It seems as if Toronto Blue Jays fans are feeling a little frustrated this offseason. Big things were expected to happen, and so far, the Jays have made very little noise on the free agent market.
Fans are starting to question GM Alex Anthopolus' motives for this team, but I think it's a little unfair, to say the least. Fans have been waiting for a big-name free agent to join the team this year, and it hasn't happened.
Questions keep popping up such as, who will protect Jose Bautista in the lineup if we don't sign Prince Fielder? Who can fill out the rotation since we didn't win the Yu Darvish sweepstakes? Are we really going to rely on a second-year closer to handle that duty again? It didn't work out last time.
Fans need to realize that Anthopolus has a much different mind set than former GM J.P. Ricciardi. And while fans have been waiting 17 years for the Jays to make the playoffs, AA has only been around for just over three years, so that is where his timeline starts. It's not like he has been building this team since he was in high school.
What is different is that Ricciardi would complain about everything and point to anything but himself as to reasons why the Jays weren't winning: it's a tough division; we don't have the same kind of payroll as the Yankees and the Red Sox; our farm system has been depleted, and we don't want to sign international free agents.
So, Ricciardi was given more money and different scouts, and what did he do? Spend as much as he could every year and only draft players he felt he needed at the big league level.
Does Anthopolus complain about the division? No, he loves it and can't wait for the Jays to be ahead of the Beasts from the East.
Does he waste money? He apparently has been told by ownership that he can have some money, and instead of throwing it away in one season, he goes the conservative trading route instead.
When it comes to scouting, AA wants the best available player regardless of what position he plays. And the Blue Jays are once again an attractive destination to international free agents—they landed Adeiny Hechavarria and were right in the thick of the bidding wars for Aroldis Chapman and Yu Darvish.
Ricciardi said at the beginning that he has a three-year plan (or maybe it was a five-year that turned into a God-awful eight) that will make the Jays competitive again.
Ricciardi's best drafted product of the time? Russ Adams. His best free agent signing? Take your pick of A.J. Burnett, Troy Glaus, Lyle Overbay or Frank Thomas. His best contract extension? Vernon Wells certainly was the largest, but the best is hard to say.
It wasn't until much later that other picks such as Aaron Hill, Adam Lind and Ricky Romero started to emerge, and by then, J.P.'s time was just about up.
But enough of the bad memories. What I love about this new regime is how they want to connect to the fanbase.
On Saturday, the players held a coaching clinic for about 200 kids at Rogers Centre. They are also about to embark on their winter tour that will take them out East and into the Maritimes. The Jays ownership realizes the marketing potential as Canada's team. They want the players to connect with the fans, and vice-versa.
The one sure way of making this happen is by having a consistent winning product on the field. The Jays are working their way towards that, and while it may have been a little frustrating to watch this slow motion offseason, fans need to realize that 2013 will be the real year of contention for the Blue Jays.
Why? Well let's take a look at the last couple of years. 2010 was AA's first full season on the job. It was about shedding payroll and acquiring small pieces for the contention years. 2011 was a learning curve for John Farrell, Jose Bautista and others, while continuing to add little pieces as the main puzzle was starting to take shape.
The 2012 season will be about which players are ready to make that leap to help the Jays be a winner, and which guys will be used as trade bait in order for Anthopolus to find the last few pieces of the puzzle.
I can see 2013 being the year that the Jays add a Jack Morris and Dave Winfield. By then, a lot more questions will be answered, and the Jays will know if there plan is set to be put into full motion.
With all that said, let's take a look at the 2012 roster—see what we found out about these players in 2011, what will happen to them in 2012, and if they will be around for 2013 and beyond.