With the offseason in full swing, Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro are busy strategizing how to best keep the Blue Jays contending and profitable in 2017. Whether it’s retooling the roster or shoring up business operations, there is plenty to do this winter. Front offices aren’t always forthcoming with their off-season plans and many team initiatives are kept under wraps. But like any good baseball fan, that shouldn’t stop us from speculating.
With this in mind, here are some Blue Jays offseason plans that might be getting less coverage than the effort to re-sign Edwin Encarnacion or bring Josh Reddick to town.
Acquire More Celebrity Fans
With the Chicago Cubs ending their World Series drought this fall, front offices around the league have taken notice of the Cubs’ recipe for success: stock your system with young, high-ceiling position players and stock your luxury suites with as many celebrity fans as possible. John Cusak, Eddie Vedder, and Bill Murray were seen so frequently this postseason that many speculated Murray had taken Jason Heyward’s roster spot.
Jon Heyman reports that Ontario natives The Weeknd, Ryan Gosling and Jim Carrey are celebrities the Blue Jays have expressed interest in recruiting. Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal notes that if the team is looking for more affordable targets, Red Green and Rick Campanelli are available on shorter term deals.
Help Drive Up Edwin Encarnacion’s Price
Just because Toronto might not be able to afford another expensive, over-30, five-year contract on their books doesn’t mean they can’t stay in the Edwin Encarnaction sweepstakes in order to help tie an expensive, over-30, five-year contract to a rivals’ payroll.
Despite already having signed their DH for next season, in aggressively pursuing Edwin Encarnacion, the Blue Jays hope to help their longtime star first baseman wring a few extra million dollars out of his next contract and hopefully push the Red Sox or Astros even closer to that luxury tax threshold.
Transition Rogers Centre Concessions from Canned Beer to Boxed Wine
Beer can projectiles became a problem in Toronto for the second postseason in a row this year. A stadium wide initiative to move from beer to boxed wine eases concerns over player safety and introduces an element of class to a fan base that needs to rebuild its reputation with the rest of the league.
Let Ben Cherington Do Whatever He Did to the Red Sox
Given that Cherington had not previously worked under Shapiro in Cleveland, the mid-season front office hire was subject to little protest (or fanfare). But with all due respect to Francisco Liriano and Melvin Upton Jr., Cherington could be the acquisition of the year.
When you get that sick feeling in your stomach that the Red Sox have Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr, Andrew Benintendi, Yoan Moncada, and Eduardo Rodriguez all under team control for the next thousand years, remember that Ben Cherington made that happen. Those Rick Porcello and Hanley Ramirez contracts don’t look terrible either after 2016 either.
While it’s unconventional to give so much power to a vice-president of baseball operations, let him pick whichever corner office he wants (sorry, Tony LaCava) and let him draft and develop any player he wants.
Get More Athletic by Signing…Kendrys Morales?
Ross Atkins has stated that one of the Blue Jays offseason goals is to make the team more athletic heading into 2017. Surprisingly, this led to Toronto signing the most athletic free agent this side of Bartolo Colon in Kendrys Morales.
While Morales lacks in traditional athleticism, he may make up for in other, yet to be seen ways. The Blue Jays’ front office has recently shown an ability to identify players that have made later career gains that other teams have ignored – like last year’s J.A.Happ signing. Given he hurt himself stepping on home plate, I wouldn’t expect Morales to swipe any bags next season, but the Jays might know something we don’t.
Extend a Qualifying Offer to Season Ticket and Flex Pack Holders
Back to back ALCS appearances has caused attendance at the Rogers Centre skyrocket over the past two seasons. This season, the Jays ranked third in all of baseball in average attendance, behind only the Cardinals and the Dodgers. As expected, prices have begun to rise for both season and single game tickets as Business Ops attempts to monetize the team’s newfound popularity.
In an effort to retain some long-term Blue Jay fans and prevent the stadium from being taken over entirely by fans who think Jose Bautista sucks because he only hits .240, Mark Shapiro would be wise to extend a qualifying offer to longtime ticket holders before the cost of tickets shoots up yet again. The gesture will ensure the Jays retain a key component of the fan base for the future, which figures to be especially important given the team will receive no draft pick compensation if fans decide to leave and buy MLS tickets instead.
Sign George Poulis and the Training Staff to Long-Term Extensions
George Poulis was as damn miracle worker last season. Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin, and Michael Saunders all played over 130 games. The most catastrophic injury on the pitching staff occurred when a reliever rushed the field trying to join a brawl.
Whether it’s Tulo’s pre-game stretching, or that pink juice all the players seem to drink on the bench, Poulis’ magic seems to be working. Re-sign him so he can start working on fixing Devon Travis.
Sign Enough Cuban Free Agents That You Can Trade for Joey Votto or Andrew McCutchen
Much has been said about the Blue Jays newfound ability to flex their financial muscle and spend like the big-market team they are. While this typically means spending on free agents and retaining your own star players, Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have used this financial flexibility to replenish a farm system that was thin at the higher levels.
A midseason trade with the Pirates saw the Blue Jays take on all of Francisco Liriano’s 2017 salary and in exchange, they were able to acquire two prospects, Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez. Last week, they used some of their extra cash to sign Lourdes Gurriel Jr., a 23-year-old Cuban free agent with some upside.
You don’t need to worry about keeping your prospects if can sign half of the Cuban Baseball Federation. Now that the farm system has been replenished, Shapiro and Atkins can once again empty it out to acquire one of the star players rumored to be available. The Blue Jays mortgaged the future once and got two LCS appearances out of it. Seems silly to me that you wouldn’t double down on those results, right?????
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