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Organizational Rankings: #20

Today, we keep looking at some teams that have legitimate hope, so it gets harder from here on out. And, for those of you who haven’t seen the previous parts (which are linked below), keep in mind that this is a forward looking exercise – we are evaluating clubs on their overall ability to contend for a World Series title in the future. We are not evaluating how they have performed historically. This is about the health of each organization going forward.

Rankings So Far

#30: Washington Nationals
#29: Florida Marlins
#28: Houston Astros
#27: Kansas City Royals
#26: Pittsburgh Pirates
#25: San Diego Padres
#24: Cincinnati Reds
#23: Colorado Rockies
#22: Detroit Tigers
#21: St. Louis Cardinals

#20: Toronto Blue Jays

Ownership: C+

Being owned by a corporate conglomeration is generally not a great thing for a baseball team. While every team is run as a business, there is less incentive for the team to try to win at the expense of making money, and therefore, more emphasis is placed on profit and loss statements than on winning records. However, among corporate owners, Rogers is better than most – they’ve expanded team payroll significantly since taking over, and with a 2008 payroll of near $100 million, the Jays certainly had enough money to build a contender. Whether they will be allowed to sustain that level of payroll remains to be seen, however.

Front Office: C

J.P. Ricciardi does a lot of things well. He’s done a good job of identifying undervalued talent, has built up a terrific bullpen by acquiring players other teams didn’t want, has put an outstanding defensive team behind his pitching staff, and has built a team that is somewhat competitive in a ridiculously tough division. However, he also does a lot of things wrong; driving significant amounts of good talent out of his front office with his abrasive personality, being over-involved in draft day decisions, and publicly insulting random players for no particular reason. The team’s scouting department was dismantled when he took over, and it still hasn’t recovered. It doesn’t help that Tony LaCava is interviewing for every possible GM job that opens up, which will add to the brain drain in Toronto when his predictable departure comes to pass. At this point, it’s a legitimate question how much longer J.P. is going to be the guy calling the shots in Toronto.

Major League Talent: C+

For the last few years, the Jays have put a very good defense behind a very good pitching staff to make up for a weak offense, and it’s been somewhat successful. However, the Jays lost A.J. Burnett to free agency and both Dustin McGowan and Shaun Marcum are recovering from significant injuries, leaving their rotation as a land of question marks. Their deep, strong bullpen and still quality defense should allow them to cover for the loss of three good arms to a degree, but it’s going to be nearly impossible for them to have the lowest ERA in baseball again. To add to their 87 win total from last year, then, they’re going to have to score more often than they did last year, and it’s hard to see where that kind of boost is going to come from. In reality, this is a team that is going to have to fight the Orioles to stay out of last place, and that probably means they should be looking at getting young, but they have some onerous contracts on the books that won’t be easy to move and J.P. might not be willing to start a rebuilding project that would probably mean the end of his job.

Minor League Talent: B

The Jays have done a good job of drafting lately, snagging quality prospects such as Travis Snider, J.P. Arincibia, Brett Cecil, and David Cooper. Hitting on their first round picks with college players has given them a core of young players with some real upside who could be in Toronto sooner rather than later, and for a team that could use an infusion of talent, that’s a life saver. The dropoff after those four is fairly substantial, however, and while there’s some interesting players, the system isn’t deep enough to support a full scale rebuild, if that’s deemed necessary.

Overall: C+

From a micro perspective, there’s quite a bit of talent in the Toronto organization – high quality players such as Alex Rios and Roy Halladay, surrounded by good young role players such as Aaron Hill, and some useful veterans like Scott Rolen. However, from a macro perspective, the team has enough flaws to make them significant longshots to keep up with the New York/Boston/Tampa triumvirate in 2009, and another year of middling success might not save Ricciardi’s job. The Jays are in a tough division, but as the Rays have shown, a well run organization can overcome competition. The Jays don’t qualify as a well run organization right now.