Christmas Came Early for the Toronto Blue Jays

Matt Antaya / @selfcynic

Given our recent taste of winter, it seems an ideal time to talk baseball (or anything else that doesn’t remind us of snow… it never gets old.) 

Christmas came early for Jays fans with the acquisitions of Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson. 

If these names are unfamiliar, please add them to your lexicon immediately. These two impact players, acquired in separate deals, are both gritty former All-Stars who arrive from winning teams with winning attitudes. Their presence on the field, in the lineup, and in the clubhouse will be obvious – this is especially true for Martin who, as starting catcher, will help bring out the best in the Jays’ young pitching staff. 

General manager Alex Anthopoulos has demonstrated that, in 2015, the team means business. The core group of players (think Bautista, Encarnacion, and Reyes) is not getting any younger, and the Jays no longer have the luxury of waiting for prospects to develop. Anthopoulos knows he must add players that can perform immediately to support this core.

The time to win is now. 

That said, it’s difficult to ignore the lingering holes that remain unfilled. Several unproven youngsters competing for centerfield, a variety of not-ideal options at second base, and a bullpen that’s several arms short of intimidating.  There’s plenty of winter remaining to remedy these blisters, assuming Rogers is willing to pay the bill. 

In order to welcome change, the team must also part with the past. The list of names that will no longer be with the team in 2015 is further evidence of their desire to win. After acquiring Canadian-born Michael Saunders from Seattle, the Jays let free-agent Melky Cabrera know that they were no longer interested. Trades have seen the departure of Adam Lind and Anthony Gose. While Colby Rasmus, Brandon Morrow, Dustin McGowan and Sergio Santos were all allowed to walk away. And let’s not forget to bid farewell to Brett Lawrie (who’s trade to Oakland helped bring us Josh Donaldson). Lawrie’s diehard fans are angry, but truthfully we so got the better end of that deal.

The annual ‘Winter Meetings’ took place last week in San Diego. The weeklong gathering of general managers, players, and agents resulted in several days of highly concentrated baseball news, trades, free agent signings, and other negotiations. As predicted, the Jays had nothing to announce – Anthopoulos has long said the meetings – for him – are more about discussion and less about taking action. With much left to accomplish, let’s hope Anthopoulos can channel his inner-Elvis before the spring arrives. 

Buzzword of the Week: The Hot Stove League
The “hot stove league” (or just the “hot stove”) is not really a league at all. It refers to the baseball off-season when teams negotiate trades, sign free agents, and otherwise take steps to improve their rosters. Before the days of email and cell phones, much of these negotiations would take place at the ‘Baseball Winter Meetings’ – a weeklong gathering of managers, players and agents in mid-December. 

Today, with Twitter and other social media everywhere, general managers must go to great lengths to conduct their discussions beyond the view of reporters – fearful that leaked details could derail an agreement before the contracts are signed.

However, teams, players, and agents have also been known to use that same media to purposely influence a negotiation. It becomes a tactical game of secretly leaking details: “Here’s the deal I’m about to make. Can anyone offer me better?” 

As the off-season gives way to spring training, many pundits will speculate about which teams did the best job improving their clubs – essentially winning the hot stove league. But the only true winner is the team that can translate those upgrades into tangible results in the upcoming season.

So what have you learned?

– The Jays are in a ‘win now’ state of mind.
– Additions Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson will help the team find that winning attitude.
– Despite its name, the Hot Stove sees little action.
– We’re winning Christmas (or something like that).

We suggest you keep warm over the holidays, and we’ll be back before the snow melts with another breakdown of the best damn (and only) ball club north of the border.


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