Trust but Verifiy: What to Believe in Toronto?

Will RaineyContributor IAugust 18, 2009

Well, this has certainly been a fascinating couple of days. I can't remember when I've seen as much outrage among Jays fans online as I have over the failure to sign three of the Jays' top four draft picks yesterday.

It's pretty striking in isolation.

After all, the Jays were clearly not cheaping out overall—they went far over slot on three other players. In addition, one of the longstanding complaints among Jays fans is that the team was very robotic in choosing easy-to-sign players and obediently paying them slot money.

Every summer since the slot system began, the same fans who are now outraged grumbled that the Jays would let a guy like Rick Porcello or Scott Kazmir go by because of signability issues.

Now they take a high-upside, high-risk pick or three, the player doesn't sign, and everyone does an about-face and grumbles they didn't take a player they knew they could sign.

You have to be pretty unfair to not concede that if you draft the hard-to-sign guy, sometimes you won't sign him. Somewhere Miguel Negron must be having a nice chuckle.

I think the level of outrage must be driven by something bigger than a few drafted players. After all, the Jays will get those picks back next year and anyone who follows the draft knows that far more draftees fail than end up being impact players.

I think that in a lot of cases this is simply frustration being vented—not just about the draft, but about the maddening mixed signals we are getting from the team.

There seems to be, on the surface, a dichotomy between the team's actions and what those who get in front of a microphone are saying. What is said has been reasonably consistent this year, but the confusion is coming because the outside observer is too often in the position of asking, "If you mean what you said, then why did you do this?"

For all the communication going on, it's hard for most fans to put the pieces together into a coherent whole.

On the one hand, the draft-signing issue implies that there are both budget issues and, perhaps, that the draft budget changed between the draft and yesterday's deadline.

Then there's the dumping of Alex Rios, the trading of Scott Rolen, and the shopping of Roy Halladay—all signs, in the eyes of many, of a team more focused on saving money than on competing next year, as they have consistently said is their goal.

That the draft budget was low, or changed, is certainly possible, although it would be a very "un-baseball" move that would have had to have come down from Rogers' corporate offices.

I'm pretty skeptical that this is the case.

In the first case, there's no reason to draft the hard-sign if you know your budget is low, and in the second case, even a very bottom-line-oriented ownership would likely not do things on the fly like that.

Concerning the "dumping" of Alex Rios—while I am of the opinion that this move was selling low and that Rios would have had trade value later, every professional baseball person that has commented said it was a good move, so I'm prepared to defer to that collective wisdom.

At the least, all that body of professional opinion lends a pretty decent degree of credibility to the Jays' public defense of the move.

As for Rolen, the feedback on that move has been even more popular. No one loves Scott Rolen more than I do, but when you get back a player who might very well be your No. 1 prospect next spring for a 34-year-old guy with a history of injuries who had asked to be moved, there's no reason on Earth why you should presume that's a budget-driven move.

Now, in regards to the Halladay matter, I think it's clear that there was a lot more media-created smoke there than there was fire. One can debate the wisdom of anything that Jays officials said in any given interview to be sure, but it's not like they could have taken any offers without it being reported, and once it's reported, the circus rolls into town.

I think an argument can be made that if the Jays really wanted that much, that maybe it was futile and counter-productive to ever take offers in the first place.

That's one of those theoreticals you'll never have an answer to because if they hadn't listened, it could have been argued they could have gotten (for instance) Kershaw, Kemp, and Martin from the Dodgers and there would have been no way to disprove it.

On the other hand, in contrast to the perceived budget-minded actions, the public commentary from Paul Beeston on down remains focused on a storyline that professes both a lot of money available and a firm commitment to make their play in 2010.

Witness JP's interview with WEEI's Rob Bradford, posted today in which he all but comes out and states what Bob McCowan has been hinting at on the FAN590:

"You have to realize that we're a club that had a $20 million cut in payroll this year. So with that savings going into next year, along with the Rolen savings, along with the players we acquired for Rolen, we were able to hopefully utilize that money to address some of our needs."

The only way to read that quote, and in the context of his overall comments, that makes any sense is that the Jays "banked" $20 million this year in order to add it to next year's payroll—that implies not $100 million for 2010, but $120 million.

This is consistent with what Beeston has been saying all along.


Possibly. Lord knows we've been lied to before. But despite the stereotype of being all over the map, the claims are at least consistent. None of us can say for sure whether or not they intend to follow through.

Also worth considering is assistant GM Alex Anthopoulos' interview on Baseball Today with Mike Wilner.

Anthopoulos told Wilner flatly that in previous years, the Jays had considered signability as a very important factor in who they drafted, but this year, they had consciously changed (I'm guessing a direct result of Beeston taking over from Godfrey) their philosophy to take the best player on the boards, regardless of what it cost.

He admits, obviously, that this means sometimes you are not going to sign every pick, but he argues that the players you do sign will have a higher ceiling and that ultimately, the farm system will be stronger with fewer high-ceiling guys than more low-ceiling guys. That's debatable of course, but it's not the sort of thing a bottom-line team is likely to do.

So it seems to me that one of two things is happening, either Jays ownership and management is going way out of their way to deceive the fan base—to create the illusion of extravagance where none is intended—which will of course mean enduring the inevitable backlash when they finally do admit they are cutting payroll, or they really do intend to spend a lot of money and it really was a baseball-only decision to dump Rios and deal Rolen and "shop" Doc—even if we as fans don't entirely understand the logic.

Between those two options, call me gullible, but the latter makes more sense than the former.

Does this mean I'm "believing the lies?"

No. I don't, at this point, believe anything until I see it. But just because the team has engendered cynicism in me doesn't mean I surrender my logic to that emotion.

Logically, it makes no sense to insist you will spend knowing that at some point you have to admit you aren't.

There's no upside.

My emotions say "screw them, I won't believe their lies," but my reason says there's only one reason to make those claims—if you intend to actually back them up.

On another, mostly unrelated, note, Travis Snider rejoins the Jays and is getting ready to take the field in right for the Jays tonight. Bastian tweets that Gaston is on record that Snider will play against everyone.

'Bout damned time.

He's several days under the presumed Super Two line, so let's put that discussion in the rear-view and hope he brought the smokin' bats from Vegas.


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