All signs are pointing to a busy winter for the Toronto Blue Jays. There are holes in the starting rotation, and the management actually looks willing to fill them, even if that means spending some money.
And they are going to have money to spend, too. Kelly Johnson and his $6 million contract is on his way out, which will leave the Toronto payroll in the $70 million range. The speculation is that Rogers will be dropping some cash this offseason, so the extra budget is encouraging.
If ownership wants payroll to get back to the Vernon Wells days, the Jays have a good $20 million to burn. Clearly the majority of that will go towards mending the starting staff. It is just too tempting to connect the dots, as the biggest pitcher on the market, Zack Greinke, will probably sign for close to that kind of money.
The though of Greinke filling the number one spot in the rotation is enough to make every Blue Jays fan salivate. In an era when any and every half-decent pitcher gets labelled an Ace, this guy is on of the few true Aces in the game. He is young, durable, and ridiculously consistent. Toronto is desperate for the kind of security Zack Greinke can offer.
Let's try to think straight for a second, though. Is Greinke really the best option for the Blue Jays?
He is the sexiest option, no doubt about it. Every team fantasizes ever landing the biggest fish on the market. But there lies the problem, doesn't it? There is hardly a single club that will not consider going after such a talent. Yeah, that bumps up his salary, but more importantly, there will be a ton of teams that will end up waiting and waiting and waiting on Greinke's decision, just to lose out in the end.
With so many holes to fill, does GM Alex Anthopoulos have the luxury to wait? He would have to hold off on all other free agents, all the money would be tied up in the massive offer. Greinke would almost surely sign elsewhere, the other solid starters would have been gobbled up in the meantime, and the Blue Jays would be pretty much screwed.
Why even mess with that possibility? Anthopoulos would be better off playing it safe and going after the second tier free agents right off the bat. Clearly there are a bunch off players who fall under this category, but for the sake of argument we'll go with a couple obvious ones in Dan Haren and Anibal Sanchez.
Without going into too much painful detail, both Sanchez and Haren are guys you can expect to get 30 starts out of every season, and you will get an ERA well into the 3.00 range to boot. Most importantly, neither of these guys will fetch a lot more that $12 million. That means, theoretically, Toronto can put offers in for the two players at the same time, and be relatively comfortable with their chances or getting either one.
Heck, getting both of them wouldn't be the end of the world, would it? It wouldn't cost much more than Greinke on his own...
Dreaming aside, it would be much easier to reel in either Haren or Sanchez, since most lines will be cast at Zack Greinke anyhow. And as much as the average fan will scoff at the notion of bargain hunting, it makes too much sense for the club long term to leave some financial space.
Don't forget that Edwin Encarnacion's new 3-year, $27 million-deal kicks in next year, that will eat up some budget on its own. Even more ominous, although the Blue Jays control Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero until 2015 and 2016, respectively, by that time the club options will have Morrow making $10 million and Romero making just oven $13 million.
These are three substantial raises all within five year's time. That money has to come from somewhere Even after all these inevitable expenses, surely Toronto will want some flexibility for winters to come. It is impossible to predict what kind of needs this team is going to have in the coming years, but one thing is for sure: the Blue Jays will not remain competitive if they lack the money to improve every season.
If the Blue Jays try keep the core of the team together, all while paying Zack Greinke's salary, they are going to have a tough time staying relevant for very long. Countless teams go down this road; they get their dream-team for the first couple of years, but piece-by-piece the club falls apart, as they can no longer afford a respectable supporting cast.
This is not the vision the Toronto Blue Jays have for themselves. The front office has said it time and time again, they are committed to building a ball club that will contend year-in, year-out. Why sacrifice that dream for a single pitcher?
Having a legitimate Ace is overrated anyway. Yeah, all the experts are going to preach that no team can compete without one, but let's face it, the Toronto Blue Jays had an Ace for years. His name was Roy Halladay. He brought the franchise absolutely nowhere in eleven years with the club. Meanwhile, the Oakland A's and the Baltimore Orioles are playing October baseball with pitchers nobody has even heard of.
Toronto has to ditch the brand name and go for value. Dan Haren and Anibal Sanchez are seriously good pitchers, and, honestly, the drop-off in price will be considerably steeper than the drop-off in performance.