TORONTO -- Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro understands the frustration Blue Jays fans have experienced during a season of rebuilding.
Ahead of Thursday night’s series-opening 12-6 loss against the Yankees at Rogers Centre, Toronto was on pace for a 65-win season and sitting ahead of only the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. And while Shapiro’s optimism for what’s to come has been boosted by the performance of several young players, he recognizes the importance of improving in the win column.
“Winning will fix everything, without a doubt,” Shapiro said on Thursday. “There’s no question in my mind. And that’s ultimately the only thing that will satisfy people. [I] sympathize with the frustration. No one likes to go through any period other than winning, particularly when it means changing players people build a strong attachment to and identity with.
“We’ve got a group of really great guys who, as they begin to win together, our fans will form a strong attachment and appreciation for Bo Bichette, for Vladdy [Guerrero Jr.], for Cavan [Biggio], for Nate Pearson and Danny Jansen. … Ultimately, you’ve got to win. Everything is solved by winning.”
So, how are the Blue Jays planning to get there? Shapiro sat down with the Toronto media on Thursday to address that question and others.
How will the club seek to improve its roster?
“We will certainly have to and will supplement that internal group of players and look to do it as soon as this offseason,” Shapiro said. “But it’s not a great offseason for free-agent talent.
“Clearly, starting pitching is the area where we’ve got to spend the bulk of our resources, maybe some bullpen pieces as well. Other than that, position-player-wise, we likely have good alternatives that we at least need to give opportunities to and continue to play.
“I feel confident [wins are] going to come. But most importantly, whether it’s our players, whether it’s [manager] Charlie [Montoyo] and our staff, whether it’s our front office, we feel a sense of urgency to win. We’re doing everything humanly possible to push that envelope. Every little thing we can do. With human beings, there is no finite date you can give, but we’re not going to set a limit to how soon that can happen, and we hope that can happen faster than anyone thinks is possible.”
How much financial flexibility does the team have?
According to Baseball Prospectus, the Blue Jays reduced their payroll about $45 million this season. Shapiro was asked when there might be an uptick in spending again.
“The only directive from ownership is to run a business that doesn’t lose money,” he said. “Obviously payroll’s going to reflect revenue, and revenues are down because attendance is down. Part of the plan from day one, and part of the understanding, has been that there will be a time that we need to outspend, outpace revenue with spending on players.
“We’ll have the flexibility to do that starting this offseason, because when you’re young, by nature your payroll goes down. But as we start to mature and guys start to get in their prime, they’re going to become more expensive. We need to make sure we A., keep those players in place and B., we add the necessary pieces at the right time.”
How does the team add more pitching?
Shapiro is bullish on the Blue Jays’ young rotation and the pitching depth within the Minor League system. He cited more than a dozen up-and-coming pitchers during the conversation as examples.
But Shapiro also acknowledged that there is likely to be a time when the organization will have to supplement its homegrown pitching from the outside.
“We’ve got to figure out at a minimum three starters from that entire group in a championship window,” Shapiro said. “And then recognize that we’re going to either sign for or trade for a couple starters. That’s just the reality. And then some of those guys will end up being bullpen guys; that’s just what happens as well.
“Some will get hurt because pitching is a game of attrition, that’s just the nature of it. And there will probably be a name or two -- like a Joey Murray -- that no one was talking about a year ago, [who] comes out of nowhere and factors into this.”
How will the organization evaluate the rest of this season?
While the young core continues to gain experience at the Major League level, the Blue Jays will use this time to help determine the club’s next steps and offseason plans.
“The more information that we can have as these guys transition -- defensive positions; where the development most needs to be concentrated and happen; where the potential gaps might exist for us as we think about planning moving forward; how they handle the pressures, anxieties and challenges of Major League life and the things that go with that -- all those things, we'll get a lot more insight,” Shapiro said.
“Every game matters. Every opportunity helps. And we're going to use every one of those as a pearl, to take advantage of them and learn something from.”