When the baseball world awoke Thursday morning, it wasn’t expecting to hear that the executive of the year would be without a job. Yes, Toronto Blue Jays general manager had declined a reported five-year extension with his AL East champion Blue Jays. He was now unemployed.
The shock wasn’t that Rogers didn’t give him a contract, nor did they fire him. Anthopoulos made the tough decision himself to go unemployed.
Without offering any hot takes at why he left–whether it be that President Mark Shapiro wanted last say on baseball operations or that the two never meshed well together is irrelevant now. The question is, how will the future of the Blue Jays look? Will this change the on-the-field product in any way?
Arguably, the lost narrative here is that Rogers, the Blue Jays ownership, saw this as a way to change philosophies to a more “new school” approach compared to Anthopoulos’s old school mindset. Sure, the Blue Jays were somewhat analytically inclined under Anthopoulos, but they still spent over a hundred million in each of the last three seasons which isn’t something most businesses or owners would be interested in if they could find a more cost efficient way to win.
In Shapiro, the Jays, and Rogers, have that option. They could continue with higher payrolls–Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Bautista aren’t getting cheaper–but they don’t have to. Instead they could allow analytics to drive the way they conduct baseball operations and play the game on the field.
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One manifestation of this newfangled approach would be to move Jose Bautista to the designated hitter or first base. Bautista, 35, is heading into his last season with the Jays, assuming they pick up his extremely club friendly option. According to Fangraphs, Bautista was the third worst outfielder defensively this season with a -15.3 rating. Sure, he could have a stronger future similar to 2012 or 2013, but he’s undeniably getting older, and with age comes decreased defensive abilities as baseball witnessed this year when Bautista’s usual cannon for an arm turned into a limp noodle.
Through doing this, the Jays would have a solution to their outfield surplus in Kevin Pillar, Ben Revere, Michael Saunders and ready-to-perform rookie Dalton Pompey. Of course, this move would be contingent on moving current DH Edwin Encarnacion whom they won’t desperately need to continue to own one of baseball’s best offences. Encarnacion possesses a lot of trade value that the Jays could use to upgrade on their gaping weakness in their pitching staff. It’s just one of a myriad of options.
With this idea, the Jays could upgrade their pitching and maximize the value of their current roster. Conversely, they could continue with their old ways and let potential outfield starters sit on the bench, essentially wasting their value. It’s a good problem to have and one that a new philosophy based in analytics may be able to solve.
Other changes could be made in the usage of the bullpen–reduction of the closer etc–or the presence of youngsters Roberto Osuna and Aaron Sanchez in the rotation. It’s conceivable that Shapiro may want a new manager to undertake this changing of philosophy, but he doesn’t have to.
With Thursday’s news still weighing heavily on Blue Jays nation, and I’m sure Alex Anthopoulos, it’s important to heed to the advice of ESPN writer Wright Thompson as he said, “Everything that happens is good; there is no bad thing that could happen. It is what it is.”
What’s done is done and it’s time to move on. This is just a theory on how things could change in Blue Jays land going forward. Whether or not that it will come to fruition, only the future can tell. With what transpired last week, it’s hard to know what to believe anymore.