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TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Hired Indians Vice President for Player Personnel Ross Atkins as General Manager. [12/3]

Who would ever want to be king? Not Ross Atkins, apparently, because he sure won’t be in Toronto. The continued ascension of analytical decision-making within baseball front offices has had a number of pleasant consequences (including, for local example, the steady migration of analysts from BP to various sabermetrically inclined organizations) but most relevant among them is this: Teams have finally realized how much return on investment they can get from dollars spent on front office talent, and have consequently hired more of it.

That’s led to a new problem for teams at the top, in the form of too many talented people. Whereas, 10 years ago, the vast majority of teams would’ve seen two talented executives as a choice rather than an opportunity, teams of today are willing to spend money—sometime big money—to bring multiple talented people on board at the top. Hence, Atkins as GM, which is a promotion from his role in Cleveland (hiring laterally from competitors is still frowned upon in the industry). His new boss is Blue Jays’ President and CEO Mark Shapiro, who bears a striking resemblance to his old boss in Cleveland, Indians' President Mark Shapiro.

So what’ll really change in Toronto? Not much, probably, in the short term. Since Shapiro came aboard in late October, the Blue Jays have done a pretty solid job retooling for 2016: They’ve traded for Jesse Chavez, re-signed Marco Estrada and (after he sojourned elsewhere) reunited with J.A. Happ. That’s given them a deep rotation (even with Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna in the bullpen), which they’ll supplement with a position player core that would return mostly intact even if Shapiro and Atkins went on vacation from now until February. Sure, they’ll probably tinker with the roster here and there—left field, for example, could use some work—but the team is mostly done with the heavy lifting.

That’s not to say that Atkins won’t have an impact. In a general sense, he’ll probably make Shapiro more Shapiro-like, in the sense that they’ve already worked together for 15 years. If you liked the direction you thought Shapiro would take the team when he was hired, you should read this move as as improvement in his ability to steer the team that way. In a more specific sense, though, Atkins’ experience with player personnel decisions will be invaluable over the course of the 2016 season, when the team has to make big decisions about which direction to go during what’s sure to be a complicated 2016-17 offseason. Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and R.A. Dickey will all be free agents next year, and while Dickey might make for a relatively uncomplicated decision, the team won’t have unlimited money to keep their two sluggers—and Josh Donaldson is a free agent in 2019.

It’s also worth contemplating what this means for interim (or, I suppose you could say, former) Toronto GM Tony LaCava, whose time with the organization preceded both Shapiro and Atkins, and who now finds himself third, at best, on the org chart and without a committed advocate at the top. Now, the Blue Jays just announced that LaCava will get a promotion—from AGM to Senior VP for Baseball Ops— so he probably won’t jet off any time too soon, but Toronto fans should watch him closely to see whether or not he seems to integrate well into the new leadership team. In the meantime, though, they should be happy: Their leadership team just got deeper and stronger, and all it cost was money. That’s the cheapest thing in the game these days.

Thank you for reading

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bhacking
12/04
The Jays have no catching depth at all and the bullpen is still a big hole with the loss of Hendricks, Lowe, Hawkins and Sanchez if he moves to the rotation.

So I'm surprised to see a second post in less than week about left field where the Jays have Ben Revere and the (hopefully healthy) return of Michael Saunders not to mention Pompey who hopefully grows at AAA.
rianwatt
12/04
Morning! I wrote both posts, so I'll take this one. I take your point about catching depth, though I'd argue that it's hard to make the case that catcher, as a whole, is a position of need (since Russell Martin is still good), or that catcher depth, in particular, is of greater need than left field, where Revere is about to enter his decline years as an average hitter and a defense-first player with a -7.8 FRAA in '15. Still, catching depth is a real need, and it wasn't mentioned, so it would have been appropriate for me to mention.

The bullpen I'm less bearish on. Why move Sanchez into the rotation when there are six plausible starters already there? Stroman, Happ, Chavez, Dickey, Estrada, and Hutchinson should be fine. So yes, a few more arms would be good, but those can be had on the waiver-wire and--as with catching depth, but even more so--will be marginal contributors relative to the 600+ ABs whoever's manning left will take in '16.

Anyway. The broader point isn't that there aren't a few holes (I mention that in the piece) but that, if only mentioning one, LF is a perfectly reasonable one to choose. If I was writing a longer piece, I'd absolutely include both areas you mentioned.
bhacking
12/04
Thanks for the reply and -7.8 FRAA does line up with what my eyes saw this year so that's a fair point. If the Jays stick with the current outfield in '16 perhaps Saunders will come in as a late inning defensive replacement.
rianwatt
12/04
Yeah, I like him. Thanks for reading!
bleaklewis
12/04
It'll be interesting to see if Shapiro's general pattern of acquiring talent via trades and struggling and getting talent out of the draft follows him to Toronto.