What do you even say about Jon Morosi trolling up controversy among Jays fans anymore?
Ideally nothing. I truly wish I wasn’t saying anything on this — that I wasn’t taking Morosi’s ridiculous bait yet again.
But because of the platform Sportsnet gives him, and MLB.com gives him, and Fox Sports gives him, when Morosi says something outrageous about the Jays — which he often does, presumably recognizing this as a giant market, and one that lacks for shitty hot take artists — it ends up a part of the conversation about the team, regardless of what degree to which it is utter trash. And so it needs to be unpacked.
Or maybe that’s just what I tell myself to justify once again hopping aboard the clickbait train.
Whatever the case, if I’m going to start letting these stupid things pass, the first time I do so sure as hell isn’t going to be today, when on Sportsnet’s Tim & Sid, Morosi suggested that next year the Jays might trade away Josh Donaldson for prospects.
I mean… fuck off. Not only is this nonsense, it is an absolutely shitty and unnecessary button to push. It is, frankly, unfair to the panicky Shapiro-hating idiots of this market that Morosi would prey upon their worst fears and delusions. And that’s what’s especially pernicious about it.
Assuming that’s what he’s doing, that is.
I will grant that it’s possible I’m missing some context here, as I haven’t heard the full clip yet. But I trust the people who tweeted it at me, and it’s not like it’s out of character for Morosi to try to make Mark Shapiro into the great payroll boogeyman in order to get the dumbs all fired up. So let’s just go with the premise that this is what he said, and then let’s think for a minute about why nobody needs to actually be talking about this right now or ever.
The simplest way to do that is to start by pointing out that Donaldson isn’t slated to reach free agency until after the 2018 season. Dealing him in mid-2017, then, would mean that the Blue Jays are giving up on both that season and the year after. However, the only conceivable reason the front office would find themselves in such a situation is if they do nothing this winter to keep or replace the free agents on their roster due to hit the market at the end of the season — if they sign no multi-year deals; if they decide that Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin, and J.A. Happ, all of whom are signed through 2018, are sunk costs; if they see no impact help bubbling up from the farm system or acquirable in trade; and if they choose to waste the early arbitration years of Sanchez, Stroman, Osuna, and Devon Travis as they chase the dream of hugging prospects.
Because the thing is, there is absolutely no reason why the 2017 Blue Jays can’t be very, very good. There is no reason why they won’t be good, in fact.
There is this weird idea out there, which exists mostly just as a way to shit on a front office that certain types are dying to irrationally hate, that Shapiro and Ross Atkins want nothing to do with having a winning ballclub unless it’s entirely theirs — that they would prefer to actively work to make the Blue Jays worse so that they can build them back up (provided they keep their jobs through the lean years) and win things “their way,” the Cleveland way, instead of taking the foundation that was already in place when they got here and doing their best to augment it and strengthen it as they see fit. Think of how mind-bendingly stupid it is that people think that!
People have this fear, and maybe understandably so because it’s Rogers, that ownership is constantly looking for excuses to strip payroll down to nothing. That nobody is noticing what the Jays’ success means for the brand, for Sportsnet, for their media division’s bottom line, for the ability to recoup lost ad revenue on the $5-billion NHL rights deal, etc.
I don’t think that means the bean counters will ever think it’s necessary to pour millions upon millions more into the team — they probably figure they’re getting a real tidy ROI at current spending levels — but this idea that Rogers is hellbent on turning the Jays into a shoestring-budget Cleveland North is as absurd as believing the Los Angeles Dodgers hired Andrew Friedman to create Tampa West.
It is also as absurd as believing that the lure of having more resources at their disposal wasn’t entirely a big part of those executives’ decisions to move on to bigger markets.
For a lot of reasons it might not make sense for the front office to go all-in to keep this team together in the off-season — loading a roster with bloated contracts for aging players isn’t exactly a recipe for front office job security either — but the Jays right now have just $89-million committed for next season, and plenty of reason to think they can put the $50-million or so freed up (assuming payroll doesn’t actually increase, which it might) to use in building a very strong team around Donaldson, Tulo, Martin, Estrada, Happ, Sanchez, Stroman, Pillar, Travis, Osuna, et al.
In other words: they won’t do nothing this off-season — they can’t justify it to themselves, nor to the players, nor to the fans, and maybe not even to ownership either (certainly not to the executives at Sportsnet, at least) — which means locking in more money for 2018, which will make it all the more difficult to justify pissing away that season before the time comes. Which is apparently is a plausible thing we’re supposed to believe they might do.
True, when Shapiro was in Cleveland his club traded both Bartolo Colon and Cliff Lee a year-and-a-half before they reached free agency. But those deals happened at the end of cycles, as the club’s window for contention was closing following playoff appearances in 2001 and 2007. And those were the kind of moves that are necessary in a market where the money wasn’t there to lock up the club’s best free agents, or often even to replace them with reasonable facsimiles on the open market.
We complain about payroll a lot, and we’re well within our rights to do so, but that simply isn’t the case here.
The 2018 version of the Jays may not yet look destined to be the powerhouse the current version of the club is, but holy shit, why would anybody be even thinking about writing it off already?
Despite what a whole lot of people wanted to think, and precisely because of smart acquisitions by the current front office, losing David Price wasn’t a death knell for this franchise or its rotation. So why should the front office be — why should we be — anything but fearless in the face of the big decisions they’ll have to make in the future? That’s no way to think. It’s no way to run a franchise. Certainly not one with the kind of talent that’s already in place here, and it certainly wasn’t the way Shapiro ran Cleveland when he kept CC Sabathia until the final two months of his contract in 2008, or when his Blue Jays signed J.A. Happ for three years last winter.
It would be unbelievably dispiriting if they did. More importantly, it would be crazy.
Crazy for the team, for ownership (or at least certain factions thereof), for the fans, the brand (both the Jays’ and Rogers’), and crazy for a bunch of executives who in their careers have never really had the opportunity to try and build a sustainable winner — and are here, in part, precisely in hopes of rising to that challenge.
Now, for fuck sakes, let’s never talk about trading Josh Donaldson again.