Alex Anthopoulos does not get a pass from me. I’m not part of the radical fringe that screams for his head or whines game-in and game-out, but he’s responsible for this mess. I wouldn’t be upset if he was fired, I just don’t think it will happen. A results-based assessment recognizes that they’ve declined every year that he’s been at the helm. 2013 may be slightly better than 2012, but they had to double the payroll to do it.
I, too, think John Gibbons has done okay, given the teams’ indifferent/poor play and the overall circumstances (‘new’ manager; lots of new players). The problem is that someone needs to be held accountable and, since John Gibbons is AA’s man, the finger points at AA.
He rebuilt the farm quickly, then used it as currency to assemble a contender at the ML level. I like that strategy. As a matter of fact, it’s encouraging: it didn’t take long to restock a long-neglected aspect of the organization.
The problem is that the talent he assembled hasn’t contended. This problem is magnified by 2 other factors: an emptied farm; and different rules for draft pick acquisition. No longer can they sign the Miguel Olivos of the world for the purpose of acquiring a supplementary round draft pick when he signs elsewhere. Rebuilding the farm is more difficult now.
A Brief Review
I believe Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Mark DeRosa have lived up to advance billing. Reyes was injured for 60+ games, but that’s not surprising. When he’s played, he’s played pretty well. His defense isn’t great, but his offense has been good (.347 wOBA; 117 wRC+).
Buehrle had a rough start but has pitched as expected for some time now. He owns a 4.14 FIP and 4.17 xFIP for his career; this year they’re 4.18 and 4.19, respectively. He’s also on pace for 200+ IP.
Mark DeRosa’s real value has been on the bench: he’s a leader and he’s intelligent. On top of that, they’re getting unexpectedly good offensive production from him (7 HR, .328 wOBA, 104 wRC+). Offensively he’s playing slightly above the level of an average major leaguer, which is excellent for a utility player. It means the Jays don’t lose anything on offense when he starts occasionally or pinch hits.
Here’s the sordid side of the off season tale:
- Maicer Izturis is the worst player in Major League Baseball;
- ‘Ace’ RA Dickey presently has a FIP north of 4.75, which is 4th or 5th starter territory;
- Melky Cabrera came injured, and has been one of the worst outfielders in baseball;
- Emilio Bonifacio played so poorly in TOR that he’s already been dealt;
- Josh Johnson is Ricky Romero 2.0. He may go down as the worst acquisition that the Toronto Blue Jays have ever made (at least Mike Sirotka didn’t play fast and loose with our hopes by subjecting us to AAA quality pitching);
- Josh Thole catches Dickey, but he can’t hit and he’s not much better behind the plate than JPA; and
- Mike Nickeas gave them veteran depth at catcher for AAA Buffalo.
Several other trades have produced a mixed bag of results, which is normal. Steve Delabar was a great pick-up, especially since Eric Thames did nothing with SEA and has since moved. Dumping Vernon Wells’ huge contract was a boon, as well. Other acquisitions (Brandon Morrow, Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Brad Lincoln, Francisco Cordero, Sergio Santos, Kelly Johnson, etc.) haven’t worked out very well.
What Can They Do?
I’d like to see Bautista dealt. It’s nearing the last opportunity to get a good return for him. His defense has been shoddy in the 2nd half—missed cut offs, misplayed balls, poor throws, etc.–and his offense is nothing like it was a couple of years ago. Trading him, plus some expiring contracts (Oliver, Rajai, etc.) may give them some wriggle room. The expiring contracts are (over) balanced by some arbitration cases (Rasmus, etc.) that loom.
The glaring weaknesses are: the rotation, left field, 2B, C and team consistency. The rotation needs 2 upper level pitchers but so does every other team in MLB except the Tigers. Where are the Jays going to find those pitchers? I don’t know. Someone may want to dump salary (LAA? TEX?), opening previously-closed doors, but I haven’t heard any rumours.
The free agent market, which AA is generally loath to use, isn’t very promising either. Perhaps they can re-sign Josh Johnson and get Tim Lincecum for serious bargains in the hopes that they’ll rebound from their poor performances. One problem is that dumpster diving hasn’t really worked very well for the Jays, partly because it’s a strategy they overuse.
I’d love to see them make a play for Cano, but that’s a pipe dream. Not only are the NYY and LAD likely to get into a bidding war but Jay-Z’s his new agent, and Jay-Z wants to make a splash. AA said he’s looking to go for a defense-first 2B. I don’t know who fits the bill here.
I’m not interested in Ellsbury: more injury-prone players are unnecessary. No, the next 100 games or so are make-or-break for Anthony Gose, AA’s ‘golden boy’. He pouted when he was demoted earlier in the season and has played poorly ever since (regardless of where he’s played). He’s yet another speed merchant that hasn’t performed because he doesn’t fit the Jays’ in-game strategy: they’re boppers, not bunters.
I don’t expect another year like this from Rasmus (Matt Klaassen wrote a good piece about him at http://www.fangraphs.com). I like what CLE and, to a lesser extent, BOS did when they acquired good OF. The Jays need a good all-round, reliable OF to play with Rasmus. They also need Colby to repeat his success this year…
Team consistency is likely going to be an issue again. The Jays have too many players who aren’t good enough to be consistent. Jose Bautista is a good player but a terrible leader. Leaders don’t argue, whine, or make as many misplays as he does. He’s also pretty inconsistent, and the team takes its cues from him. Adam Lind’s not consistent enough to play everyday. Then there are all the utility-level players (Rajai, Izturis, DeRosa, Thole, JPA, Kawasaki). These guys are a petrie dish for inconsistency, especially when they play full time.
Also if they don’t do something about their catching situation, they’re in trouble. They hitched their wagon to JPA, but he’s not a good catcher for reasons that have been flogged mercilessly. What other possibilities exist, though? How about Carlos Ruiz? Chooch is at the end of his tenure in Philly: he wants to stay, but they don’t seem interested. Another former ped abuser, nearing the end of his career, who isn’t wanted by his own team?
Adding it all up, the Jays need: 2 starters, a #1 catcher, a 2B, and an OF. Each one of these players needs to excel on offense or defense, preferably both. To acquire these needs, the Jays have: a bunch of underachieving MLers and a farm that’s been ransacked, but they’ve also ‘promised’ to maintain or increase payroll as necessary.
At this point my guess is we’ll see more of the same next year. There are too many needs and not enough talent or resources to fill all those needs, even if they trade roster players. They’d be selling low on almost everyone on the team. Also, do we seriously expect the ‘pen to be this good again?
A key element of strong, contending teams is good homegrown talent. The Jays have Romero, McGowan, Lind, JPA, Lawrie, Pillar, and several ‘pen arms. Another element is good, astute trades that work out well. They haven’t been successful enough on the trade front for me to be confident that another round of trades will make a significant difference.
If Alex Anthopoulos is fired after the 2013 debacle, I won’t miss him. He’s not responsible for the poor play by good players, but he is responsible for the results. He assessed the talent, acquired the talent, but didn’t alter the talent. He’s given hope to the fan base, but it’s been a false hope.
In 2010, he promised 2 trips to the playoffs over the next 5 seasons. 2013 will be the 4th year of missing the playoffs under his direction, and the 19th straight overall. Pittsburgh and Kansas City have positioned themselves for the post-season, and Baltimore has leap-frogged the Jays in the AL East. Toronto is no longer the 4th-best team in their division: they’re the worst team 2 years running with only a fool’s hope of improvement. What more needs to be said? I used to sing his praises. Seeing as how I don’t think he’ll get canned, I won’t do that until anymore he gets some positive results. Why? I don’t trust him.