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Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 Winter Meetings: A Time For Nontroversy!

The Blue Jays have been quiet at the Winter Meetings so far, as they seem to be intent on slow-playing a market that’s already slow itself, and — according to Ross Atkins — teeming with “opportunities and alternatives”.

Er… actually, more accurately, the club has been quiet in terms of making moves. But Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins haven’t exactly been quiet in terms of saying entirely benign things with the potential to rile up fans desperate to twist their statements into reasons to dislike them. HOW FUN.

First, on Tuesday, it was Atkins:

I quoted this tweet with the words “cue morons,” and they sure did take it.

To react negatively to a quote like this, one has to do a few plainly ridiculous things. First of all, you have to pretend as though Atkins hasn’t been perfectly clear for months and months that the team has areas that need to improve. Second, you have to be ready to act like it’s some kind of an inexplicable, wild, unacceptable thing for a General Manager to dare to say positive things about the players on his roster — and that you take such a statement, despite all the evidence to the contrary, as the GM’s singular full-on face value assessment of the club’s urgency to improve. Third, you have to posture like the concept of negotiation is completely foreign to you, and that you actually think a GM saying something like, “Yeah, we’re really desperate to find a way out of the fucking Carrera-Peace mess in left field,” or “We feel like we absolutely have to sign a right fielder and that our offseason would be a total failure without doing so,” would be a good thing for his negotiating position.

Like, it’s really not so difficult to figure out what’s going on here, right? Jesus.

Today, it was Mark Shapiro’s turn to bear the brunt of the pointless ire:

Again with this one, I don’t think it’s terribly difficult.

For one, I don’t think it’s a secret that Shapiro doesn’t think that the way to build a team is the way he’s needed to build the Blue Jays, doubling down on an old and slow roster, trying to find a path to upgrading mostly through free agency without losing out on the draft picks needed to kick start a much needed replenishment of the farm system.

More than that, though, I don’t think it’s difficult to read between the lines of this hypothetical. A team without fans is a team that’s not thinking about TV ratings and about gate revenue — it’s a team that doesn’t have ownership thinking about those things, either. True, he’s not saying they’ve done anything because of ownership, he’s saying they’ve acted a certain way because of the fans. But they’re pretty connected — and it’s obvious why he’d prefer to say “we’re doing this for the fans” instead of “we did this against our better judgment because ownership insisted.”

I’m not sure that insisted is the right word, either. They might not have even had to.

Selling off everything after 2015 would have been a total non-starter. Impossible. The same is true of the 2016 trade deadline, when the Jays woke up on July 31st leading the AL East with a 59-45 record. Doing so after the 2016 season would certainly have been at least a little easier, though. Bautista and Encarnación were free agents, Donaldson had two years left and would have netted them a bounty, Estrada with a year left and Happ with two left would have been attractive trade candidates. But holy shit, it would have been very difficult for fans to watch that roster be dismantled immediately after making the ALCS, and for Rogers and the club to be seen as simply pocketing all the gains of 2015 and 2016 for themselves without reinvesting in the team. It would have been incredibly poisonous to the brand and created an incredibly tough situation for a front office that was already reviled in many corners. I’m not sure they really could have done it then, either. Many fans who today are acting casual about how much they love the idea of a rebuild likely wouldn’t have been as receptive to the idea then as I think they’d like to believe.

Still, I get it. Nobody wants the people running making decisions they don’t actually believe are best for the franchise. But I honestly don’t read this as that, because you can’t separate the team from its fans like this. Shapiro is saying this is what they would have thought was the best thing for the franchise in a universe where fan bases don’t exist (or at least the Jays’ one didn’t). In the universe that does exist, clearly it’s not what they thought was best.

Fans who are oddly desperate for a rebuild, either because they can’t see how absolutely dreadful that could become, can’t see beyond the 2017 Jays’ record to how decent the roster still really is, and can’t see how the half-pregnant path forward might actually work (and won’t kill them long term if it doesn’t), are understandably going to be upset by what Shapiro is telling them here. I don’t think they should be — I think they should probably appreciate the honesty — but judging by some of the horrorshow replies to Alex’s tweet, they definitely are.

Ahh, the Mark Shapiro era. Where the front office just can’t win no matter what!

  • IMW

    DOOOOOO STUUUUUFFFFF!!!!!!!

    Marlins still have some useful pieces. Realmuto, Castro and Straily all have appeal. Some RPs too.
    Pitsburgh, we know, has pieces that work for the Jays…. Ugh… Do Stuff.

    • The Humungus

      I said to my boss earlier they should call Yeah Jeets and see what they have to give up for Yelich if they take on ALL the Prado money, too. Because, they’ll need someone to play 3B in 2019 while they hold down Vladito long enough to avoid Super 2 and get that precious extra year of pre-arb control.

        • The Humungus

          Sorry, not 25, he just turned 26 last week. So you’re getting his age 26-30 seasons for $58.25 million all-in. For a guy who is already a perennial 4.5 win player and on the cusp of his prime.

          • Tom Flawless

            At least according to Baseball Reference, Yelich has only exceeded 4 WAR once. He’s also not a great center fielder according to the numbers, so I wonder if he’ll have to move to a corner (and I certainly don’t think he’d be better defensively than Pillar or Alford). As a guy who doesn’t hit for much power in the corner but fields really well, he reminds me a bit of Brett Gardner… and, yes, I realize the comparison isn’t perfect. Gardner’s faster and better defensively, but he carries a lower OBP. He’s also been able to take advantage of the Yankees’ absurd short porch.

            I know he has one fewer years of control + question marks related to his PED use, but I might prefer Starling Marte if the price involves one of the Jays’ choice prospects.

          • The Humungus

            Fangraphs has him at 4.5 WAR in three of the last four seasons.

            Agreed on the CF, he won his Gold Glove in left.

            He’s a 26 year old .290 career hitting corner OF who has the size to hit for power (he’s basically the same size as Bautista) who’s signed the next 5 seasons cheap.

            You don’t hug prospects (except for Vlad) if you have a chance to acquire that guy. It’s why the BoSox traded Moncada for Sale.

  • CM

    Shapiro and Atkins have only themselves to blame for the teams status, and the fans hate. if you lose EE, Cecil, Price and replace them with morales, Pearce, Howell and Happ of course your team is going to be worse. To be good you need to try an approximate replacing 2015 Bautista not the 2017 version. An at the margin move is all we’ve seen from these guys to date. I’m not holding my breath. As for a high price paid to win if you kept all the prospects and didn’t do any of AAs trades starting with the marlins trade you probably have a 65 win team.with Lawrie at the hot corner not JD.

  • Mike22

    I have three comments on this article.

    1, I don’t think conflating a rebuild after 2015 (where the Jays were the best team in baseball arguably) or mid 2016 (where they were still a largely elite team) to wanting a rebuild after 2017 (where the team is significantly older and worse, where the strength of the 2015 club is now its biggest weakness, where there is not a ton of reasons for expected regression-Yes some guys might get better, but its not like our performance was much better than the record) is the same thing.

    2, I don’t think its unreasonable for fans of this team to be frustrated by ownership not taking a long-view of the franchise of how best to build a sustainable winner/success. Its similar to all the complaints about payroll from the past. Those complaints weren’t about business per se (though there was a business element to the argument) but about trying to win. Here the argument is that by not rebuilding, you are hurting the team’s chances of winning in the future (maybe not irrevocably but you are damaging them).

    3, When you say something like this: “Fans who are oddly desperate for a rebuild, either because they can’t see how absolutely dreadful that could become, can’t see beyond the 2017 Jays’ record to how decent the roster still really is, and can’t see how the half-pregnant path forward might actually work (and won’t kill them long term if it doesn’t), are understandably going to be upset by what Shapiro is telling them here.”

    I think this is a straw man of a lot of the people who want a rebuild. It isn’t that they are desperate for a rebuild, blind to how painful rebuilds are, oblivious to the true genius of an aging 76 win team with a terrible run differential that still projects to be in the 6-10 range in the AL, or unable to see how a “retool” can work.

    Its that they disagree that this is the best path forward. They think that the chances of getting back to the playoffs this season are lower than you do, that merely being relevant in September isn’t everything and that there are costs to bringing in long term financial commitments and trading prospects that might affect the ability of this team to get back or beyond the heights of 2015 and 2016.

    You make it seem that everyone is too stupid or acting in bad faith to disagree with you on this.

    Finally, I want to point out that rebuilds aren’t the only way to kill the franchise and the fanbase. Part of it can be refusing to see the true talent of the team and pining for optimistic scenarios (an 83 win projection if you buy that could be 88, but its just as likely or more likely given the age and injury history to be 78).

    Being a fan of a 67 win team will suck especially if the trajectory ends up being 67, 63, 74 wins before we return to even the relevance of today. But being a fan of a team that wins between 70 and 85 games for the next decade is also a terrible result, which we have seen before with this franchise.

    • revolu

      On point number 2, I think the point is not they don’t have a long term view, but you simply don;t agree with their direction, which is fair, we can all have different opinions, mine is that of I don’t want to watch a garbage team in 2018.

      On point 3, your forgetting we really had a bad season due to injuries and negative regression, not necessarily due to flaws in the roster. If we go with more normal regression and normal injuries, you’ll see a team that still compete for a wildcard with some additions.

    • Steve-O

      “It isn’t that they are desperate for a rebuild, blind to how painful rebuilds are, oblivious to the true genius of an aging 76 win team with a terrible run differential that still projects to be in the 6-10 range in the AL, or unable to see how a “retool” can work.”

      This sentence is some kind of strawman inception. Strawception? Whatever. Because yes, that’s exactly what people think! I’ve been to the comment sections, man. I have a twitter account. These people are real, and they are insufferable.

      Having Aaron Sanchez available all year, a healthy Dosh, and even a bit of health from one of Travis or Tulo (or both, can you imagine), and a slightly animated Jose Bautista (instead of his corpse) and last year goes a lot differently.

      This team isn’t far from competing for a wild card, and give me a shot at a playoff team versus a complete shit show of praying on prospects and dreaming of next year (or the year after that), all day every day. Is there a guarantee either approach will work? Of course not. But only one has the team actually trying to win.

    • Aiden Elash

      To point one, yes they are different but in ALL 3 situations a rebuild is not the ideal way to go because of said significant assets that the jays have, fanbase interaction (which if a rebuild happens is GONE, we are bandwagon city).

      Look the general consensus from the US market is that the jays are an easy #3 in the AL East, with

  • Norm Kelly

    If it were possible, it would be interesting to see a poll of the fans to see what they want as regards JD and trading him as the first step toward a complete tear down. I get the feeling, from what I’ve seen on social media and talking to other fans that the tear down option would be favored. If that’s the case Shapiro and Atkins should feel free to run the team as they want, might be appreciated by the fans. Also, made the mistake of reading the comments following a story by Blair that mentioned Shapiro and Atkins..man..the hate is real.

    • DAKINS

      The problem is, unless the team just won a WS, the fans just want to do the opposite of whatever the FO wants to do. Since the team “failed”, they assume that whatever the FO did must have been the wrong thing to do. They only care about the most recent results of the team, and have a knee jerk reaction to it.

      If I’m in the FO of a team, I couldn’t give less of a shit about what the fans think I should be doing.

  • Knuckleballs

    My only concern so far after seeing/hearing what Shakins are looking at they are looking at just filling the holes with “patches (Colon, Bruce…etc)” that are all on the wrong side of 30 plus/40 plus and based on this approach it is quite evident that management could be content moving into 2018 with core they have. Also this talk to get younger and faster is like when the youngsters come up in 2019/2020. So we will be 3 or 4th place team with some exciting games to be had (every dog has his day).