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.