Now's the time: GM motivating Blue Jays
Toronto's big moves designed for short-term success, with future to be determined
In the world of uncertainty hanging over the Toronto Blue Jays, one thing is certain -- general manager Alex Anthopoulos is putting it all on the table right now.
The future? Who knows?
Blue Jays president Paul Beeston will step down at season's end, leaving the status of Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons in question, particularly in light of the team's inability to capitalize on the pre-2013 roster bolstering orchestrated by Anthopoulos.
Anthopoulos, however, isn't going quietly, if he has to go at all. He has shaken up the trade market in the past couple of days. First came the acquisition of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who is under control for the next five seasons. And then, on Thursday, came the addition of left-hander David Price, a two-month investment that Toronto is hoping will help end the longest postseason drought in North American professional sports.
The Blue Jays won back-to-back World Series championships in 1992-93, the only team other than the Yankees to pull off that feat since the 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds. There has not been much to celebrate since.
The Blue Jays finished higher than third place in the American League East only once in the past 21 seasons -- in 2006, when they were 10 games back of the division-winning Yankees and eight games back of Wild Card Detroit.
They finished less than 10 games out of first place in the AL East only once in those 21 seasons -- in 2000, when they were third in the AL East, 4 1/2 behind the first-place Yanks, but eight games behind Wild Card Seattle. Toronto finished 20 games or more out of first place eight times.
Hey, a year ago, the Kansas City Royals made it to Game 7 of the World Series, ending a 29-year postseason drought that left the Blue Jays at the bottom of the October invitation list.
Why not Toronto in 2015?
The Blue Jays made a lot of noise during the offseason prior to 2013. They added starting pitchers R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle, outfielder Melky Cabrera and shortstop Jose Reyes, among others, but finished in last place that season and third place last season.
That prompted another refinement this past offseason. They signed free-agent catcher Russell Martin and acquired third baseman Josh Donaldson and right-handed starting pitcher Marco Estrada in trades.
It still wasn't enough.
When Tulowitzki showed up at Rogers Centre to make his Blue Jays debut on Wednesday, the team was actually a game below .500, but in the AL Wild Card race, and Anthopoulos wasn't about to sit back, cross his fingers and hope things would turn out the way he wanted in 2015.
Anthopoulos likes his job. He wants to keep it. He knows what another October without a postseason could mean for himself and Gibbons, the manager Anthopoulos brought back in 2013 for a second tour.
And with Friday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline approaching, Anthopoulos has gone full steam ahead, looking to make the present a time to celebrate. The future is something he -- or someone else -- can worry about later.
First came the deal for Tulowitzki and veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins, which saw Toronto ship Reyes to Colorado -- along with right-handed pitchers Jeff Hoffman, who was ranked the third-best prospect in the Blue Jays' system, Miguel Castro (No. 5) and Jesus Tinoco (No. 29).
And then came a late-night call from Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski on Wednesday, checking on how serious the Blue Jays were about Price. Less than four hours later, at 3 a.m. ET on Thursday, Anthopoulos had shown he was so serious that he would meet Detroit's asking price -- left-handed pitcher Daniel Norris, who was ranked as the top prospect in Toronto's system and 25th overall, along with emerging southpaws Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt.
"We haven't had a true No. 1 since Roy Halladay was here,'' Anthopoulos said at a news conference to announce the addition of Price. "That type of impact of those No. 1 starters can make you a great team all by themselves."
Now the Blue Jays have one, for two months at least. Will Price be enough to make a difference?
Halladay wasn't. A first-round Draft choice of the Blue Jays in 1995, Halladay was a six-time All-Star with Toronto and the 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner, but in eight full seasons and parts of four others with the Blue Jays, he never made a postseason appearance.
But then, the Blue Jays have never had a front office as persistent in looking for the missing pieces to the puzzle as Anthopoulos has been the past three years.
And they have never been able to claim a rotation trifecta like Price, a five-time All-Star and former AL Cy Young Award winner; Buehrle, a five-time All-Star himself; and Dickey, a National League Cy Young Award winner with the Mets in 2012.
With that kind of a 1-2-3, Toronto is well-armed for a postseason run. The challenge is getting to the playoffs.
The Blue Jays are banking that Price is right to get them there.