Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro discussed the state of his organization with Kaitlyn McGrath of The Athletic (subscription link). You’ll obviously want to read the full transcript for all the details, but we’ll cover a few key points here.
One of the more interesting observations from Shapiro relates to the hot stove more broadly. The precise course of the market every winter is never a given. If you went back and replayed the offseason you’d likely end up with quite different results.
Shapiro spoke of the Blue Jays’ surprise at the early free agent market development, saying that “some of the signs that happened were pretty far outside what our expectations were.” That forced the club to “adjust to what the market’s doing and still keep our values, but look at measuring what the level of inflation is, and then adjust our values for that inflation.”
One wonders whether the opposite has been true for various teams in the prior two offseasons, which were notably quiet for free agents. It remains quite the curiosity that we saw such a marked dive in spending activity for two-straight years before the market suddenly perked back up this time around.
Certainly, the Jays could’ve just shrugged and decided not to keep pace in the market bidding. Instead, it re-worked its expectations and kept after the best remaining players, ultimately walking away with quality southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu. But stretching to land Ryu doesn’t necessarily mean the front office anticipates a postseason surge.
In terms of timing and expectation, Shapiro walked a line and avoided setting firm expectations. On the one hand, he says that upper management has “started to listen to our young players and just the power of their belief in each other … and the belief in their potential.” That’s part of the reason the club pushed for improvements this winter. At the same time, the team’s top executive isn’t setting runaway dreams. He didn’t want to cap the possibilities but also said that “.500 would be a big step forward in wins.”
So … what happens if the team does surprise and puts itself in contention in 2020? Adding more to the roster “would be spending outside of our budget, for sure,” says Shapiro — an evident nod to the fact that the club has plotted out some lower-spending years after ramping down from a 2016-18 cost inflection. But he also said that he’s “confident that we’ll get the support” from ownership when the time is right. The club is obviously dedicating attention and funds to broader building efforts; Shapiro spoke at length about the improved Dunedin facilities that he believes will help “lead to wins” in a multitude of subtle ways over the long haul.
In discussing the eventual need to ramp up the dedication of assets to the current MLB roster, Shapiro made another observation of broader interest. As he put it: “Usually, the dollars you spend at the trade deadline are not too significant because it’s part-season, partial season of salary.” It’s obviously also important that such investments are made with much greater knowledge of team need and likelihood of postseason qualification. Based upon Shapiro’s characterization, Jays fans can justifiably expect the club to push the pedal down when the young talent comes into its own and the competitive situation warrants further supplementation.