It’s been a pretty boring off-season around here. The hot stove around the league as a whole hasn’t been all too hot as everybody is waiting for a few big name free agents — Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Craig Kimbrel, and others — to make decisions in order for the market ro set and for dominoes to fall.
We know the Blue Jays aren’t going to be active in free agency. The team is officially entering its rebuild years as veteran players get moved out and young players get brought up. The goal right now is to leave spots open on the roster for prospects to prove that they’re worth being a part of long-term, big picture plans.
But what about down the road, when the team is ready to compete? There’s a nagging fear in the minds of Jays fans that the Cleveland Crew was hired by Rogers with the goal of assembling a cost-per-dollar type team good enough to compete but not really good enough to be the best. This cheap, internally developed team would allow Rogers to maximize by having a moderately competitive team that generates interest without them having to shell out big dollars in free agency. There’s nothing substantiated about this worry, it’s just a fear based on how Mark Shapiro operated during his days in Cleveland.
Shapiro talked on Tuesday about the future of the team and the payroll…
“I’m 100 per cent confident that when we say the foundation is there, that we need to spend and surround these players with other players, that the support will be there to spend more on major-league payroll,” Shapiro told Stephen Brunt and Jeff Blair. “Whether that puts us at third or sixth or seventh (in MLB), it should be enough to win and win a World Championship. I don’t see that as a concern or excuse.”
This shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anybody, to be honest. The goal with Toronto’s rebuild was to internally-develop a legitimate, deep base of talent to come up after the Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Josh Donaldson window closed. While the organization probably could have spent a little more in recent years in order to push the 2017 and 2018 possibly over the hump, the priority always was the long-term.
Next year is going to be an ugly one. So is 2019. But, by 2020, you’re looking at a clean slate with guys like Vlad Jr, Bo Bichette, and Danny Jansen really hitting their strides and moving into their primes. Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki will be off the books by then and we’ll know whether or not Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez will be given long-term deals as their free agency hits.
By then, we’ll also know which parts of the roster need to be augmented by major acquisitions. With a core of cheap, young talent, the team could feasibly throw a bunch of money at winter 2020’s version of Machado or Harper.
Again, like I said, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it should put to rest some concerns people have about the Cleveland Crew ultimately doing a Tampa Bay Rays thing and trying to be good-ish but not ever forking up the cash to be great.