This is shaping up to be a terrible off-season for the Blue Jays. When your manager and half the coaching staff bolt for greener pastures (a rival which finished last in your division), it doesn't auger well for your chances of landing the top-tier free agents. With only a couple of days before free agency officially starts, the Jays are scrambling for a new manager, instead of lining up their FA targets.
There has been a great deal of skepticism concerning the real-world worth of a manager in the aftermath of John Farrell's defection to the Red Sox (see Cathal Kelly in the Star), but one thing is definite—it helps to have one when selling your team to a player with destination options. How can the Jays hope to lure one of the top free agents to Toronto when they cannot retain their own support personnel?
The Toronto media are taking a 'good riddance' approach to Farrell's departure, suggesting that the third-year manager's in-game gaffes wore thin with the front office. Unfortunately, the rest of the league sees yet another example of a small-market team losing a desirable commodity to the appetite of a 'real' franchise.
It would have been far better, though admittedly mean-spirited, to hire a new manager while making Farrell wait out his final contract year. Spiteful? Emphatically so—but it would have been a strong deterrent for others who might get it into their heads that Toronto is a place to hang your hat until something better comes along.
As it is, the Jays appear to be the franchise equivalent of a booty call—just some non-committal fun when there's nothing else on the horizon.
The problem with being the booty-call recipient is that you tend to acquire a bit of a reputation, and then the really nice guys looking for a long-term relationship look for something a little more respectable—this analogy is getting a little Freudian slippish, isn't it?
Anyways, Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton and Anibal Sanchez are going to have plenty of options, and the muddled Jays aren't going to top the list, even if they were willing to match the highest bids, and let's be honest with ourselves, they won't. Even the second-tier free agents like Shaun Marcum, Edwin Jackson and BJ Upton will have to be offered more than their market value to head to the increasingly desolate North—substantially more.
At this point, GM Alex Anthopoulos' manager search should boil down to "who is the most appealing manager to FA's?" and then signing and announcing him lickety-split. That's about the only way that this offseason won't be a total bust.
It is simply amazing that a team that had so much promise heading into the 2012 season, even without serious expectations for postseason contention, could have fallen so dramatically.
All the gains the franchise made in attendance, fan enthusiasm and optimism for the future is in peril of being washed away by the Toronto-as-perpetual-competitive-black-hole cynicism rekindled by Farrell's desertion.