Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Winter Meetings of Our Discontent...

Whelp, the Winter Meetings have come and gone, and aside from dealing the beloved Shaun Marcum for prospect Brett Lawrie, and acquiring a frightening HR obsessed bullpen arm for a PTNBL, all was quiet on the Jays front…
Surprised? I know I was.

Everyone expected Alex Anthopolous to arrive in Florida with bells on, ready to roll with the big wigs and aggressively maneuver to land premium controllable talent in line with the franchise’s new philosophy of building from the ground floor up in an attempt to stock the pond to fight it out with the big fish in a few years.

No big trade. No huge free agent signing. No Manny. No Greinke. No Michael Young. No Russell Martin.

So what happened?

Good question! However, I think I have a possible answer. Well, two actually…

Answer #1 – The Invisible Man

My first theory is simple. AA was setting up smoke screens. The Blue Jays were linked to SO many players during the winter meetings, many of which I mentioned above. A proposed Drabek, Snider plus deal for Greinke almost sent a few of my Twitter Jays fan buddies into a whirlwind of chaos! (the one and only BlueJayGal most specifically). I doubt any of us in Twitter-opia believed that deal would ever happen. However, and perhaps of the most relevance, is the fact that the Blue Jays and AA seemed willing to throw their hat in the ring, if not to at least send the message that they’re going to come to the table for talent and not sit back and wait for success to fall in their lap (a la JP Crappardi). And to take that idea even further, every time the Jays were linked to a big name, it upped the price for everyone else. It appears obvious to me that our best defence is a great offence. Let Boston and New York slug it out. I liken them to two newly engaged women throwing credit cards at a clerk in a bridal store for that frilly elegant wedding gown in the window that neither one of them will risk losing out on. I think AA basically inquired where he saw potential value, kept his cards close to his vest, as is his forte, and when the asking price was too unreasonable he simply shook his comrade’s hand and bid him adieu. Just imagine all the players that he inquired on that we DIDN’T hear about? All this talk of all these free agents and trade targets and we move Marcum for Lawrie. Brilliant. Under the radar. Out of the press. Completely unexpected. It almost makes me wonder if AA doesn’t have some underling that he pays to leak false info to the press. If he does, he’s a genius. Perception is paramount, and Alex is not stupid. He knows that a Soldier worries about the battle ahead, but a General worries about winning the war. It cannot be discounted that throughout his short tenure as GM of this franchise, Alex has stood his ground and made decisions that, while perhaps not always popular, have nonetheless left his team’s fan base clamoring for more. There is a resonating excitement building here. Of course we all want a World Series. Of course we all want to slay the dragons in Boston and New York. However, doing so requires a well calculated plan executed to perfection and seen to fruition. By maintaining the “invisible man” status, he leaves the rest of the GMs in the AL East wondering what he’s up to… and believe me… don’t think Andy McPhail, Theo Epstein, Brian Cashman and Andrew Friedman aren’t watching. Alex has already shown his pedigree for flipping roster players and prospects for the talent he wants (ex. Morrow, Gose, Lawrie), his willingness to acquire players only to be used later as trade bait (ex. Gonzalez turns into Escobar), and his ability to think outside the box when it comes to arbitration, tendering players and accumulating draft picks with little to no impact on the roster. To win in the AL East you have to be smart. Sure, the Evil Empire will block the sunlight with their wads of cash, but who won the World Series this year? Oh right… the San Francisco Giants… with their $98.5M payroll. Which is more then HALF what the Yankees spent last season… (and most of that went to Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand…ouch). The point here is, Alex knows what he’s doing. He has put the AL East on notice that we’re coming… and when we finally arrive, it will be AWESOME.

Answer #2 – Ya Just Can’t Outsmart the Smartie

Maybe AA is TOO smart. I don’t think there is any doubt that Alex Anthopolous has made a strong impression in the GM community that he is savvy and intelligent. The Miguel Olivo trade proves that. While I am not suggesting that he is the most brainy GM in baseball history, (I will reserve that title for the deserving former GM Pat Gillick), he’s pretty shrewd when it comes to recognizing, scouting and acquiring the talent he needs. I mean really, who saw the Brett Wallace for Anthony Gose deal coming??? Brandon League for Brandon Morrow? Anyone? He’s just smart. Everything he has touched thus far has turned to gold. The haul he got for Halladay was more then impressive. It wouldn't surprise me that his inquiries on a player alone, put the opposing GM into reflection mode. Why is AA so horny for this player? Maybe I need to take a deeper look at his potential. If AA wants him, and his mammoth scouting department agrees, maybe I am undervaluing him... yadda, yadda, yadda. It really isn't beyond the realm of possibility. So far this offseason he has turned two players into compensatory picks, and when Kevin Gregg signs we'll have three. AA is building towards something here, and just as David took down Goliath with a single stone, Anthopolous is devising his game plan and sticking to it. No one thinks the Jays can exchange blows with the Evil Empires in terms of throwing money around, but by filling the farm system with controllable talent and depth, taking risks on upside players at the expense of MLB roster players and committing the necessary resources needed to fund a dedicating scouting department, AA has put people on notice that he intends to assemble his arsenal and prepare to go to battle, even if it is only with a slingshot.

I look forward to watching it all unfold.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Anthopoulos Code... Seek The Truth!

I watched the DaVinci Code last night for about the 100th time, I loved it almost as much as the book... the plot twists, countless puzzles and mysteries... fabulous...

It got me thinking that it has a lot in common with current Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos.

In spite of the fact that I absolutely love that he, much like Robert Langdon, is a visionary person; I can say that I am sometimes awestruck by his smooth raping of other GM's (as evidenced by the Brandon Morrow trade), only to then turn around seeking to astound me with disbelief and sign Kevin Gregggggggggg when it seems we have a plethora of capable arms in the bullpen that could easily handle the job.

But much as the suspense builds towards the end of the movie, as Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu feverishly run all London trying to stay ahead of the psychopath Opus Dei monk trying to stop them from uncovering the mysteries that have remained hidden for generations, the suspense builds for us Jays fans as we watch Alex lay out his vision for this organization.

Ok, ok, ok... maybe it isn't quite that sociopathic, but the premise remains comparable...

AA remains an enigma to most of us. He doesn't speak much in the media. He tends to shy away from the limelight. However, there's no doubt that he's lowered a few booms on us over his short time in power. He's a mystery. No one really knows what he has up his sleeve, or what secrets he hides behind that young beaming smile. He doesn't speak out about personnel moves (unless Cito opens his windpipes before he has a chance to speak, of course), he shies away from rumors and speculation. He likes to play his cards close to his vest and not tip his hand. His stealthy movements may have gotten us the biggest package of prospects we ever could have hoped for in Drabek, Wallace and d'Arnaud in the Halladay trade. (I still get teary eyed over that one...)

Although I don't expect AA to save the world, it isn't far fetched to think that he can't save the Blue Jays. I like what I've seen so far (or is it what I haven't seen?), and I truly want to believe that he will be the hero that saves the day in Toronto, and returns us to days of glory and World Series titles, although, I'd probably be happy with a SNIFF of postseason baseball... i'll temper my expectations a little for now.

I have a feeling he'll be everything we hope he will... we just wont see it coming...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Curious Case of Dustin McGowan...

This story tears at my heart strings... ever since the Jays drafter McGowan back in 2000 out of High School, I have been enamored with his ability. I can vividly recall scouring Ebay for bulk amounts of his Rookie Cards (I have a pretty nice collection!) and even sending him a baseball which he promptly signed and returned to me. (What a guy!)

I heard the comparisons as he made his way through the farm system... talk of his electric arm... he had the whole world in front of him to conquer.

A couple arm surgeries later, and suddenly McGowan finds himself at the crossroads. The Jays have begun a building agenda for this franchise that will give playing time to this plethora of young kids that abound our roster. (if Gaston will allow it...).

Where does good old Dusty fit in?

Good question. He's out of options and cannot be sent to the minors unless he clears waivers, which he surely wouldn't. The vultures would be on Dusty like John Daly on a Hooter's doorstep drunk!

Here's how I see it:

If McGowan starts on the DL, then it buys him some time to get comfortable and entrenched in a pitching program to rebuild his stamina. Some have suggested that we place him in the bullpen to start the season and let him work from there until he shows his command and velocity have returned, but I disagree with that idea. McGowan is, and always has been a starter, and unless we want to hamper his development, as evidenced by the career of Brandon Morrow in Seattle, I think we should leave him as he is. The pain-free bullpen session he threw last week MUST have been a HUGE relief to AA and the rest of the organization.

Sure, they're taking the optimistically cautious approach to his return, but in all honesty, AA has to be licking his chops at the prospect of getting McGowan back in the rotation. I get weak-kneed thinking about Marcum, Romero, McGowan, Cecil and either Zep or Purcey launching us into the next season. I'm nowhere NEAR as excited about Litsch as I am McGowan. For some reason I see such parallels between himself and Doc. Not so much literally, as Doc didn't have a few arm surgeries, but he DID come through the system with high expectations that took a few years to come to pass. Now I certainly cannot sit here and unequivocally say that Dusty will be Doc. However, I firmly believe that he does have the potential to have front end starter impact on this team going forward.

That said, all I, and we, as Jays fans, can do, is wish Dusty the best of luck with his return.

I know I'll be rooting him on.