Jeff Blair: I live under a bridge; I charge a toll

If you like reading a GM’s words sliced and diced to fit one man’s feather-ruffling narrative, then I highly suggest reading Globe columnist Jeff Blair’s exercise in troll-o-nomics, “Jays left to wheel and deal their way through offseason“. Blair begins his article by reporting that revenue increased across the board in 2012 and as a direct result the Blue Jays’ payroll will increase for 2013.

Isn’t that good news then? No, says Blair, because the window for spending their way to success closed last season when “bold, budget stretching moves” were a sure bet. Forget that last offseason there were far more question marks than now including a bullpen which was in shambles, uncertainty about the expected performance of potential key cogs in Lawrie, Rasmus, and EE, and/or the presence of low-cost prospects/freshly healthy veterans that could perform at or near any free agent acquisition’s level. Forget that apart from Bautista, the core of the team prior to 2012 was not yet at their peak (much less their decline) phases and the team could have used another year of experience and development to best determine its long-term needs.

This off-season, “bold, budget stretching moves” are not fashionable with Blair because there are “at best, two front-of-the-rotation pitchers on the free agent market.” The one he names, Zack Greinke, he identifies as a pitcher who previously blocked a trade to Toronto. Even if he were convinced to come to Toronto, Blair believes, it would take a leap of faith of AJ Burnett-ian proportions to acquire him. True, the Jays took a rather big leap of faith in awarding Burnett a 5-year, $55 M deal in 2006, but Blair is actually understating the risk the Jays would take on to lure Greinke north of the border. Greinke will likely become the highest-paid pitcher in history this offseason for at least the 6 years and $144 M that pending free agent Cole Hamels signed for with the Phillies. AJ Burnett got paid like a top No. 2 in his prime when the Jays inked him, not an elite No. 1 in his prime.

An AJ Burnett-ian leaps of faith during the upcoming offseason will likely get the Jays what they got in 2006… a No. 2-3 starter at a price below what legitimate No. 1’s made/make. A Burnett-ian leap would likely get the Jays an Anibal Sanchez, a Dan Haren, an Edwin Jackson or maybe even a Jake Peavy. It gets the Jays a front-of-the-rotation starter with a few question marks and it gets them for a term that bridges the gap until the Lansing 3 will conceivably be ready to contribute. Not sure what Blair’s got against that.

However, Blair believes for some reason that this year’s crop of free agent starters is different and are incapable of transforming the Jays into a playoff team as opposed to CJ Wilson (5 years, $77.5 M), Yu Darvish (6 years, $60 M + ~$50 M), or Mark Buehrle (4 years, $48 M) who were available in 2012. Even with the acquisition of last year’s top free agent starter CJ Wilson and the midseason acquisition of Greinke failed to bring the Angels to the playoffs. Wilson was a massive disappointment for the Angels in his first year by producing just 0.4 bWAR. He should be expected to bounce back to have productive seasons but the Angels will likely have a hard time getting value out of Wilson considering his age.

Yu Darvish wound up rated as the best pitcher of the litter by bWAR in 2012, but considering the fact that he had yet to even throw a pitch in the Majors, to say his signing didn’t take a leap of faith far beyond AJ Burnett-ian proportions would be simply dishonest. Mark Buehrle was good for his typical 200+ innings after his move to the NL but will be 37 when his deal expires and despite his success it still seems unlikely he’d have maintained his form for the life of the deal in the AL East. ICYMI, Miami did not make the playoffs though another team, the Washington Nationals and good luck charm and free-agent acquisition Edwin Jackson did.

Not every team can have a legitimate No. 1 on their roster, there’s not enough to go around. Nor do they need them. In 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series without a legitimate No. 1. They did have a wealth of quality No. 2-3 pitchers which provided the pitching necessary to not only get to the playoffs (pre-second Wild Card) but to win it all. Sometimes, it’s enough to have a potent offense (which the Jays possess already when healthy), a strong bullpen (which the Jays have done well to put in place this year) and a well-balanced quality rotation.

But hey, when guided by troll-o-nomics, it’s not about honesty but page views. Disagree with the Jays’ front office if you will Blair, but at least attack them with some basis in the way the world works.  The Jays’ season was a complete disappointment that has the fan base, especially the more irritable/irrational crowd, feeling a bit edgy and quite impressionable. It’s a perfect time to be a dick and rile them up some more. But leave that for the bloggers in their parent’s basements. If you’re writing for a big outfit, you have a greater responsibility to properly inform the people of Toronto and the rest of the country.

Note of Honesty: I no longer have the privilege of reading @GloBlair’s tidbits of realness on twitter for I have been blocked by the Globe columnist for having the audacity to question how Phil Kessel could not be considered a bright spot of the 2011-12 NHL season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He had career highs in several semi-important categories… like goals, assists, and points.

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