Forget Ervin Santana, Sign Andrew Friedman

Ken Rosenthal has certainly stirred up a hornets nest in the Big Smoke with his recent piece regarding Ervin Santana, the Blue Jays and deferred money.  Apparently various Blue Jays were willing to defer salary in a last ditch attempt to sign starting pitcher Ervin Santana but the team was unsuccessful in their bid.

The piece implied that the deal was essentially agreed upon but perhaps Blue Jays ownership has imposed a spending limit for the 2014 season.  According to the associated press the Blue Jays are on the hook for $132MM in payroll this year – ranking them 10th in major league baseball.

According to Sportsnet.Ca, the players willing to defer money for Santana were pitchers R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle, right fielder Jose Bautista, first baseman Edwin Encarnacion and shortstop Jose Reyes.

The effort by the players, first reported by FOX Sports on Thursday night, raised new questions about the Jays’€™ payroll flexibility for 2014. The team would have ended up paying the players a similar amount of money, just not this season.

The Jays, owned by Rogers Communications, ranked 10th in the majors with a franchise-record $132.6 million Opening Day payroll, according to the Associated Press.

The imposition of a payroll limit by Rogers would make it difficult for the team to add salaries if it stays in contention. Likewise, trading high-priced players might become a priority if the team falls out of the race.

While I wish Mark Cuban would buy the team and spend to his heart’s content I really don’t understand all of the sudden hate for Rogers.  Well, unless you are referring to your current cable/cell phone bill than I completely feel your pain.

I think the key number in all of this is $132 million.  Spending in the top third of all payrolls in baseball cannot be considered ‘cheap’.  This should be more than enough dough to put out a highly competitive baseball team.  The problem isn’t that the Blue Jays didn’t sign Ervin Santana the problem is the Blue Jays can’t develop big league talent – or at least to this point in Alex Anthopoulos’s career.

Developing talent is paramount to any success in baseball and one man cannot be blamed for an apparent organizational failure.  But in the ruthless world of professional sports there has to be accountability and the scrutiny begins at the top.  Who have the Blue Jays drafted, groomed and brought to the big leagues with any type of prolonged success in the Alex Anthopoulos era?

Among starting pitchers Ricky Romero was looking to be a solid major league pitcher.  He was drafted ahead of Troy Tulowitzki by then GM JP Ricciardi but at least Romero was a legitimate mid rotation workhorse – maybe even a solid number two pitcher.

Here is a quick rundown:

  • Drew Hutchison – Had a successful cup of coffee prior to injury.  Jury is still out but the talent is there.
  • Kyle Drabek – Looks like a potential bust and has not given the Blue Jays much in the way of value.
  • Daniel Norris – Is still in the low minors after being drafted early in the first round and has been inconsistent at best.
  • Deck McGuire – At this point any actual contribution to the bullpen as a long man might be best case scenario.
  • Marcus Stroman – Early on hasn’t lived up to the hype and has already been suspended for PED usage.  It is definitely too early to say for certain but nowhere near a sure thing and already 24 years old.
  • Roberto Osuna – Things were looking promising until Tommy John touched his right elbow.

There are some younger players from recent drafts that still have time to develop including recently draftees Phillip Bickford, Clinton Hollon, Matt Smoral, John Stilson and Sean Nolin.  Among others.  The Blue Jays do have some intriguing young position players as well but pitching has been the biggest issue recently so I decided to focus there first.

Unfortunately Alex Anthopoulos turned one of the best minor league prospect systems (that he built) into one of the worst and have only RA Dickey, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and JA Happ to show for it.  Various trades made over the last year saw the team move prized prospects Noah Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino, Jake Marisnick, Travis d’Arnaud and Asher Wojciechowski to acquire them.  That was a big misstep.

In a large market like Toronto with some of the deepest pockets in sports there is no reason the team doesn’t try and poach the top executive talent in baseball.  The Toronto Maple Leafs landed Brian Burke and the Toronto Raptors landed Bryan Colangelo.  This isn’t meant as a judgment of their tenures but more that they were both considered difficult to land at the time.

At this point I think it is clear the Blue Jays have to adapt, evolve or die.  There current method of drafting and developing young major league talent is not working.  Instead of using money to bring over a veteran starting pitcher like Ervin Santana use it to land a real game changer.

You might as well go straight to the top and try to sign Tampa Bay Rays GM Andrew Friedman.  When discussing the top baseball decision makers in baseball Friedman’s name is frequently found on a short list with Billy Beane as the alpha dog.

Offer him a blank cheque and let him run the organization as he sees fit.  Give Andrew Friedman full autonomy over all baseball related decisions and arm him with a similar budget.  If Rogers are serious about investing into the Toronto Blue Jays this course of action could prove to be the best return on investment possible – if winning is truly their priority.

He has deep ties and loyalty to the Tampa Bay organization but everyone has their price.  Make him the highest paid executive in baseball and sweeten the pot with a stock option package if need be.  Basically whatever it takes to get his named signed on the dotted line.

A fangraphs community contributor wrote a recent piece surmising that Friedman has been basically the most efficient GM in baseball:

One name I have not mentioned so far that has had an impressive stint as head of the Rays is Andrew Friedman. Since he’s been the GM of the Rays, they have been tied with St. Louis as the most cost effective winners in baseball. It’s even more impressive when you consider the dumpster fire he inherited.

After ignoring the potential for mediocrity during his first two seasons and building for the future, Friedman’s Rays took off. In the past 6 years, the Rays have won 87 more games than they should have. While it’s not as good as Beane’s best 6-year stretch of 117, it has coincided with a relatively weak stretch for the A’s where they have only exceeded their budget-wins by 30 games.

Yes it’s a long shot but never say never.  This would be huge.

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