Offseason In Review: Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays are next in our Offseason In Review series.

Major League Signings

International Signings

  • Jairo Labour, Francisco Tejada
  • 

Notable Minor League Signings

Extensions

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses

Summary

The 2010-11 offseason was another active one for Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, filled with low-risk free agent signings, intriguing deals, a major extension and the hiring of manager John Farrell.  Pull up a chair.

A couple of last winter's signings, John Buck and Kevin Gregg, improved their stock playing for the 2010 Blue Jays, each contributing a supplemental draft pick to the club as a parting gift.  The four veteran relievers acquired this winter, all in the $3-4MM salary range, must be viewed with Anthopoulos' draft pick obsession in mind.  The Blue Jays also bolstered the trade value of Dotel, Rauch, and Frasor by getting reasonable club options for 2012.  On the surface the four relievers will replace Downs and Gregg, but the bigger picture seems to be about future value in terms of draft picks or trades.  The signings are also forward-facing moves in that the Jays' young starters might be their greatest asset, and they'll be aided by a reliable bullpen.

For further proof of Anthopoulos' draft pick hoarding, consider the Olivo maneuvers.  The Jays essentially bought the #53 overall draft pick for $500K plus whatever amount was sent to the Rockies, the first time I've seen that strategy employed.  Given the free agent contracts they eventually signed, it seems that Gregg and Olivo might have had trade value had the Blue Jays exercised their options, but the team either didn't forecast that or just preferred the picks.

Anthopoulos made more traditional trades as well.  The Wells deal was a masterstroke, as the Toronto GM moved his predecessor's unmovable contract, clearing significant payroll space and even netting a useful player down the line in Francisco.  Anthopoulos cashed in on Marcum's fine 2010, netting a top 50 prospect in Lawrie.  He did take on risk in that deal, dealing one of baseball's precious commodities (multiple years of a top starting pitcher) while pinning the success of the trade on one prospect.  The Blue Jays dealt their ace for the second consecutive offseason, a trend that is probably finished.

I liked the Davis pickup, given the scarcity of center fielders.  And while the Villanueva trade is not complete, it doesn't seem that the Jays gave up much for a guy who had an 11.4 K/9 last year.  I'm not sure why the Brewers found Villanueva expendable.   

I'm a fan of the Bautista extension as well.  There's risk in any long-term deal, but if Bautista is now a consistent 30 home run bat, $14MM per free agent year is a fair price.

The Blue Jays will likely become progressively more aggressive about competing in the AL East, starting with the 2012 season.  A playoff berth could be added by MLB, and Toronto's goal is to begin an extended period of contention.  They've got a respectable 2011 club, but this coming offseason could be Anthopoulos' biggest push yet toward winning now. 

Ben Nicholson-Smith contributed to this post.


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