All right! Time to get serious about this season, and Jays in the future. Reading ‘Baseball Prospectus‘ I see that Jays GM Alex Anthopolous is already facing critics. Here is a little background on Anthoupolous, and the situation he faces for the upcoming season.
At the end of 2009 the Toronto Blue Jays went
the route of choosing a young, and up-and-coming General Manager, Alex
Anthopolous. Among Blue Jay faithful, Anthopolous is beginning to
become known as ‘AA’ out of conveinence for his large name.
AA took over the job in October of 2009 after working as an Assistant
GM apprentice to the J.P. Ricciardi for four years. Before that, AA had
been with the Montreal Expos and the Blue Jays as a scouting
coordinator since 2000.
AA is great young sucess story graduating from my Alma-matar,
McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, with an Economics Degree. At
23, he decided to pursue a career in the game. He became proactive,
calling organizations and looking for any way to get a foot in the
door. Finally, after getting a direct line to Expo GM Jim Beattie’s
office in Florida, he got his chance. Starstuck, AA says that he hung
up on Beattie the first time he called.
In his short time as GM, AA has inherited a team with many problems
seeking an innate desire to rebuild. Right from the beginning, it was
clear that AA had a new agenda than the previous GM that was said to
have ‘reign’ over all Front Office decisions. J.P. Ricciardi cut Blue
Jay scouting, and AA’s first instinct was to expand it, possibly
looking to go after ‘gem’ high-school prep players that the previous GM
was reluctant to take the risk on. Over Ricciardi’s tenure, he drafted
low-risk, low-reward college prospects that didn’t completely fail
(finding guys like Aaron Hill, Adam Lind and Ricky Romero) but they
were enough to deplete the depth in the Blue Jay’s farm system to where
they were rated #28 system in baseball.
The appease the public, and address this need, AA showed a committment
changing this by expanding the scouting staff and trading the Jay’s
most valuable commodity, Roy Halladay, for three top-level prospects
that instantly boosted the rating of the Jays system.
The rebuilding that every Jays fan is looking for has seemingly been
initiated with these moves. However, reading the recent issue of Baseball Prospectus
they consider the trading of top prospect Michael Taylor to the Oakland
Athletics for A’s top prospect Brett Wallace a fatal mistake by AA.
Baseball Prospectus evaluated Taylor as a player with much more
naturally gift skill, and having a higher-ceiling.
Wallace, a low-risk college phenonom at Arizona State, was ripped by
Baseball Prospectus for his athletic ability and they made fun of the
way scouts mocking called him ‘Walrus Boy.’ The Jays have notoriously
been critisized for showing a tendancy to disregard building their team
around speed and defense. Trading Taylor for Wallace only fuelled this
debate among Blue Jay faithful.
The current do not have a legitimate leadoff hitter, they have two slow
outfielders that have trouble making plays in the gap (Travis Snider
and Adam Lind) and third baseman with notorious defensive problems
(Edwin Encarnacion). Taylor, with speed and outfield range, would have
been able solve two of those problems. Instead, the Jays saw fit to get
a player that REALLY needs to ‘mash’ in order to play first base in
Altogether, AA has been critisized and commended for his initial
dealings with the Jays rebuilding plan. He continues build from within
while cutting payroll and improving his chance to reap the benefits
young players. It is the way in which he is doing it, which has been
Personally, I tend to agree with Baseball Prospectus. Taylor would have
been the option with more potential. However, looking at the Jays
current first base situation, they could use help in the area. Teiexia,
Youkilus, Pena and Atkins are what the Jays are up against at first
base. They haven’t had that ‘jumpstart’ in the middle of the order from
that position. I see both sides here, but I’m also skepitcal about how
Wallace with be able to hit, or field even considering his frame. I
believe, this deal could definitely backfire HUGE in AA face!
Do you agree Billy Beane swindled the Jays by acquiring Taylor for Wallace?
Does AA deserve to be ‘ripped on’ for the ‘Taylor/Wallace deal?
How important is it to have athletes on your team, as opposed to players that can ‘mash’?
If only all the Blue Jays decisions could work out like a Pearl Jam song? I guess that we would still be ‘Alive’ in the playoffs, and this ‘Jeremy‘ would be writing a lot more on this blog today.
The Blue Jay’s fix, for the forseeable future, is 32-year-old former Montreal Expo scout and Blue Jay assistant GM Alex Anthopoulos. Along with his scouting experience, Anthopoulos has an economics degree from McMaster University. Coincidentally, I also went to this school. Too bad I couldn’t catch his fall after doing a ‘keg stand,’ or something like that? It would have been a good networking opporitunity for me.
Anyway, Anthopoulos’ first priority came this week as he did a large revamping of the Jays scouting department. He also told the media that the Jays would committing more money to scouting and player development. Along with bringing in some new scouts, Anthopoulos hired an assistant named Dana Brown. The 42-year-old Brown left his position as scouting director for the Washington Nationals to take up the job with his old friend whom he worked with in the Expo scouting deparment.
It does seem a little trendy in baseball right now to hire a young GM. Anthopoulos is already being dubbed, ‘boy genius,’ but he is yet to prove anything. I do like the stance and measures that Alex is taking by committing himself to scouting and player development, but then again, every team committs themselves to that. Here is an old one, “the proof is in the pudding.’ Anthopoulos will inevitably be judged by the choices that he makes as GM. Working close with J.P. all these years, he must have learned a lot. J.P. did a lot of good things with the club, but he also made a large share of mistakes. I wouldn’t say that Anthopoulos has to totally rebuild the club, but he has a lot of holes to fill.
Here are a few:
Marco Scutaro‘s career might be in jeopardy, let alone his ability to play a demanding position like shortstop. Scutaro is a free agent, so the Jays will definately have to look into what they are going to do with him.
Jays catcher Rod Barajas is also a free agent. He did do some nice things, hitting homers and producing RBI’s this season. However, his .258 On Base Percentage is not exactly pleasing to Jay fans, or anyone for that matter. Barajas is definately NOT a long-term solution and it doesn’t see like some of our young catching prospects (i.e. J.P. Arrencibia) are making the necessary progression in the minors. Barajas was a temporary solution last season! Will he be that again?
The Jays pitching staff was in shambles last season. Injury plus guys being penciled then quickly erased due to performance, the Jays seeming had what looked like a 10-man rotation last year. We did have some young players progress into major leaguers, like Brett Cecil, Marc Rzepcynski and Ricky Romero but it also became apparent that the rotation could use some much needed depth. The possible return of Shaun Marcum may help Alex a little in that respect.
DH and first base are somewhat interchangeable in the American league some might argue. The Blue Jays are not getting the production they need from these two positions. They are usually filled with middle-of-the-lineup guys, but this is not true in the Blue Jays case. Kevin Millar did not have a comeback with the club, and Randy Ruiz, although incredibly impressive, might be too much of a risk to rely on for that position. Using Adam Lind as the primary DH will vacate another hole in the outfield, where the Jays desparately need athletes to run down balls. Lyle Overbay is nice player, he gives you a good On Base … yes. However, his trademark doubles have decreased and you’d be hardpressed to go around the league to find a firstbaseman that is just ‘a good On Base’ guy. We need a legitimate slugger at first! I say move Lind to firstbase, get some athletes in the outfield and use Ruiz temporarily at DH till we can find a better hitter.
Are we going to live with Edwin Encarnacion at third base? He showed some good things last year, but he does not look like a longterm solution.
When are we going to start benching Vernon Wells? The 20 million-a-year man would have a hard time hitting in the bottom of the order for any team in MLB. Sorry Vernon, but the Jays actually got more out of Jose Bautista last year in half the at-bats you had.
We don’t have a closer? We just don’t. Jason Frasor has proven ineffective in that role before? Can we live with him there?
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
I don’t envy your job Alex Anthopoulos. Wait, actually I do. If someone told me that I could possibly be the future GM of the Jays with a McMaster degree, I’d go crazy for it. I consider myself knowledgable in player evaluation. All I do is order and read ‘Baseball Prospectus‘ and ‘Baseball America‘ every year.
For the team right now, I say be bold, and think ‘out of the box.’ Our scouting system should have a wide range internationally. As the Jays have not made the splash into Japan yet. I say we go after one of the big two: either pitcher Yu Darvish, or outfielder Norichika Aoki. The amount of money the Jays would have to put into acquiring one of these guys would be catatrophic (especially Mr. GQ Japan Yu Darvish), but I wonder if that money could made back in endorsements, merchandise etc… marketing ourselves internationally? We all saw the Asian explosion in the World Baseball Classic, the Jays need to be bold and explore this a bit.