Blue Jays ownership is to blame for the team’s surprising separation with former GM Alex Anthopoulos, argues Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star. New president Mark Shapiro “said he strongly disagreed with some of the deadline choices that sent prospects out,” Arthur reports, and indications are that he took the job in part because he is interested in increasing his involvement in personnel decisions. (The club made several swaps, most notable shipping out young pitching talent to acquire David Price and Troy Tulowitzki.) Rogers Communications, the club’s ownership group, initially offered Anthopoulos only a one-year contract with an option, says Arthur, and though the offer ultimately was bumped to a five-year term, that seemingly set the stage for the departure of Anthopoulos. Meanwhile, the new free agent executive took a conciliatory tack on his way out, saying, “I just didn’t feel like this was the right fit for me going forward.”
Here’s more from Toronto and some other eastern division clubs:
- Writing for the National Post, Andrew Stoeten takes rather a different perspective on the Blue Jays’ front office changes. He suggests that it’s a valid criticism that Anthopoulos gave up too much young talent over the summer, even if the immediate results were good. More broadly, there’s no reason in particular to think Anthopoulos is uniquely irreplaceable, Stoeten argues.
- Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post takes a look at an interesting offseason for the Nationals. As he explains, the club could probably just add some bullpen pieces and a left-handed-hitting, center field-capable fourth outfielder and call it a day. That wouldn’t be perfect, but it should be workable enough, and it may be what the team had hoped and expected to be looking at heading into 2015. But a terribly disappointing campaign changes the equation somewhat. Svrluga says that the organization has pegged a $175MM overall annual operations budget, a number which includes player salaries but would also include additional spending in other areas (he cites various front office upgrades, though presumably it might also involve international spending or other speculative investments). With various big-money players are coming off of the books, Svrluga argues at least some of their salaries ought to be reallocated to new acquisitions. Upgrading over Wilson Ramos at catcher should be considered, he argues, and the team must decide whether to trade Yunel Escobar (possibly for bullpen help) and how much trust to put in Michael Taylor.
- Outgoing Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond figures to draw strong interest from the Mets, people around the game are telling Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (as part of a broader notes column). Heyman says he’s expecting a “robust” market for Desmond after a late-season return to form, and also notes the Mariners, Padres, White Sox, and Twins as plausible landing spots.
- It’s easy to forget about righty Rafael Montero given the success of the Mets’ other arms, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that the team hasn’t. New York expects Montero to be ready to go this spring after dealing with shoulder issues all year, and Sherman notes that he’ll at least represent a solid depth piece in the near-term if he can stay healthy. Of course, with Zack Wheeler also set to return next summer and Steven Matz now looking like he’ll command a rotation spot for years to come, Montero could ultimately factor as a trade chip.
- Sherman also takes a crack at assessing the in-season changes to the future free agent market of Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The Red Sox offered him a five-year deal at about $75MM when he was with the club, says Sherman, and might have considered going to the Hunter Pence range (5/$90MM). Now, says Sherman, Cespedes’s future valuation has swung wildly. Before his mid-season swap to New York, he says, Cespedes was generally expected to receive a deal that might not have reached $100MM. The outfielder pushed his ceiling to the six-year, $150MM range after a blistering couple of months, per Sherman, but now some executives feel a tepid few weeks could drop him shy of nine figures. For what it’s worth, my own take is that Cespedes’s earning capacity has probably not moved quite so violently; while it’s obviously shifted, I’d have pegged him at a higher mid-season expectation and still believe he’ll easily clear the $100MM barrier this offseason.
- The Red Sox could be a surprise contender to add outfielder Alex Gordon via free agency, Sherman writes. While Boston could move forward with its internal options in the outfield, rival executives see a scenario where the team tries to utilize the resurgent Jackie Bradley Jr. as a trade piece to add a pitcher while simultaneously locking up Gordon. Alex Speier of the Boston Globe analyzes the concept, explaining that Fenway Park has seemed uniquely capable of undermining otherwise strong defenders’ abilities in left field. As Sherman suggests, Gordon could be added with the idea of deploying him in right, and Speier does add that Castillo looked good in limited action in left, so there’s some hypothetical plausibility but also some tough questions to be answered before pursuing that strategy.