Alex Anthopoulos's first order of duty is to come up with a philosophy for the team. What is a team philosophy you ask? Beeston and Anthopoulos stated in their first Saturday press conference that the organization first needs to define a philosophy and from there decisions regarding payroll and free agents and roster composition can be made. The philosophy covers how the team will compete, it is a baseball equivalent of a business plan. Alex and Beeston were supposedly meeting over the last couple of weeks to determine the philosophy. This week they might be presenting it to Rogers. So we at Batters Box, at no charge to the Blue Jays, will help define what the philosophy should be.
There has been a lot of discussion in other threads about what the Jays should do but a lot of it is based around specific players such as JJ Hardy or Hanley Ramirez that the Jays could target. However a philosophy cannot be based on what other teams might be willing to do, it has to be more abstract than that, it is what will wo do, in general, to make this team competitive. Here are three offerings from members of the roster.
But first how many dollars are committed for 2010?
C Vacant 0.5
1B Overbay 7
2b Hill 4 4.2
SS Vacant 0.5
3B Encarnacion 4.75
LF Lind 1.0e
CF Wells 12.5
RF Snider 0.5
DH Vacant 0.5
B1 Vacant 0.5
B2 Vacant 0.5
B3 Bautista 3e
B4 Ruiz 0.5
SP Halladay 15.75
SP Romero 0.5
SP Marcum 0.5
SP Rzepczynski 0.5
SP Cecil 0.5
RP Frasor 2e
RP Downs 4
RP League 1e
RP Tallet 2e
RP Camp 1e
RP Carlson 1e
RP Pick-em 1e
Salary information is from Cotts baseball contracts. "e" means estimated. Minimum salary of 0.5 used for all vacant spots and minimum wage players.
The Jays have $65m committed for 2010 assuming BJ Ryan and whatever cash was part of the Rolen deal is a 2009 write-off. If the payroll is $80m, the Jays have $15m to spend and so on from there.
On to the philosophy........
1. The Jays will compete primarily through scouting and player development. However all teams want to compete this way, with only the Yankees being less committed to young players. Teams like young players because they are cheap and often provide the best value as measured by performance versus pay.
2. We don't have access to the latest research on the draft but is the draft more than the luck of the draw? If it is more than luck then do what is necessary to provide better draft results. If paying over slot gets you better players then pay over slot (up to a reasonable point of course).
3. Figure out what needs to be done to improve player development. From coaching to facilities to food, do what you can to develop more players to major league standard?
4. Continue to commit to international signings, not necessarily in the few high profile and high dollar players, but in the higher volume signings and hope to find some late developers who are cheap at 16 but turn into value at age 18.
5. When you have a limited budget you have to find value, as defined by having a player who delivers more value than his contract/pay. Successful young players usually deliver value whereas free agents are a hit and miss proposition as they are usually able to negotiate a contract to get paid for the value they have previously shown they can deliver. A teams opportunity in signing a free agent is if the player can deliver more value than he has in the past, as the free agent contract is usually based on his established level of performance. Undervalued players on other teams (such as Marco Scutaro) should be scouted actively and traded for.
6. You have to assume team payroll will be around $80 million, assuming that is break-even for the club. Rogers are a public company with an obligation to the shareholders to try and maximize shareholder value. Rogers could choose to make an investment in a higher payroll, on a short-term basis, if the value proposition is that the investment will be repaid through a playoff spot and higher ticket sales the next season. Rogers will not spend $100m or $120m if that creates a $20m or $40m loss for the club. Based on attendance over the last several years the Jays will not be able to justify a higher payroll unless they have an excellent chance to win. The challenge for the front-office is to deliver ongoing performance on an $80 million payroll.
7. The club is starting under water, payroll-wise, for the next five years with the Vernon Wells contract which is very unlikely to deliver value. $20 million for Vernon leaves $60m for the rest of the roster.
8. With an $80m payroll it will be hard to sign free agents, or pay internally developed players, much more than $10m per season.
9. The organization appears to have a strength in developing pitching. The team should expect to develop its pitching internally and sign or trade for position players and/or young hitters.
10. Most of the hitting tools can be evaluated early in a players career but the hitting for power tool appears to have the greatest variability. Undervalued players who develop power in their mid-20's can be a source of value, think Dan Uggla, Garrett Jones, Jack Cust, etc. The Jays should see if it can find a way to find players with late developing power who are undervalued currently.
11. In the short term the team is unlikely to be able to improve to 95 wins in 2010. While the team has young pitching, the progress of young pitching is uncertain and the sophomore jinx and/or injuries might impact some of them. On the hitting side the team has lost two of their top performers, Marco Scutaro and Scott Rolen. While Scutaro might be re-signed it is unlikely that he will produce at the same level in 2010. The Jays have offensive gaps at catcher and shortstop, as well as uncertainties at first base vs RHP; DH or outfield; CF; and third base. A case can be made for the Jays to be competitive in 2010 but how is it different from the cases made in 2008 and 2009? Therefore the Jays should look at 2010 as a consolidation year rather than a competing year.
12. The team has a number of young pitchers who are still establishing themselves. Some of these pitchers will take a step back in 2010 while Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan and Jesse Litsch's return from surgery is also an uncertainty. This pitching could become a core strength in 2011 through 2014. The hitting core of Adam Lind, Travis Snider and Aaron Hill should be under contract in the same period. The Jays need to trade or sign players to fill in the other positions and who could supplement the home grown core from 2011 through 2014.
13. The Jays could determine in each off-season if they have a serious chance to compete the next season and if so, ask Rogers to bump up the payroll with a few experienced fill-in players on one or two year contracts.
14. On a longer term basis it will be difficult for the Jays to compete with the Yankees and the Red Sox year-in and year-out. The Jays will have to look for opportunities to go for it and at other times pull back. Based on the requirements of having a competitive team for TV the Jays could follow one of two approaches. One they could have a go for it and then rebuild mode as the Marlins do. This means you are either building or tearing down. The other approach is to be respectable each year. To do that you need to supplement the home grown core with players acquired via trade. The Jays might have to trade players at their maximum value, likely in their late 20's or early 30's to keep the pool of younger talent coming. In that case the Jays should look to lock-up their young players perhaps through the first couple of free agency years. Players could then be traded around age 30 at a time of maximum value.
15. This philosophy says that in this off-season:
Roy Halladay should be traded for young position players at the skilled positions.
One or two relievers who are within one year of free agency should be traded.
Investments should be made in the draft, in player development and international scouting
The club should try to sign some undervalued players with a club option for 2011
#2 - The Fifteen Feathers of Blue Jays Wisdom
1. One great player is better than two good players.
2. Open the vault for superstars, and only for superstars.
3. Pitching, defense, and the three-run homer.
4. Sabremetrics can be your friend.
5. Four-and-a-half man rotation, five-and-a-half man bullpen, and a multidimensional bench.
6. If you listen to the fans too much, you'll end up sitting next to them. Same goes for listening to the media.
9. If your pitching&defense is above average, you can add the most wins by improving the offense. If your offense is above average, you can add the most wins by improving the pitching&defense.
10. The organization should ensure that their fans understand how unacceptable it is for fans of the visiting team to be louder than Blue Jays fans in Rogers Centre.
11. Use the whole roster.
12. Being outspent is acceptable. Being outworked is not.
13. The last time the Blue Jays were the best team in baseball, they were also the classiest team in baseball. Maybe there's no connection, but why take chances?
14. Don't swing at bad pitches.
15. Throw strikes, change speeds, work fast.
You have to think outside the box. You're not going to get anywhere playing by the same rules as the Yankees. If you place the same value on everything as the Yankees do, they will end up with a better team by virtue of their greater financial resources. You have to differentiate yourself somehow. Ideally, you would do this by finding out the areas the Yankees are handling poorly, and making those areas into advantages for you. You can allocate your money to big-league talent, the draft, scouting, development and the international market in a different way than they do. You can beat them to the punch on tandem starters. You can eliminate the slave-to-the-save mentality, especially if you have the right personnel to do it. But you're probably going to have to risk looking stupid if your strategy backfires. If you think inside the box, you're going to need a few miracles to wind up in the playoffs.
Don't be afraid to sign highly specialized role players who thrive in certain situations. Then, put them in those situations as often as possible, and anything else as rarely as possible. Good platoon players are more valuable than bad generalists.