Since taking over as VP and General Manager Alex Anthopoulos has done a lot of positive things for the Toronto Blue Jays. He rebuilt the gutted minor league system, regained our lost presence in Latin America and placed a renewed emphasis on player development. He made a few shrewd acquisitions (Colby Rasmus, Yunel Escobar & Brandon Morrow trades can all be argued for) and all in all has had a successful tenure.
A lot of talk surrounding the failed 2013 Toronto Blue Jays campaign wrongly falls on the shoulders of manager John Gibbons.
This piece is not an argument to keep or fire him but a dose of reality is needed. The manager cannot keep an entire pitching staff healthy nor can he stop our shortstop and third basemen from getting injured. The manager cannot help an outfielder regain the hitting form he flashed while under the influence of PEDs and he would be hard-pressed to replace a struggling backstop when there is no replacement in sight.
In short this season’s lack of success falls directly at the door of the man who pieced this roster together.
Alex Anthopoulos has to own it.
But saying that I am also willing to give him a pass. We have all heard the saying ‘fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”. Basically this is his roster, he knows the players and he knows the strengths and weaknesses. There are no more excuses heading into 2014. Changes will be needed.
There are a few things we should be able to count on and a few things that definitely need to be addressed if we hope to compete for the playoffs and ultimately a championship.
1) Our offensive line-up should be strong going forward. If healthy (150+ games) our core of Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and Colby Rasmus form a strong nucleus to which you can build a stellar line-up around. Brett Lawrie has to improve and has looked much stronger since the All-Star break.
I am still not sold on Adam Lind and the addition of a meaningful left-handed bat could go a long way but again there might not be much available in terms of free agency. It is doubtful the Jays will be players for Jacoby Ellsbury who would be a nice addition and a guy who could relegate Melky to the bench or another team.
2) Catcher has to be an area of great concern. J.P. Arencibia has been bad offensively and worse defensively. Being both bad on offense and defense is a deadly combination for a baseball team with desires of ya know, winning. You can live without one or the other but the Jays either need a smart hitter with some on-base skills or a defensive stalwart who can make the pitching staff better.
3) We cannot count on any meaningful innings or production from Brandon Morrow, Josh Johnson and Ricky Romero. This one is pretty obvious and something I am certain AA is already well aware of. All three have proven they can get big league hitters out and if they could stay healthy and just pitch to career levels it would be a huge bonus. But that is a huge if and the starting rotation needs a lot of help.
4) R.A. Dickey cannot be the staff ace in the American League East. I hate throwing around the term ‘ace’ maybe we had been spoiled by Roy Halladay’s magnificent Blue Jays career but an ace Dickey is not. He is definitely not useless like some would suggest but has been mediocre to say the least. Read in-depth piece on Dickey here. On a championship contender Dickey can be no better than the teams #3 starter in my opinion. This is a tough one to get around in a weak free agent market and no prospects really left as trade chips.
As it stand now heading into spring training next season I would be comfortable saying R.A. Dickey is our #3 and Mark Buerhle (assuming he doesn’t ask for a trade) is our #5 starter. After that all bets are off. Current Blue Jays Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow, JA Happ, Todd Redmond, Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek, Sean Nolin and Ricky Romero will all have to audition for a spot (preferably near the back of the rotation).
The Blue Jays need to throw a little cash around and look to lock up at least two of the big ten. Preferably one arm and one left handed hitter but ideally two arms you can pencil into the rotation with at least one you can pencil in above Dickey on the depth chart. Basically we need an ace and a big league starter capable of eating innings.
Which leads us to my last point but certainly not least…
5) Money from Rogers cannot suddenly become scarce. This is a team that is built to win now and has forfeited even the semblance of a half-way decent farm system to do so. We have jettisoned numerous top prospects and some of whom are looking like they can become productive big leaguers, soon. I don’t want to see bad contracts signed just to sign someone of note (i.e. Prince Fielder) but the Blue Jays need to show baseball they are willing to do whatever it takes to field a winner.
Blue Jays blogger Wes Kepstro took a decidedly harsher view on whether Mr. Anthopoulos gets a pass. Read his very in-depth piece here!
Here are the top free agents available as per MLBTR:
1) 2B Robinson Cano, 2) CF Jacoby Ellsbury, 3) C Brian McCann, 4) SP Matt Garza, 5) OF Shin-Soo Choo, 6) SP Hiroki Kuroda, 7) SP Ervin Santana, 8) A-hole AJ Burnett, 9) OF Carlos Beltran. Others: Hunter Pence, Mike Napoli, Josh Johnson, Tim Lincecum.
The Blue Jays need to throw some big money around and actually land one or two of these guys.
What do you guys think? What did I miss? What do the Jays need to do?