Organizational Rankings: #26 – Toronto

If life was fair, the Blue Jays would be higher on this list. They have some good young talent, they have a lot of pitching depth, and they have a GM who looks like he knows what he’s doing. But, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room – two of them, actually. The Yankees and Red Sox have taken up residence at the top of the AL East, and they aren’t looking to move any time soon. The other three teams in the division have essentially been handcuffed into needing everything to go exactly right in order to sneak into the playoffs.

There’s no chance that Toronto gets lucky enough to win the AL East this year. Everything could break exactly right, they could get a plethora of career years, and 3rd place is still their ceiling. That’s just life in the toughest division in baseball. And, unfortunately for them, that really hurts their chances of winning in the next few years, so they have to look towards the future.

There are reasons for optimism going forward. Snider and Lind can hit, and Aaron Hill is a good up the middle player in his prime. They’ve become a bullpen factory, spitting out good reliever after good reliever. And now, the rotation is full of upside, with interesting arms everywhere you look. As we talked about a few months ago, they also are going to have a ton of money to spend next winter, as nearly all of the role players are on expiring contracts, so Toronto will theoretically be able to go shopping for a new star hitter.

But, in the AL East, it just won’t be enough. They’re a long ways from catching Boston, New York, and Tampa Bay in terms of talent. They’ll never have the resources of the Red Sox or Yankees, and they’d have to seriously upgrade their process to catch Tampa in terms of running a team. They’re trying to catch a trio of sports cars while riding a bicycle. Even the Orioles have moved ahead of the Jays in the east, with a strong collection of young talent themselves. It’s just a monster of a division.

So, Toronto faces a rebuilding process with the knowledge that they have to do everything right. They have to draft well, hit on some good international free agents, make a few great trades, and have everyone stay healthy and mature at the same time. If that all happens, they’ll have a one or two year window to contend before their guys get too expensive and they have to start trading them away. It’s not fair, but it’s reality, and it’s why the Jays find themselves near the bottom of the pack – their odds of winning any time soon are just not good.

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Dave is a co-founder of and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

16 Responses to “Organizational Rankings: #26 – Toronto”

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  1. JH says:

    The really frustrating thing for Blue Jays fans is that the team is in good enough shape that they don’t have the same light at the end of the tunnel that the Rays and Orioles have. While the Rays and Orioles have been picking at the very top of the draft for years, the Blue Jays have only had one top-10 pick this decade. In the AL East, it’s almost better to have a stretch of absolute awful performance than to run off a few 80+ win seasons.

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  2. aweb says:

    It’s not for sure that the Jays would have to sell off top talent if they ever had a couple of years at the top again – it’s a huge market starved for a winner, which used to among the top attendance teams every year. Toronto is only getting bigger, although marketing might have some work to do on the growing minority populations. There’s certainly no reason that Toronto can’t be a second-tier payroll, like Seattle, the Chicago teams.

    That said, I agree with the ranking in that they are designed to take into account chances of winning, not in a neutral “how good is the team on paper compared to 29 others” sense, but in an actual sense. Toronto had 3-4 teams in the past decade marginally good enough to contend in any other division, it could be a while before that is the case again.

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  3. Frank says:

    The Jays have a market of 40 million people. They can compete w/ the Yanks and Red Sox financially—but indeed, it’s going to be a long, long haul to catch up with them organizationally.

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  4. MRizzo says:

    Three words:

    Vernon. Wells. Contract.

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  5. mowill says:

    One problem that wasn’t mentioned and might be corrected under the new regime is the Jays penchant for drafting and signing undersized pitchers. Men with an average build 5’10″ 175lbs. have a long history of eventual flameout. If you look at the build of about half of their pitching prospects they fit just this mold. For every Johan Santana there are twenty guys who flame out before they hit their peek. And even Santana has started to have injury problems.

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  6. 198d says:

    As a hardcore Jays fan, Beeston/Rogers continue to spout that they’re willing spend up to Boston’s payroll should they need to. Certainly, Rogers has the means to match the Yankees, but they are of course a corporation, and business interests come first. Honestly, payroll hasn’t been the issue in the Rogers era (it’s peaked over $100M) — it’s been the misappropriation of funds a la bad signings and constant buyouts, failure to admit that the season is lost and sell expiring contracts as rentals at the deadline, and JP’s insistance to field “competitive” teams a la San Fran rather than tank for high picks that’s been killing the team. I think the $20+ million dollar run at Chapman, the $10 million for Hechevarria, the $6 million to trade Doc and the rumoured $20+ million “war chest” for the draft indicates that money hasn’t been the issue…

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    • Omar says:

      I agree, money isn’t the issue. The Vernon Wells contract makes things tough, but I really feel that when the right free agency class comes along, probably around 2013 or 2014 the Blue Jays will probably be ready to among the best in the AL East. This is coming as a Yankees fan. They’re building a very impressive organization, that being said, they have to compete with, arguably, the three best in baseball.

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  7. Omar says:

    Dave, while I disagree with this ranking as I feel as if the BJs are becoming a good organization. I must say that I agree with the two elephants in the room. Adam Lind is a legitimate beast, he’s an extremely valuable piece, especially since he’s team controlled. Aaron Hill’s a tremendous second basemen too. I feel that the two of them, plus a budding farm system headed by Brett Wallace and Kyle Drabek probably makes them a better organization than at least the Pirates, probably a few other teams too. That being said, they are hamstrung by the Vernon Wells contract, and it will be a yeoman’s work to compete with the juggernaut Yankee and Red Sox organizations. That being said, at the very least the Vernon Wells days are long behind them. As bad as that contract is, there’s a silver lining, they still have the money to sign a player to a megadeal once his is up. They just shed the huge salaries of Roy Halladay (not really a good thing, but stick with me here), AJ Burnett, and Alex Rios. Now, with a competent general manager (and I’m assuming their budget won’t change much, correct me if I’m wrong) to play with a pretty good budget, it seems that there’s some signs for hope for Blue Jay fans.

    My question is though, how much of this ranking is just them having to deal with the two beasts of the AL East, the Rays and the Orioles (who seem to be doing the same thing as Toronto, but have a head start) and how much of it is just them as an organization? Say for example, they were in the AL Central and Vernon Wells’ contract were suddenly voided…then where do you think they would rank?

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  8. Southsider says:

    Yeah, the Jays were likely penalized for playing in the AL East and having literally NO chance in 2010. This is organizational rankings for 2010, so we have to factor that they are gonna have a pretty rough year.

    Saying that, they are a bit low overall compared to what the organization actually is IMO. Solid GM in AA (I think in 5 years, the top rated GMs will ALL be in the AL East) and some pretty intriguing names to build around PLUS unlike A LOT of the teams to follow the Jays in these rankings DEEP DEEP pockets to work with.

    Rogers Corp is markedly larger than “Steinbrenner Inc” and has gone on record saying AA will have a Bo-Sox/LAA budget IF and WHEN the Jays are close to competing seriously. Now, the Jays will never be the revenue machine the Yanks are, of course, but they will have money to spend when the time comes.

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  9. Grant says:

    This is a bit odd, your ranking doesn’t seem to match the three optimistic articles.

    Where would the Jays rank in a run of the mill division like the AL Central? It seems you are implying a spot in the 15-18 range, which would seem more correct given the amount of young talent here.

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  10. Grant says:

    This was quite possibly a worse ranking than Seattle at number 6. This team was quite obviously loaded with talented pitching and several good hitters. Sure Buck and Bautista have had good years, but if you expected good years from Hill and Lind then that really change anything.

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    • ngrimson says:

      It just baffles me that Baltimore, who should have the same divisional penalty, are ranked so much higher. How many good pitchers, not named Jeremy Guthrie, have the O’s developed in the last five or six years compared to the other organizations in their division? How many free agents have come to Baltimore and found success on the mound? Given their track record, I would say they don’t know how to develop pitchers, and I just don’t understand how they are ever going to compete in that state.

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