Anthopoulos building a contender

Nov 30, 2014 by

Anthopoulos building a contender

Landing Josh Donaldson, the best all-round third baseman in baseball, in a trade from Oakland on American thanksgiving gives Canadian Blue Jays fans an opportunity to give thanks for a second time this year. It was a shocking trade that has GM’s around the league wondering aloud why they weren’t in on Billy Beane’s Black Friday special. It certainly is too early to tell how the young Blue Jays prospects in the deal will develop in Oakland or if Brett Lawrie will fulfil his enormous potential, but there is certainty surrounding Donaldson. In the last few seasons he has emerged as one of the games’ best power hitters, a gold glove third baseman and an MVP candidate. Sweetening things further is that he doesn’t become a free agent for another four years and he is just now hitting his prime. On the surface it seems like a deal that is too good to be true for the Jays, but it should be noted that Beane has made a career out of successfully making similar moves in the past. Regardless of who ‘wins’ this trade in the long run, in the short-term the Jays have added another big bat to the lineup and with the free-agent signing of Russell Martin the Jays are positioning themselves as a legitimate contender for 2015.

Alex Anthopoulos is doing his part to bring back playoff baseball and he should be lauded for doing so. Clearly there are still holes in the lineup, most obviously in the outfield, second base and the bullpen, but free-agency has barely begun. Based on the moves already made it seems safe to assume that Anthopoulos will address these issues before spring training begins. The question is who is going to fill these roles? Re-signing Melky Cabrera would be an excellent start but it’s clear he is taking his time looking for the best deal possible and he may become too expensive for the Jays. In fairness though he hasn’t ruled out Toronto and based on the rhetoric floating in the media and from his agent there appears to be a good chance that he still returns. Even if he doesn’t re-sign, Anthopoulos likely has a few very good alternatives in mind either through trade or free-agency. Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce’s name has entered the rumour mill and free agent Nori Aoki could potentially fill Melkys role and at a reduced salary.

Second base and the bullpen are also areas that will need to be addressed, but how these roles get filled is murkier than projecting potential outfielders. Based on what’s already been done by the Jays GM it’s hard to leave any scenario out on how Anthopoulos will address the teams needs or even upgrade existing strengths; there are even rumblings that the Jays are interested in stud pitcher Jon Lester (something I suggested not long ago). That idea might sound ludicrous given the money Chicago and Boston would be willing to spend to get Lester, but Anthopoulos has given fans a reason to believe that anything is possible. When was the last time we said that about the Toronto Blue Jays front office?

It’s still early in the offseason but Anthopoulos has already significantly upgraded the catcher and third base positions and there’s no reason to believe another impact move or two isn’t in the offing. The Maple Leafs are playing winning hockey, the Raptors are first in the East and the Blue Jays could be putting the final touches on a very special offseason. For long-suffering Toronto sports fans it’s time we give thanks (to Billy Beane at least), for the first time this century we finally have reason to.


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