For a good long time, most Toronto Blue Jays fans had probably (and rightly) assumed that Alex Anthopoulos‘ time as the GM of the club would be defined by his very first trade: one that sent superstar Roy Halladay out of town.
We certain didn’t think he’d top that. Not in a single move, anyway.
That’s just what Anthopoulos has done, though; not only did he set out to establish his own legacy with the Blue Jays with the blockbuster deal involving the Miami Marlins, the “ninja” GM also put the team on a course that fans haven’t seen in a very long time.
Just in case you thought you were only dreaming about it, here are the names again: Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck, and $4 million dollars are headed north of the border, in exchange for Yunel Escobar, Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jake Marisnick, Anthony Desclafani, Justin Nicolino, and of course, Jeff Mathis. Once finalized, the deal with go down as one of the biggest – if not the biggest – in team history in terms of both scope and the salary involved.
It was only a day ago that Anthopoulos was quoted by John Lott of the National Post as saying the team will talk about “anybody on the roster” in order to make improvements to the starting rotation. With Johnson and Buehrle, the GM has irrevocably tied the team’s fortunes – and the fans’ expectations of the Blue Jays being in the mix for the AL East title – on a pair of pitchers that come with their own unique risks. Legacy-building is a risky endeavor, after all, and Anthopoulos has put his on the line by plundering the Marlins and taking advantage of Jeffery Loria‘s crookery.
It would be…naive to suggest that there aren’t elements of the deal that can blow up in Anthopoulos’ face – Johnson is a walking injury risk, Buerhle will be 34 when the ’13 season begins, and I can’t imagine Reyes particularly enjoying the turf at the ‘dome. Still, it’s remarkable that even as the Blue Jays GM opened up the team owner’s (Rogers Communications) wallet, the spending spree still fell strictly in line with Anthopoulos’ trademark prudence: none of the players in the deal have contract commitments over four years, and he even managed to get $4 million back in salary relief for his troubles.
Anthopoulos didn’t want to resort to having to ponying up big contracts in the FA pool, and he hasn’t – even as the team takes on an additional $165 million in player salary.
So yeah, I guess you could say it’s a calculated risk, even if it’s easily the most significant one that the team has taken in years .
There’s always the chance that the whole thing could end up haunting the Blue Jays in the future, but not is not the time to talk about that. Risk, as I see it, is the element that drives all player contracts; it’s what GM and players think about before they sign the dotted line, and it’s what defines team-building philosophies.
Risk is, in short, the cost of playing – and playing to win.
Months after team president Paul Beeston proclaimed that the team was done rebuilding, Alex Anthopoulos made good on that promise, cashing in his chips for a shot at the big prize.
So no, this isn’t the time to worry about the risk; it’s time to give credit to where credit is due for the organization that just unfathomably added some $45 million to their payroll. Are the Blue Jays the team to beat in the division? Probably not – but then again, there might not be such a thing in the AL East. We’ve seen enough of on-paper favourites over the years for me not to pin that on this team, but I will say this: the team should be soundly in the mix for the division crown.
They call it the AL Beast for a reason, but the Blue Jays are better equipped to take that on now than they have been in a very long time – and they did it without any monstrous seven-year commitments, and without demolishing their farm system, having retained their top five prospects after the deal.
The expectation now is that that team will be playing meaningful baseball in September and October next season, something that might just warrant loosening up a bit. So, maybe it’s okay for Blue Jays fans to be the same insufferable, pompous gloats that we’ve had to endure from the rest of the division for years and years – even if just a little.
It’d be a refreshing change of pace; after all, there’s been enough self-deprecation here in Toronto about this ball club.