Blue Jays Mailbag: The Role the Front Office Played in a Lost 2017 Season

The Blue Jays’ season is winding down, and apparently we’re all looking firmly toward the future.

And why wouldn’t we? This season? Woof. But that doesn’t mean things are all bad as far as your Toronto Blue Jays go. They’re just, y’know, mostly bad. Hey, but don’t sweat it, spring training is only 150 days away.

So let’s warm ourselves up for a long winter of Blue Jays fan infighting, and take a look what’s in this week’s mailbag!

If you have a Blue Jays question you’d like me to tackle for next week, be sure to send it to stoeten@gmail.com. As always, I have not read any of Griff’s answers.

Out of all the changes Atkins/Shapiro have made since taking over, which can we legitimately criticize and which have been pretty darn good?

As much as I’d like to be the arbiter of what is or isn’t legitimate to criticize, sadly, I can’t tell anybody that something they want to be critical of is off-limits. I can only just tell them what I think they’re missing—y’know, as forcefully as possible.

But you’re right that there are definitely moves that fans looking to criticize the new front office will glom onto as clear examples of their ineptitude—sometimes even rightly! Few of them have to do with internal changes (beefing up analytics, more focus on player development, adding the high performance department, etc.) so I’ll focus mostly on player moves here. And in that respect, I think there are a few things that get lost in some folks’ rush to shout about the club’s most obvious and inarguable missteps. One of those is the fact that every front office, even the very best of them, makes mistakes all the time (Brett Anderson was in the Cubs’ Opening Day rotation, for God’s sake!). It’s just the nature of the sport. Another is the fact that, here at the tail end of a rather miserable Jays season, in which they’ve ended up in last place after going to the ALCS last season, the mistakes sometimes get amplified beyond all proportion.


  • Regulator Johnson

    Issue with Morales & Pearce deals is primarily inability to move older players through DH slot on occasion & inability to have more versatile players on the 25. Makes the rest of the team less valuable (b/c they are playing through injury or in the field at all *Jose*) without providing any value themselves.

    Edwin made sense for the 2017 Jays mostly because of the history with the team. Rush to replace him with a worse version of the same player made no sense; in a vacuum, Jays never would have been after Edwin if he had come from elsewhere.

  • Peggy McIntosh

    The only poor process (and, not surprisingly, outcome) move that’s notable is Morales.

    Now, I don’t think he’s THIS bad.

    But he was worth a mere 1 fWAR the previous 3 years combined.

    He’s old, slow and positionless.

    And on an older roster that likely needs to cycle position players through the DH spot on occasion, he was a terrible signing.

    Who else was even going to give him a TWO year deal?!?

    And some of the justifications – such as fear of losing EE – paint Atkins in a poor light.

    It’s interesting that a segment of the fanbase is blinded by vague talk about “analytics”, “player development” and “high performance department”.

    Atkins has yet to acquire a single good starting pitcher or position player in 2 years.

    The outcome is not surprising when the play has essentially been to keep much of the core he inherited…but replace outgoing stars with lesser-but-still-old players.

    The front office is gambling a lot on 2018 if they fumble around with Donaldson.

    • Glassman

      That is a lot of negativity towards the front office. In hindsight the Morales deal is bad but at the tiime it made sense. Smoak was still very bad which meant every good hitter they had were from the right side. This helped some of the balance. Everyone was surprised by how the market played out for power hitters, the Jays and Edwin included. I liked the Morales signing at the time, just not the length. I would have prefered 2 years.

      I would also like to point out the signing of Happ who is a pretty good starting pitcher that Atkins signed. He also signed Pierce who is a solid hitter and made some nice trades to get younger prospects.

      The front office is not gambling much. They decided to not trade Donaldson for prospects, which is a pretty big gamble in itself, and signed Marco to a 1 year deal incase next year goes bad.

      Their isn’t vague talk about analytics, player development and the high performance department. They actually go into detail about them. I have read lots of stuff about them and the plans with everything. It is pretty detailed if you actually want to look into it.

      Basically I’m saying I like the direction the upper management is taking this team. And yes, mistakes have been made, but it happens with every team.

      • Peggy McIntosh

        The Morales deal never made sense. The criticisms from the analytical community – and anyone that can think logically – is pretty detailed if you want to look into it.

        Happ was signed by Lacava.

        If the Jays are planning on resigning Donaldson, by all means, keep him.

        Just don’t play the middle JP Ricciardi style and hope everything breaks right for a magical 2018 run.

        There is a good base here but it needs to be supplemented with a couple of impact players.

        The Morales contract was widely panned by the industry and you can’t point out a single notable position player or starter Atkins has acquired in two years.

        Pearce is an old bench player. He’s been replacement level this year so I’m not sure why you’re holding it up as a “success”.

        The acquired “prospects” don’t look special, either.

        There are legitimate reasons to criticize the front office based on the moves they’ve made in 2 years that have not done a good job of supplementing the base they inherited.

        That being said, it’s only been two years and a few moves towards the negative side of the ledger.

        A management team needs a few years before judging their work.

        • The Humungus

          There were definitely some in the Analytical community who said the Morales deal was good. Fangraphs went into great depth about how his hard contact rate laid over his BABIP led to a suggestion that he’d have a better season this year than last. In fact, they even predicted he’d have a better season than Edwin or Bautista as a result.

          Happ was “signed by Lacava” in the same way that Vlad Jr. was “signed by Beeston”. To ignore that Shapiro was already working when Lacava signed Happ is silly.

          This isn’t JP Riccardi style. They’ve stated the plan is to contend for the playoffs using the core of players they have for 2018. If it doesn’t work, then they’ll try to sell impending free agents, just as they did this year. They’re not going to trade any prospects they like to improve next years team, though, as they’re still building organizational depth at all levels and don’t want to break from that plan to be competitive in perpetuity.

          Steve Pearce has been a positive offensive player who’s only replacement level because he’s been asked to play WAY out of position. He’s also supposed to be a bench player, so saying he’s one isn’t contributing anything to the argument.

          I’m sorry that Bo Bichette, Nate Pearson, Hagen Danner, Logan Warmoth don’t “look special” to you. But like, literally 4 of their top 10 on MLB pipeline have been drafted in the last two years.

          You say there are “legitimate reasons” to criticize, and while the MLB roster doesn’t look great, there weren’t any high end prospects to supplement the roster with when they got here, and you can’t just throw money at mediocre free agents and get better.

          Then you say you need a few years before judging their work. Well, you’ve already done that.

          • Peggy McIntosh

            While I recall the FG article about the hard contact, can you point me in the direction of someone in the analytical community praising the CONTRACT?

            If Morales was for one year, he would have been fine. Just like Bats and Liriano (even though neither worked out).

            Shapiro happened to be the president when the Jays reacquired Happ. Happ didn’t come back to Toronto because of Shapiro. By the same token, Beeston happened to be the president in Toronto when AA signed Vlad. Putting Shapiro into a conversation about Atkins’ transaction record is pointless.

            To be clear, the prospects to which I’m referring are the ones Atkins has acquired in trade…which have yet to do anything. It doesn’t mean they never will…it’s just too early to judge.

            “you can’t just throw money at mediocre free agents and get better.”

            Well that’s basically what Atkins has tried to do and failed at so far.

            As for judging the body of work too early…I should have been more clear with my words.

            It is too small of a sample to say Atkins has done a significantly good or bad job.

            However, the body of work at the major league level has not been particularly good so far.

            It’s okay to criticize Atkins without going to the extreme.

            We’ll have a better idea in another 2-3 years as to how his tenure will be viewed.

          • The Humungus

            No, I can’t. But likely for the same reason contracts are rarely praised, especially for free agents. Because they are inherently bad as soon as they are signed. Even in a rare case, like a Scherzer deal, no one was jumping up and down proclaiming it’s greatness when it was signed, because it shifted the market for starting pitching. You can’t praise a contract when it’s signed, that’s inane.

            If you’re using the judgement as an “Atkins only” thing, then why bring up Happ in the first place? Atkins has literally never been a GM before, so you have to give him a learning curve.

            You say that, except that Teoscar appears to be a useful major league piece on first glance. Again, you bring it up, then say you can’t judge on it. If you can’t judge on it, then why bring it up and frame it as a negative?

          • Peggy McIntosh

            “I would also like to point out the signing of Happ who is a pretty good starting pitcher that Atkins signed.”

            I never brought up Happ. I was just pointing out to the other commenter that Atkins did not sign Happ. This shouldn’t be a point of contention.

            T Hernandez has been replacement level so far. Again, it’s early but…replacement level prospects are entirely worthless.

            As for the lack of praise for the Morales contract, I can find articles dissing the contract (and so can you).

            It’s also not true that praise cannot be found for other contracts.

            JBats 5 (or was it 6?) year contract was praised by Dave Cameron when others in the industry were suggesting the Jays should not have extended him.

            Morales’ contract was and is brutal. Nothing has changed.

            It doesn’t mean Atkins has to be fired

          • The Humungus

            Right, I missed that direct reference to it. In my defence, I skim a lot at work, so when replying for work, there’s a chance I don’t read every word carefully.

            As far as Teoscar Hernandez goes, I mean, getting a 24 year old 4th OF who would be cheaper and at least equal to Zeke for a bad pitcher who was a free agent is a good trade, especially when there’s always at least some potential upside for a guy that young to be more than just a 4th OF. Especially since Zeke is 6 years older and a non-tender candidate.

            I still differ with you on the Morales deal. At the time it was signed, before we knew what the market was going to be for guys like him, it was a solid contract for a guy who was a positive offensive player in every season in which he’d played more than 60 games in his whole career and wasn’t going to be expected to carry a glove.