Although the Toronto Blue Jays have gone through massive changes since Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins took the helm following the 2015 season, the narrative surrounding them hasn’t moved much.
Shapiro made a questionable first impression by questioning the wisdom of Alex Anthopoulos’ 2015 batch, which may have left the city that left GM Canada. Then the fore office, with Atkins now in the GM seat, made only lesser moves to bolster the 2016 group and proceeded to rebuild following a disappointing 2017 campaign.
Constantly watching beloved veterans leave town in favor of fewer alternatives allowed Blue Jays fans to solidify the notion that this mental trust was obsessed with cheap young players far from free agency. Shapiro and Atkins’ track record with the Cleveland Guardians focused on developing little-market players didn’t aid — nor did GM’s enthusiastic comments about getting 42 years of team control into the 2019 trade deadline.
When the Blue Jays sprayed a big free agent at Hyun-Jin Ryu, George Springer and Marcus Semien, they showed a willingness to spend — but even then they took the team’s payroll from near the base of the league to the middle. While the label “risk aversion” began to seem unfair, existential concerns remained.
Does Blue Jays’ affinity for accumulating probability get in the way of an combative “triumph now” shove? Will the stated goal of creating a “sustainable competitor” make it impossible to borrow from the coming to prioritize the present?
Until Friday, those were begin questions. By acquiring Jose Berrios of the Minnesota Twins, the Blue Jays answered them.
This does not unkind that they made an unquestionable deal. Toronto paid a premium for Berrios’ services through the end of 2022 in the form of the 2020 draft’s fifth pick, Aston Martin, and Marcus Stroman’s deal hub, Simeon Woods Richardson.
Martin was Keith Low’s number. He finished 12th in baseball just over a week ago, and Woods Richardson is a marginal top 100 considering his difficulties in Double-A this season (5.76 ERA with 5.16 BB/9).
This is a package from hell. It’s the considerate of package that could make the Blue Jays look an idiot in years to come, even though they’ve earned a semi-cool pitcher ranked seventh in innings offered since the start of 2018 (577.1) and 17th in WAR (10.8) among competent shooters.
That’s what makes this deal stand out.
As Friday came, there was no evidence that the Blue Jays were willing to risk that considerate in order to upgrade the roster in the short term. While this trade can go astoundingly mistaken, it’s a paradigm shift for this team. This deal indicates that the Blue Jays see not only 2021 and 2022 as part of an amorphous and undefined era of baseball winning, but a definite opportunity worth pursuing — even if that pursuit requires a sacrifice.
The close trade of Brad Hand on Thursday showed the Blue Jays didn’t donate up in the 2021 season, despite playoff odds of less than 50 per cent. It also did the acquisition of veteran director Joachim Soria. Both bowlers are in their 30s and will see their contracts expire at the end of this season. Each could provide some support to a Bullpen that produced 0.6 WAR whole in 2021, roughly nine the output of Tampa Bay Rays’ attenuators.
While these moves were positive steps for the Blue Jays’ chances in 2021, both were ultimately marginal upgrades that cost little. Shopping for mid-range rentals is nothing unused for this team and the price this time around (catching Riley Adams and the two players to be named later) was fair.
A little adventure, a little gain.
The Piraeus deal was distinct because it’s deep. The farm system that is so popular with the team will see its rankings drop. Less than two years from now the Blue Jays will have nothing to offer in this deal while Martin and Woods Richardson could play major roles in the Minnesota Twins. The chance of losing this trade – and a big loss – is vast.
Whatever happens, this team has switched to unused gear. Berríos’ trade suggests that the current Blue Jays are not just one iteration of an forever competing franchise, but a exceptional group of players who deserve to put a significant amount of weight behind them, even if the cost of doing so is painfully lofty.