First, a bit of backstory: last year, I made fun of Toronto for essentially employing a passive strategy of waiting for Boston and New York fail simultaneously and unforeseeably. One year later, you can add Tampa to the list of beasts of the AL East, making this strategy even more pathetic. So I figured the time would come this winter when, perhaps, the Blue Jays would finally admit that just treading water and waiting for three good teams to all inexplicably underperform was not a strategy they could, in good conscience, continue to pursue.
And yet — and yet. GM JP Ricciardi essentially announced that the team was done before the offseason deals even began in earnest. After a rather feeble effort to retain AJ Burnett (who had made it pretty clear that he had no interest in staying) the Jays mostly twiddled their thumbs and began to count the days until spring, taking their do-nothing strategy to the hilt by doing what they do best: nothing.
So they’ll head into the 2009 season with the same flaccid offense that got them nowhere last year. How bad was their lineup last year? Well, I had Vernon Wells on my fantasy team, and despite missing 54 games due to injury, he still finished the year as the team’s home run leader. With 20. And this year, instead of having Burnett on their side, they’ll have to face him when they play New York. Shaun Marcum will miss the entire year after having Tommy John surgery, and the aforementioned Dustin McGowan will miss at least the first month of the season after having surgery on his labrum. So you’re looking at a team with a) no offense and b) no pitching.
Unfortunately, given that the Jays barely accomplished anything this winter, there is little to do now but recap Paul’s excellent post from our earlier What They Need series: Assuming that Roy Halladay continues to be Roy Halladay, the Jays should explore trading him at the deadline — he’s signed through the end of 2010 at about $13MM/year, which should make him valuable in a deal. And more than one insanely good player, what they need now is a lot of reasonably good — and cheap — players. They also still have enough good, young pitching lined up for 2010 that dealing Halladay is a risk I think they can afford to take. (Two particular areas to target: first and third base, and a defensive centerfielder that would allow Wells to move to left.) Another player to shop: closer BJ Ryan. His value come July (when the Jays will likely be 20 games back) will likely be high, and most teams overvalue closers anyway.
One bright spot should be a full season of Travis Snider, a beefy young masher who rose rapidly through the farm system last year — maybe too rapidly. Hopefully, the Jays will stick him at DH since he doesn’t really do anything but beefily mash. However, it would be nice if the Jays had picked someone up who could help spell Snider and perhaps ameliorate his growing pains. But they didn’t. (Note: Kevin Millar has recently been offered a minor league contract. Perhaps with this role in mind?)
In one sense, I sympathize with the Jays. I truly do. Last year, they actually had a better pythag than the Yankees. They had the best pitching in baseball, and usually, that’s enough to get you somewhere. And now, in the face of the global financial crisis, MLB’s only Canadian team is suffering from the decline of the Loonie compared to the greenback. Everyone — even subprime mortgage lenders and credit default-swappers — seems to be against them.
But you know what? Everyone’s got problems. And sitting around doing nothing isn’t the way to solve ‘em.
Added: Matt Clement, Brian Burres, TJ Beam, Brandon Fahey, Jason Lane, Michael Barrett,
Lost: AJ Burnett, Greg Zaun, Curtis Thigpen (subsequently re-signed to a minor league deal), Russ Adams, Kevin Mench, every shred of hope
2B: Joe Inglett/Aaron Hill
1B: Lyle Overbay
RF: Alex Rios
CF: Vernon Wells
LF: Adam Lind
DH: Travis Snider/Kevin Millar (?)
3B: Scott Rolen
C: Rod Barajas/Curtis Thigpen
SS: John MacDonald/Marco Scutaro
Projected rotation and closer:
SP1: Roy Halladay
SP2: Jesse Litsch
SP3: David Purcey
CL: BJ Ryan
The Jays needed to cut spending this year, and they didn’t. They needed to upgrade their offense, and they didn’t really. They needed to at least pick up a warm body to give them some innings after the loss of Burnett, nevermind the injuries to McGowan and Marcum, but all they did was sign Matt Clement to a minor league deal. Sure, there’s upside there — but just because it’s impossible for Clement to go any further down. From the mouth noises coming from the Jays’ front office, it sounds like their plan is just to wait until 2010, when they will have some more payroll flexibility, and then try and spend on free agents who can help them. But that strategy is dubious. So why wouldn’t they make at least a few intermediate moves to really save money and improve the team in the short term? Or, you know, even one serious intermediate move. Or half a move. Something. Anything.
In fact, Toronto did nothing this winter. There was no offseason action, hot or otherwise. So for this assignment, they get a zero.