an impatient fan base. The Jays were allegedly interested in Yu Darvish and might have (or not) placed on a bid for the Japanese star pitcher and “Jays Nation” ate this story up and ran with it.
There were numerous reports stating the Jays were at first interested, and then really interested, then super-duper hardcore interested. With only a few days left until the posting deadline expired the Jays were even called the hands on favourites to win the bidding. The Jays policy has been a strict one, and up to this point a sound one, they do not comment on rumours or alleged reports on available players.
In this day and age with twitter, facebook and other various media outlets hammering home a variety of hot stories and rumours it is probably best to just leave it to them and not make an official ‘statement’ one way or another. But in this instance I would have toned down the rhetoric (we have money to spend) and tried to “turn down the temperature” for any big off season plans the Jays had.
“We like Yu Darvish, but it appears when factoring the bidding plus contract demands the asking price is going to be more than we can handle”. Done, case closed. The fans would be disappointed of course but they would move on a lot easier than the roller coaster that was “Darvish mania” in Toronto. It reinvigorated a solemn fan base and it felt great that people around the league were discussing Toronto again.
I get it, it felt great to be talked about and “relevant” again – it felt like 1993. But the fans need to take a step back and really see what type of progress this Jays team is making. Prospect guru John Sickels recently released his organizational rankings of farm systems and placed the Toronto Blue Jays at the top spot. Baseball America analysts have all stated the Jays will rank top three when they release their annual report.
In baseball this is your life blood and having a strong (the strongest) minor league system helps you on so many fronts. First and most needed is the infusion of young talent year after year that is critical to becoming competitive. Where did Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols come from – some magical free agent land? No, they came up through the systems of Milwaukee and St. Louis – like all of the best players do.
Second they push the incumbent starters to play better or move aside. Not much incentive to improve or work at your game if you know you are the entrenched starter for the next 2-3 seasons. That will begin to change in the next year or so when the absolute unbelievable depth of the Jays minor league system starts churning out potential regulars.
Third, prospects are a valued commodity and can be used as form of currency to flip them for major league talent (see Santos, Sergio – he of the 13 K/9). The type of system the Jays are currently looking at will make it very easy to compete (and dominate) the trade markets should a younger, more cost controlled player come to the market. For example I love Prince Fielder but I’d rather have Justin Upton if the D’Backs were so inclined.
I hate to sound like an Alex Anthopoulos apologist but I hate when I see frustrated fans spewing negative venom about the team, city and its future when everyone ‘inside’ baseball feels the exact opposite. Unfortunately some of the mainstream media in the city of Toronto still has draconian views of how to win in baseball. These same types would have had the Jays sign Jason Bay, John Lackey and Julio Lugo – among other players teams would get rid of in a millisecond.
Free agency is a part of winning baseball and yes of course the Jays were interested in Prince Fielder. My guess is they even discussed parameters of a possible contract to play here but when the cost (more specifically the term) took Fielder out of being a sensible (or even tolerable) investment the Jays rightfully passed. It is the job of the man in charge to make the best decision possible with all available facts and information. Scott Boras took this out of the realm of realistic.
That contract by the way is already being widely panned by respected baseball writer (Rob Neyer, Dave Cameron to name two) as possible one of the worst contracts in baseball. Jays fans absolutely loved the Vernon Wells contract when it was signed; we all know how that ended. Do we even need to discuss Alex Rios?
Take a step back, breathe and just have faith that one of the best baseball minds in the game is in charge of this franchise and he (and his brain trust) has rapidly turned the Jays into one of the finest runs teams in the game. Don’t turn your back now when the party has not even started yet – there are so many fine young, cost controlled players we are going to be introduced to in the next few seasons.