Oh, remember the good times Toronto Blue Jays fans? I’m not talking The Good Times—back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993. No. More recent good times, like early in the 2009 Major League Baseball season.
At their apex, the Jays were 13 games over .500 in May and first in the American League East. At the end of August, the club was 11 games under the even-water mark.
What will September bring? If the early part of the month is any indication: a lot of bad baseball, with the team putting forth a Jaromir Jagr-esque effort.
It’s all about 2010 (and beyond) for the Jays. What should the team do this off-season? Well, I have a few suggestions.
JP STANDS FOR: JUST PACK (IT IN ALREADY!)
It’s time show General Manager J.P. Ricciardi the door. The Billy Beane disciple has one year left, after this season, on a 5-year contract extension inked in 2005. However, since the team should be in a rebuilding mode, let someone else draw up the plans.
It looks like some Ricciardi-drafted Jays are finally on the roster and could help the club become a contender in a few years. However, the 12-year plan is more of a USSR thing.
Ricciardi is responsible for the reprehensible Vernon Wells contract (7 years, $126 million dollars in 2007). Good luck trying to ever trading Wells. Might as well make him GM too—more bang for all those bucks.
JP has had a penchant for acquiring, then overpaying, for mediocrity. Lyle Overbay, Shea Hillenbrand, Troy Glaus, Scott Rolen, BJ Ryan, and Miguel Batista to name a few. This six-pack combined to play in 1 All-Star game in Toronto (Ryan ’06)—for nearly $90 million bucks in total salary. I bet Ricciardi loves Ikea as well.
His best acquisition was AJ Burnett, who was 38-26 in his 3 seasons in the Big Smoke. Although even Brunett had his warts: two pretty average campaigns to start with the Jays before going 18-10 with an AL leading 231 strikeouts in 2008. Can somebody say contract year?
If there is one thing about the Jays: they hold onto their general managers longer than most clubs. Riccardi’s ousting is about 3 years too late. And how exactly did Gord Ash last six years?
DANGER! MO’ MONEY, MO’ PROBLEMS
Now that Riccardi’s out of the way, the new GM will undoubtedly want to make his mark. However, as we have seen, inking big-ticket free agents is risky business. If you are going to shell out some major dollars, you better get a Mark Teixiera: a proven player entering the prime of his career.
There are also those Blue Jays in need of a new contract for 2010. I’m talking about Marco Scutaro specifically. In the first 6 seasons of the Venezuelan’s career, Scutaro was a pretty decent utility man.
In his first season with the Jays in 2008, he played in 145 games, earning a career high 517 at bats and hit .267 with a .697 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage)—or right in line with his career averages.
Now in 2009, Scutaro, at just $1.1 million, is having a career season. He’s a shoo-in to score over 100 runs (his previous best was 76) and is on pace to hit .283 (or about 20 points over his average).
New Blue Jays GM: do not break the bank for Scutaro! If a reasonable deal can’t be made—I say two years at no more than $4 million—find someone else. The last thing Toronto needs is to sign a 33-year-old coming off a career season to a 4 or 5-year big money deal.
TRUST THE KIDS
There is hope in T.O. because the team’s best players are hitting their prime. In the field, All-star Aaron Hill is 27. Slugger Adam Lind is 26. While hitting phenom Travis Snider is just 21.
There are a lot of good young arms: Ricky Romero (24), Brett Cecil (23), and Marc Rzepczynski (24) have all shown flashes as rookie starters. Add those young arms who are on the DL: Jesse Litsch (24), Shawn Marcum (27), and Dustin McGowan (27), and there is some depth heading into 2010.
So, for next season, there are probably enough arms, with Roy Halladay, to compete, even in the tough AL East.
Some position players must be added. Free agents who should interest Toronto are Jason Bay and Mark DeRosa.
Bay would be costly; he makes $7.8 million with the Red Sox in ’09. And at 30 years of age, he just might be in Vernon Wells territory. However, the Trail BC native has averaged over 30 home runs and 100 RBI a season in his career.
DeRosa makes $5.5 million this summer, which he has split between Cleveland and St. Louis. Before a wrist injury in July slowed him down, the versatile player was on pace to hit 25 bombs and knock in 100. His age too, 34, is a question mark, but DeRosa can play third, second and both corner outfielder positions.
So the lineup could boast a middle of the order that goes Hill-Lind-Bay-DeRosa-Snider. Each man is more than capable of hitting over 20 home runs and knocking in 80-100.
The rotation is solid led by Halladay. As with any bullpen, just hope and pray, because relievers can vary so much from year-to-year.
Then all Blue Jays fans can do is hope the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays all have off years, and a 16 year playoff drought will be a thing of the past.