To contend in the major leagues you need a successful farm system, or at least one that finds gems once in awhile. Be you the Yankees or the A's you need homegrown be they for trades or stardom. How have the Jays been doing?
WAR isn't perfect, but it is a nice quick way to see if the Jays have developed much of anything. 2 WAR = solid season, 10+ WAR = decent career, 20+ WAR=all-star at some point, 60+ = HOF
The Jays drafts since 2000 have been weak. WAR for all players each year drafted by the Jays plus the top WAR and all over 5.
2000: 1.7 - top is Dustin McGowan 1.5
2001: 6.5 - top is Gabe Gross 4.7
2002: 1.7 - top is Dave Bush 3.5 (5 were negative)
2003: 42.9 - top is Aaron Hill 24.9, then Shaun Marcum 13.4, then Ryan Roberts 5.8 (didn't sign...err, actually did thanks for the correction)
2004: 16.5 - top is Casey Janssen 7.5, then Adam Lind 6.3
2005: 9.4 - top is Ricky Romero 9.7
2006: 0.3 - top is Travis Snider 1.9
2007: 7.4 - top is Brett Cecil 4.0 (JPA also this year 2.9)
2008: -2.2 - 'top' is David Cooper at 0 (all others who reached are negative)
2009: 9.7 - top is Yan Gomes 3.7
2010: -1.0 - 'top' is Sean Nolin -0.3 (Sam Dyson also reached and is -0.7)
2011: -0.2 - Kevin Pillar is the only one to reach
2012 + 2013: no one yet
So over the past 14 seasons the Jays have produced 1 star (Hill), 1 decent career (Marcum), and a handful of 1/2 decent players (Romero, Janssen, Lind) while the rest were easily replaceable. A 2B, 2 starting pitchers, a closer and a DH. I think that explains a lot of the current issues.
Meanwhile you can see form the Rays, ignoring 1st round picks (as they had quite a few top 5 picks thus not a fair comparison) over the same time period you see...
Nothing since 2007 (the 08-13 drafts haven't got a single WAR yet), but before Matt Moore 4.2, Desmond Jennings 8.7, Alex Cobb 5.3, Jeremy Hellickson 6.8, Tommy Hunter 5.7 (DNS), Ike Davis 5.5 (DNS), Wade Miley 5.0 (DNS), Kris Medlen 10.1 (DNS), John Jaso 7.6, Jacoby Ellsbury 21.0 (DNS), Jason Hammel 6.3 (drafted a couple of times by the Rays before he signed), Mike Pelfrey 5.2 (DNS), Jonny Gomes 5.0, James Shields 23.8, Luke Scott 12.2 (DNS). Remember, this is skipping their first round picks (which included BJ Upton, Evan Longoria, and David Price). Matt Moore doesn't fit the 5+ but will by mid-season 2014 I suspect (might by the end of April). While nothing has reached from the 08-13 drafts (with 1+ WAR at least) I suspect we'll see more soon as they are known for leaving guys on the farm until they are really ready. Yeah, a few really good guys didn't sign but at least their scouts found them and said 'lets try' (Dave Bush was also a DNS for them btw). Over those same drafts the Jays had a 5+ WAR guy in just 3 seasons totaling 6 players. The Rays had 14 plus 3 high end first round picks - remove the DNS's and you have 7 plus the 3 first rounders. Think about that - the Rays drafted nearly 3 times as many solid ML players as the Jays did over that stretch despite a much lower budget (thus the high DNS list) and even removing the DNS's you get more guys skipping round 1 than the Jays got. I'd say that is pretty damning when looking back on the JPR era and the tail end of the Ash era. Far too early to judge the AA era, as the Rays haven't had any success over that time frame either (yet).
What about the Orioles, the team that leapfrogged the Jays recently? Jim Johnson (10.5), Nick Markakis (23.5), Casey Janssen (DNS obviously), Will Venable 11.8 (DNS), Matt Wieters 13.1, Manny Machado 8.1. Not a wow record with just 4 who signed but 3 (4 counting DNS) with 10+ vs the Jays 2. Not a great record but still one could argue it is better or equal to the Jays due to higher quality at the top.
The Yankees who always draft after the Jays and have lost picks due to free agents signings? Tyler Clippard 8.8, Chris Davis 7.8 (DNS), Phil Hughes 6.3, Brett Gardner 19.3, Austin Jackson 19.1, Doug Fister 14.7 (DNS), David Robertson 9.7, Ian Kennedy 9.2, Joba Chamberlain 7.1. Total of 9 players, 7 who signed.
The Red Sox who like the Yankees would draft later than the Jays? Freddy Sanchez 15.6, Kevin Youkilis 32.5, Kelly Shoppach 8.1, Jon Lester 27.6, Ricky Romero (DNS of course), Brian Bannister 5.1 (DNS), Jonathan Papelbon 19.7, David Murphy 10.9, Dustin Pedroia 38.1, Jacoby Ellsbury 21.0, Clay Buchholz 14.6, Jed Lowrie 7.6, Jason Castro 5.6 (DNS), Justin Masterson 11.0, Josh Reddick 9.0, Brandon Belt 8.0 (DNS). Wow. 16 players (including DNS) or 12 not including DNS.
An interesting exercise as I thought the Rays would have even more, but geez did they draft a lot of guys who they just couldn't afford to sign. Imagine if the Jays with their larger budget had the Rays draft team for the 2000's. Just reminds me, once again, that the Jays (and others) are nuts for not raiding the Rays system of coaches, scouts and anything else they can grab. Of course, maybe they do try but the Rays spend in that area thus making it harder.
For overall WAR produced you get...
Red Sox: 273.5 - yikes, brains plus cash = wow
Rays: 237.3 - remove the first round picks and you still get 155.8, cut top DNS and you get 91.1
So to get the Rays down to the Jays level you have to remove all Rays DNS (and not the Jays DNS's) plus remove all Rays first round picks. Ouch. FYI: the Rays had no extra picks from 2000 through 2009 and actually didn't have a 2/3/4 pick in 2000 as they went on a free agent frenzy and signed Juan Guzman (paid $12 mil for 1 start lasting 1 2/3 IP), Steve Trachsel (traded for Brent Abernathy), and Gerald Williams (release 1/2 way through first year in Tampa) - no wonder they stopped signing 'type A/B' free agents. Imagine if they used that cash to sign those guys who DNS'ed over the years. Thus the Rays (+10 picks in 2011, +3 in 2010, +1 2013 so net +11 from 2000-2013) had fewer draft picks over that time frame than the Jays did (extra picks = 2 in 2000, 2 in 2004, lost one in 2005, lost 2 in 2006, gained 5 in 2007, 2 in 2009, 6 in 2010, 5 in 2011, 4 in 2012 = net +23). Yankees were +3 2001, -2 2002, +2 2004, +1 2008, -1 2009, +1 2012 = net +4 (sign a free agent, lose a free agent happened in a lot of years). Red Sox were -1 2002, +2 2003, -1 2004, +3 2005, +4 2006, +1 2007, +2 2008, +2 2010, +3 2011, +2 2012 = net +17.
As many of us knew the Jays did a poor job in the 2000's (so far) in drafting and developing talent. The Rays could give the Jays an extra 25 first round picks over that time frame and still be competitive in WAR produced despite having a habit of leaving their prospects on the farm longer (thus not having as many man-years to count for recent players). Anytime you wonder why the Rays keep going to the playoffs and the Jays don't it sure isn't 7 year deals, it is drafting. The Red Sox meanwhile lap the field with cash, good drafts, and a very smart front office. The Jays were right to try to steal talent from them, just happened to pick the wrong guy. The Sox right now have just Pedroia signed for over 5 years (through 2021) after dumping some in 2012 (Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford). Seems they are leaning towards avoiding except for very special cases too.
Bottom line? The Red Sox and Rays are clearly the class of the field, while the Jays, Orioles and Yankees try to figure out how to make the draft work for them. The Jays, Rays and Red Sox were aggressive in getting extra picks while they were out there and the results of that should be visible in a few years. The Red Sox were double in WAR of anyone but the Rays, producing an extra (from 2000-2009, 2010 to now hasn't produced much for anyone yet) 18 WAR a year vs the Jays - think about that for a minute. The Rays beat the Jays by 14 WAR a year. To make that up the Jays would need to sign Roger Clemens (as he was here) plus Roy Halladay at his peak to compensate for how the Red Sox are doing, or 'just' two Roy Halladay's to cover up the spread between the Jays and Rays. Add those 18 wins the Red Sox have on the Jays and the Jays would've been in the playoffs this year.
So next time you think more cash and/or years for free agents is #1, remember how big that draft spread is and hope the Jays are investing big time in their minor league coaching plus their amateur scouting.