Though the Toronto Blue Jays have had their fair share of experience with the “mystery team” label when it comes to MLB rumors, there’s little mystery about their chances in the race for Japanese hurler Masahiro Tanaka.
After all, it’s hard to win a bidding war without making a bid; and while teams like the Chicago Cubs have put together rumored packages ranging as high as an eye-opening $180 million, there’s been nary a peep about Alex Anthopoulos and co. joining this money-slinging contest as the Friday deadline to sign the right-hander approaches.
Still, that hasn’t stopped the bluebirds from still being in the mix, according to an unnamed agent speaking to insider Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish. In fact, taken at said agent’s words, Toronto is “in for sure”.
Now, it’s worth pointing out that not making a bid and being out of the (currently six-team) race are two different things; that said, as exciting of a prospect as it might be for the Blue Jays to finally land that top arm that the rotation has practically been begging for since it imploded for the second year in a row in 2013, it’s hard not to take this particular rumor without a truckful of salt.
As far as fans already know, inactivity the M.O. for the team this offseason. That can always change, but with the number of issues that needed to be fixed on the team and Anthopoulos’ inability to address any of them in any meaningful way thus far, why would it? Even if the Blue Jays, for the sake of this thought experiment, landed Tanaka for somewhere around $140 million — is he truly the piece that will put the team over?
It’s hard to think so, especially considering that essentially everything that was a problem for the team at the end of their disastrous 2013 season remains massive question marks going into next year.
You’ll likely see the words “bounce-back” and “redemption” associated with the team a fair bit going into Spring Training in 2014, but that’s because the team just doesn’t have much to look forward to other than the hope that everything will turn around without them making any changes.
Adam Lind still doesn’t have a platoon-mate. The “solution” at the catcher position is Dioner Navarro, who hasn’t had more than 400 PA in a single season since 2009 and was a below-replacement level player in three out of the last five years. The rose-tinted glasses are less and less effective on Brett Lawrie, while Melky Cabrera is expected to return to the form after back surgery — the form that led him to be suspended for PED use.
Oh, and as for second base? The team is literally a couple of poor stints from Ryan Goins and Maicer Izturis (who was historically bad in 2013) away from having Munenori Kawasaki as the everyday starter.
Is the addition of Tanaka going to provide answers to those questions, let alone the ones on the starting rotation? What if Mark Buehrle gets off to another poor start? What if Brandon Morrow gets hurt again? In that case, is a rotation consisting of R.A. Dickey-Tanaka-Buehrle-J.A. Happ-Todd Richmond/Esmil Rogers/Drew Hutchison/Marcus Stroman a competitive one?
While spring is supposed to be the time for hope eternal, you’d have a pretty good reason to take the glass-half-full approach when it comes the 2014 Blue Jays being a fit for Tanaka. His MLB contract would demand a stark turnaround from team owner Rogers in their hesitance to significantly boost payroll; and even if they did for some reason, wouldn’t the money be better off being spent elsewhere?
The Blue Jays have gone back and forth between “we have money to spend and FA is a realistic possibility” to “we’re going to be looking for trade opportunities to improve the team”, and they’ve done neither so far as their rivals have improved – at least on paper.
Of course, the opportunity is still there — if the team can land a couple of the remaining impact arms and perhaps swing a trade for a second baseman. The signing of Tanaka will clear a logjam for the remaining FA pitchers, but is Toronto the team to make that first move?
Based on past precedent, it seems unlikely; but more importantly, it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense even if they did.