Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro met with reporters today to discuss a variety of topics, including future plans on and off the field for the Jays. Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith, TSN’s Scott Mitchell, and the Toronto Star’s Gregor Chisholm have some of the highlights, and you can view a video of some of Shapiro’s interview at Sportsnet.ca.
One of the chief points of discussion was criticism directed at Jays management from both fans and pundits in the wake of the perceived lackluster returns for Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez in respective deadline trades with the Mets and Astros. Shapiro defended the work of GM Ross Atkins and the front office as a whole, saying “they’ve positioned the team extremely well, regardless of what happens, for the future,” and cited several recent high-profile deals that ended up with unexpected benefits for the teams involved.
“It’s the nature of both media and fans to want to judge trades in the short term….Trades take a while to ultimately evaluate,” Shapiro said. “If you’re evaluating them on a small amount of information and a small set if data, they can feel unpopular in the moment and you have to be more confident of the group of people and the information that led to that decision.”
Beyond the rebuilding plans, however, Shapiro himself is well aware that “winning…is the only thing that will satisfy people,” as the Jays are well into their third season of non-competitive baseball.
“I’m aware of the frustration because I share the frustration. Any time you’re not winning, there is anger, there’s frustration and there’s disappointment,” Shapiro said. “If you don’t feel bitter about anything other than a winning and a championship-caliber team, then you’re in the wrong line of work….We’ve listened to our fans, we’ve made tons of changes to the products that we supply and what we’re doing around the ballpark, the times of games, and the deals we offer, so we’re always listening to our fans. But ultimately, the only thing that really is going to make the bulk of our fans happy is winning games.”
This doesn’t necessarily indicate that the Blue Jays’ rebuild is coming to an end, as Shapiro said that the team will look to be “opportunistic” in their offseason expenditures since, in his opinion, “it’s not a great off-season for free-agent talent.” That said, “the bulk” of winter resources will be spent on adding pitching, since Toronto already seems to have a young and talented core (i.e. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.) in place. “We will certainly have to and will supplement that internal group of players, [and] look to do it as soon as this off-season,” Shapiro said.
The Jays have just under $30.93MM in committed payroll next season, with almost half of those funds dedicated to retired shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. While there’s plenty of room to spend, major splashes don’t seem to be in the offing until the Blue Jays have proven themselves to be a bit closer to contending in the AL East. Past comments from Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins indicated that 2021 could be the target year for when the Jays turn from retooling to pushing for a postseason berth, though Shapiro hesitated to put any type of “limits on the pace or deadlines” of the process.
“So a player who’s a three-win player who takes you from 82 to 85 wins probably doesn’t move that needle. But if you’re at 87 wins and it takes you from 87 to 90, does that make sense?” Shapiro asked rhetorically. “So it’s more like when we’re at that point, when you can get the player who helps take you from a good team to a team that’s a potential championship team, we need to go out and get that player, and that [ownership] support will be there.”
One potential bit of spending with long-term repercussions could be extensions for the young core players, and while though Shapiro said those types of talks usually don’t happen until later in the offseason or during Spring Training, “those will be conversations we’d certainly have.”