Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have been seen their fair share of criticism since arriving from Cleveland in 2015.
To be honest, the criticism they have faced hasn’t come without reason. Since arriving, the front office has spent little to no money on the roster. In hindsight a majority of their decisions have been correct but when your most impactful move is acquiring Trent Thornton for Aledmys Diaz, it’s fair to start asking questions.
After this past years deadline was unsuccessful the front office was under a microscope entering this offseason. Fans were demanding a rise in payroll to surround the young talent that cracked the major league roster in 2019, and the front office deserves credit for doing just that.
The offseason started slow but the Jays made their splash by signing ace Hyun-Jin Ryu to a 4-year, $80 million contract. Alongside other small risk moves, it made the Blue Jays one of the biggest spenders of the winter.
Bringing a pitcher into the AL East is always worrying but Ryu has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past few years when healthy. The best way to view this deal is in comparison to when the up and coming Chicago Cubs inked Jon Lester to a six-year, $155 million deal in 2015. That contract in the end helped bring a World Series to Chicago so maybe it will do the same for Toronto. Wishful thinking everybody.
Shun Yamaguchi, 32, finally decided to make the move from Japan to North America and the Jays snatched him up. Yamaguchi led the Japanese League with 194 strikeouts in 2019 and had an ERA of 2.78. It doesn’t matter if he fills out the rotation or is an arm in the bullpen, his 2-year deal worth a max value of $9.15 million it can’t go wrong.
Tanner Roark was brought in on a 2-year, $24 million pact to do one thing, eat innings. Roark hasn’t thrown less than 165 innings in a season since 2015. Since that year he has thrown over 180 innings three times and in 2016 he surpassed 200 and finished the season with 210. Roark will help solidify a rotation that went through too many pitchers to count in 2019. He is the first legitimate inning eater the Jays have had since the departure of R.A. Dickey.
Travis Shaw comes to Toronto on a one-year, $4 million deal. After two fantastic seasons in 2017 and 2018 Shaw struggled with injuries in 2019 and couldn’t find his swing. It resulted in a demotion to AAA and he ended up playing in only 86 games for Milwaukee in 2019. If Shaw can re-find his stroke which netted him back to back 30 home run seasons this deal will be a steal for the Blue Jays. If not, he comes off the books in 2020 and we all forget it even happened. Win win.
The number one priority this offseason was to improve the dreadful starting rotation that was thrown out there in 2019. The front office has done that. They made the largest free agent signing in franchise history with Ryu, and while not flashy, the additions of Roark, Anderson, and Yamaguchi helps build the pitching staff so they don’t get battered day in and day out like last season.
So props Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins, you brought a star to Toronto. It’s gonna take a lot to win the stacked AL East in the coming years, but this is a good start.