Toronto Blue Jays: Is Alex Anthopoulos As Good As Fired?
Let’s call a spade a spade. The Toronto Blue Jays are having a season from hell.
Coming into the season, Toronto had playoff expectations. Toronto had World Series aspirations. The Blue Jays, and more specifically GM Alex Anthopoulos, turned the baseball world upside down this past offseason with a myriad of trades and signings, many of the blockbuster variety.
Anthopoulos had approached ownership (Rogers Communication Inc.) and asked for a considerable increase in payroll which would allow him to trade some of the blue-chip prospects he had acquired over the years for some All-Star talent.
Ownership obliged and the GM quickly went to work with a blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins.
The Blue Jays were able to wrestle away starting pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, utility man Emilio Bonifacio and catcher John Buck in exchange for shortstops Yunel Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria, pitcher Henderson Alvarez, catcher Jeff Mathis, pitcher Justin Nicolino , outfielder Jake Marisnick and pitcher Anthony DeScalfani .
On the surface, it looked like the Jays stole this trade. Aside from prospect Nicolino (whom was tabbed as one of the Jays big three pitching prospects with Aaron Sanchez, and Noah Syndergaard), Toronto really didn’t give much up aside from increasing their payroll.
Anthopoulos felt the Jays were close with this trade and wanted the final piece of his puzzle to be Cy Young winning pitcher R.A Dickey.
The trade with the New York Mets is what has yielded the most catastrophic results. Dickey has been shelled this season. Some chalk it up to his early-season back injury, some chalk it up to Dickey getting accustomed to the much tougher AL East. I chalk it up to Dickey being Dickey.
Sometimes it takes hitters a while before adjusting to knuckleball pitchers, but it seems they have certainly caught up with Dickey.
So what do the Jays do with a soon-to-be 39-year old pitcher who seems to be regressing rapidly, only months after giving up prized prospects in pitcher Syndergaard (the second of the big three to be traded) and the game’s top catching prospect Travis D’Arnaud?
Dickey is under contract for a relatively cheap $5 million for this season, but his salary jumps to a guaranteed $25 million for the 2014-2015 seasons combined. That’s a big hit for a pitcher who’s not producing. The part that hurts Anthopoulos most is what he gave away in order to trade for Dickey.
Syndergaard was regarded as the Jays’ top pitching prospect, and started for Team USA at the Futures Game during the All-Star break. D’Arnaud should be the Mets’ starting catcher next season. Last but not least, “The Greek”, as his colleagues call him, signed PED cheat Melky Cabrera to a two-year contract with $16 million guaranteed. Cabrera hasn’t been terrible, but he hasn’t been very good either.
Adding up all the moves, the pressure for Anthopoulos and the Jays was obvious. It was and still is playoffs or bust. With the Jays sitting in last place in the AL East, light years out of a postseason berth, the season has been a pure and utter failure.
What went wrong?
Reyes’ injury the first month of the season surely didn’t help. Dickey’s injury early on had people wondering if the R.A part of his name stood for “rocked always”. Johnson — who is in his contract year — has had the worst season of his career by a wide margin.
The three biggest acquisitions for Anthopoulos have not contributed in the way everyone had not only hoped, but expected.
Where does this leave the Jays? Where does this leave Anthopoulos? Johnson surely will not be back next season, but all the other players are under contract for next season, and most of them beyond next season. Does ownership give Anthopoulos another year to right the ship knowing all the money and talent that has been wasted in the process?
Lets remember that the Blue Jays are not owned by a person, but a corporation which only cares about bottom lines. There will be no emotional attachments here, just decisions based on dollars.
The Blue Jays have seen their attendance increase in each of Anthopoulos’ years as Jays GM, so that will work for him, but will it be enough?
Remember … spades are spades.