Another year, another search for more pitching.
It’s a been a familiar narrative for the Toronto Blue Jays over the years, except this time, it takes on some extra significance ahead of the 2014 campaign. This time, whatever moves that are made by GM Alex Anthopoulos has to count, because the success of the rebuild over the last few years could very well be defined by it. Toronto fans already know this; despite a 2013 season to forget, the window of opportunity to contend is still open — even if it might not be for long.
That said, will the GM be able to finally set his vision of a “freight train” on its way, or will it be derailed out of the station?
While the general consensus will probably suggest that the GM has done a good job since taking the reins (in fact, if it weren’t for 2013, we’d probably be speaking of Anthopoulos in more glowing terms), whether he’ll manage to find the much-desired arms to fill out the Blue Jays’ broken rotation is highly questionable.
In fact, if there is one Achilles’ heel to the GM, you could very well argue that it’s his ability to evaluate pitchers.
There were hits, of course, but while he did manage to move Brandon League for Brandon Morrow (a deal that still worked out in the Blue Jays’ favor even with his ongoing health issues), they’re largely outweighed by the misses: Kyle Drabek (still too early to say, I suppose), the unnecessary “good guy” extension to Dustin McGowan, Sergio Santos (35.2 IP over last two seasons), trading Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes for Esmil Rogers.
And oh, who could forget that, on his dedicated quest to construct a bullpen, the GM once traded Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco?
This isn’t even to mention the recent miscalculations on R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson, the latter of which was essentially a one-and-done in a year where the team got little to no value out of him. Hindsight is always 20-20 in these situations of course, and many of these moves were made with good intentions after the front office did their due diligence; that said, there is someone who makes that final call, and that happens to be Anthopoulos.
In short, past precedent has at least suggested to fans that when the GM is bent on targeting one area, he tends to overextend on the risk to try to find that upside, and it hasn’t led to very good results so far.
Since he’s tried to make the bullpen his pet project, the team’s closer is someone whom he didn’t acquire (Casey Janssen), while folks like Brad Lincoln just haven’t panned out at all. Yes, the team now has plenty of depth in that department, but I think it’s fair to say that the late-inning relief corps isn’t exactly how Anthopoulos originally intended it to be constructed … unless he initially saw Brett Cecil as an All-Star reliever.
At least relievers won’t really be a major concern this offseason, but he’ll now have to look for one, if not two arms to add to the three-strong rotation of Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Morrow.
Needless to say, Anthopoulos will have to do his fair share of wheeling and dealing to get these pieces, along with having to fix second base and catcher. He’ll need to make these acquisitions with the deftness that allowed him to pick up folks like Brett Lawrie (traded Shaun Marcum) and Colby Rasmus (traded Edwin Jackson plus relievers). Misjudging the impact of a pitcher or getting caught up in the quest for one could have very dire consequences of this whole venture.
In short, the Dickey trade can’t happen again, and he sure can’t whiff on another Johnson. And you know, if he ends up acquiring someone like Napoli this time, perhaps he should consider keeping him.
Then again, trading away pitchers for superior on-field talents was never really a problem for the GM; the other way around, however …