• Rickt: I am the biggest Cal Jr fan around but one of my good friends played minor l...

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.

If the Toronto Blue Jays had a voice, I would imagine it to be a glum, Eyore kind of voice: “Heeeeyyyy, guuuys, thanks for noticin’ me.”

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

Projected lineup:

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
SP4: TBD
SP5: TBD

CL: BJ Ryan

Grade: F

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.

- Hot Offseason Action index -

37 Responses to “Hot Offseason Action: Toronto Blue Jays”

  1. Unfortunately, as much as I adore my Blue Jays, I have to agree with your assessment that the Jays will be fighting out with the Orioles for 5th spot. I have already resigned myself to a 70-92 season and look forward to seeing Doc pitch every 5th day. I believe that will be the only saving grace in ’09. With weak ownership since Mr. Rogers passed away during the off-season, the Jays do not have the budget nor will they ever as Toronto supports hockey only, with the Raptors a distant second. I hope that 2010 will be a little more enjoyable with the young guns on the mound coming back, but I think they need a new corner infield with Overbay and Rolen beyond their best years. Snyder is too young to become an everyday player so Millar may help out. With a long year ahead, we;ll see you in 2010!.

  2. Sarah Green says:

    I’ll accept that Lind may be a better fielder than Snider, but from what I have heard, Snider is really not very good and was the one being considered for DH. In fairness, I am going here on published reports. (So I I guess those people are moronic Jays haters too?) Either way, the end result is still that you have a couple of guys who you are trying to hide somewhere as opposed to good fielders.

    Nonetheless, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The Jays have solid defense — they can afford to sacrifice some defense for some offense.

    Speaking of defense, I would really like to know what numbers you guys are looking at that support Vernon Wells as a good fielder. Because judging by things like range factor and UZR, Wells was hands down one of the worst CFs in the league last year. Plus, considering that one of his injuries last year was a pretty severe hamstring strain, I’d think you guys would want him in a less demanding position.

    A big reason I was so harsh on the Jays is that I’m just sick of listening to Ricciardi give this same bs line every year about how “Oh we have a good club, it’s a tough division but we can contend.” I say this with love: it’s just not true.

  3. “Yes we can,” say it all together Jays fans. What’s not to like about an off-season that included picking up Kevin Millar and Michael Barrett? That alone should have given them at least a D-. Anyone that would think differently is obviously just a Jays hater. “Jays Fever, Catch It?”

  4. “Speaking of defense, I would really like to know what numbers you guys are looking at that support Vernon Wells as a good fielder. Because judging by things like range factor and UZR, Wells was hands down one of the worst CFs in the league last year.”

    One year. Three gold gloves. Wells is a terrible fielder of course. Also, Wells finished the year on the field not on the disabled list.

    A big reason I was so harsh on the Jays is that I’m just sick of listening to Ricciardi give this same bs line every year about how “Oh we have a good club, it’s a tough division but we can contend.” I say this with love: it’s just not true.

    Well that makes everything right as rain. Next time you write an article remind yourself what you want to talk about. If you hate Ricciardi, talk about Ricciardi. If you dislike the Jays then at least come up with reasonable arguments about why you dislike them.

  5. Sarah Green says:

    Melissa, it’s true. Now that the Millar thing is finalized, I’m happy to grand the Jays and JP Ricciardi, who is the general manager of the Jays and hence the one responsible for both this offseason and the team’s long term strategy (such as it is) a D-.

  6. Sarah Green says:

    And Kevin, please also be sure to include RBI as a meaningful metric in your future arguments. RBI and Gold Gloves: that’s what it’s all about.

  7. Frank Thomas is off the Jays pay roll this year. Not just Burnett and Zaun. Consider yourself enlightened. Try doing some research next time.

  8. You see, I knew they deserved at least a D-, cause I did my research. It really doesn’t matter if there are at least 3 teams in their division that are better than the Jays because they are going to try really hard and they want it more. They might even win 9 gold gloves.

  9. Sarah Green says:

    Oh yeah, Thomas! He last played for them in what…May? June? Sorry, I didn’t look it up. I didn’t do any research. But, I HAVE been drinking. And you know what they say: in vodka veritas.

    Melissa, the Jays should be proud to come in fourth. That is a major accomplishment for MLB’s only Canadian team. For not coming in last, we should all praise them. Because they are the only team in the AL East who is not even attempting a stretagy. Yes, I’ll leave it spelled that way. GO JAYS.

  10. Jays will come in 3rd!!! Mark my word!!

  11. “Speaking of defense, I would really like to know what numbers you guys are looking at that support Vernon Wells as a good fielder. Because judging by things like range factor and UZR, Wells was hands down one of the worst CFs in the league last year. Plus, considering that one of his injuries last year was a pretty severe hamstring strain, I’d think you guys would want him in a less demanding position.”

    Wells shouldn’t play centre I agree. Rios should. Check your metrics and you will see he was one of the best centrefielders in baseball last year.

  12. Sarah Green says:

    Jason, I’d be reasonably content with Rios at center. But then who to put in right? Would you move Wells to right?

    Kevin, I’d really like to know who you think is coming in fourth. Because as much as it would fulfill one of my wildest dreams, I don’t see this Yankees team falling that far. And it would take a catastrophe for that to happen to Tampa Bay or Boston.

    For what it’s worth, Keith Law ranked the Jays’ organization 18th in MLB. I’m not sure their prospect pool, as it is, are enough to put them over the top in ’10 — even if they perform well. But the Jays could easily augment their prospect pipeline…with one very big trade!

  13. I’m a long-time Jays fan, but the team is starting to anger me with its lack of direction. Yes they can’t expect to compete monetarily with the Yankees and Red Sox, but year after year JP is building teams which would cap out in the high 80s, which just isn’t good enough. I don’t think there was much they could have done this off-season simply because they’ve painted thereselves into a corner with few prospects because of poor drafting and overpaying solid players as stars (Vernon Wells, anyone). JP needs to go and the team needs to be shaken up. I don’t want to trade Doc, but that might be what is required to start rebuilding into the 90 win club the Jays need to be if they have any hope of actually competing.

  14. Hey Sarah stop talking
    you have no idea what you are talking about

  15. and why would you put Snider 5th? he is 21 your line up sucks how about that

  16. Sarah Green says:

    Erik, you are concise and persuasive. I feel like time-strapped people would do better just to read your comment than to labor through my lengthy post! All I would like is to see the Jays accept reality and at least devise a strategy. The Orioles – whose preview I will be posting tomorrow, I hope – at least have a strategy they can articulate: grow the arms, buy the bats. There, was that so hard?

    Joe, I’m not sure what you’re saying. Snider is 6th in my lineup. How about that?

  17. are you a jays fan sarah?

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