Have you ever been in a taxi and the driver is driving like a complete maniac, swerving in and out traffic, and you’re at their mercy until you reach your destination? That is how it feels with Shapiro and Atkins at the Blue Jays helm.
It is no secret that the Blue Jays are heading into a rebuild. Our older, veteran players are getting shipped out for younger, new players who are currently getting their swings and misses in September. Over the past year, more than half our bullpen was shipped out, we saw our all star third baseman pack his bags, and we lost the most smiley person in the league. But they weren’t all for nothing. There’s a method behind the madness.
I do not envy the position Shapiro and Atkins are currently in. Let’s take a look at what they have to deal with:
An out-dated stadium in need of construction and remodelling
The Rogers Centre is a happy medium; it is not the worst stadium in the league, but it is definitely not the best. Some of the facilities are a bit out dated, and some could argue that the astroturf turns away players because of the negative impacts on the body (it’s not the most friendly to dive or slide on). This stadium is a bit of a hitter friendly ballpark, which has benefited the Jays greatly in the home run department. Overall, Shapiro and Atkins need to get this done sooner rather than later. Once the team starts winning again (hopefully!!) with some of the younger players, it could bring more fans back and create some revenue for the team. A win-win for everyone really.
Crowded infield and outfield; prospects galore
What I will give the management credit for is their international free agent signings and their draft history. We have really done well these past couple years and I can confidently say they have improved our farm system. I give that credit to management and the development team in the system.
Now for the unfortunate news. We cannot house everyone we want. Only 9 players can take the field, and the roster can only have 25 athletes. Our infield currently consists of everyday and fringe players like Solarte, Travis, Diaz, Gurriel Jr, Guerrero Jr, Jansen, Tellez and Smoak. Now factor in players like Russell Martin, Kendrys Morales, and Tulo. Now it’s getting crowded. Considering the Jays are rebuilding, the easiest answer for who goes would be the last three. With not so friendly contracts, dealing any of the three would be difficult. We would have to eat some of the money and not really receive the best prospects in return. It’s unfortunate because all three are great players, but based on the recent free agent market, players over 30 are just not high value anymore. What they are doing can be done by someone with more control year wise and for cheaper. It’s an unfair game that way.
Now factor in an outfield with everyday players in Hernandez, Grichuk, McKinney and Pillar. The Jays currently have quite a few outfield prospects in Pompey, Alford, and Smith Jr. who are kind of on the “make it or break it” tour due to limited options and few spots. There’s going to a battle for the 4 outfield spots.
I truly believe that players will be traded over the winter and there will be competition for spots come spring training. I haven’t even mentioned prospects like Bo Bichette and Kevin Smith, which will only complicate (in a good way) things moving forward. Truth be told, we may see some really good players go like Travis, Diaz, Solarte, and maybe even Pillar (I hope not, I really like Superman). Now, fans will have varying opinions on who the Jays should field, but I think we can all agree that there are a lot of fish in the barrel, and unfortunately we only have so many plates at the dinner table.
Trying to please everyone
Baseball is a business. Rogers and Shapiro have to make money in the end, whether it means shedding player salaries or increasing prices. It’s the reason Guerrero Jr. won’t come play with the big boys right after spring training. That extra year of eligibility is millions of dollars in savings. You can’t blame the Jays for that. They’re playing by the rules that the players and management agreed upon in the CBA and truth be told, we would all do what the Jays were doing if we were in their position. Remember, this is a business. Fans can scream and holler all they want for these players, but tough decisions need to be made sometimes, and this is one I would consider to be quite difficult. Even in the players association does not agree with it.
Glory for all or glory for none
In short, the next five years will either be make it or break it for Shapiro and company. If the prospects develop well and our team starts winning and being competitive within one of baseballs toughest divisions, you could see his name on the Level of Excellence; I guarantee it. On the other hand, if the prospects falter and things go awry, the Jays could be seeing a long term rebuild in a division that will beat you to your knees. Shapiro would be run out of town and the Jays fan base will begin begging for an Expos return.
Baseball is an unfair game. There are more losers than winners; failure is ever more prominent than a winning season or record. Risks are needed to win. Putting faith in ideas and players is part of the risk in getting championships. It’s the reason AA sold the farm in order to push in 2015 for a playoff run. It was a risk, and a lot of fun, even though we didn’t go all the way.
2018-2019 will be interesting. I just hope Shapiro and Atkins are not fans of the Titanic. I really can’t fit into my Expos jersey anymore.