Double Play: Jays need to change philosophy on the field

Daan De Kerpel
9/25/2009 2:37:01 PM
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Welcome to the second installment of how the Double Play duo would fix the Toronto Blue Jays.  Yesterday, Dave Carroll talked about the off-field changes that the club should make not only to the front office but to the optics of the Rogers Centre as well.

Today, the focus will be on the on-field product.

Just like Ace Frehley sang in 1978, there are “two sides of the coin” from a financial standpoint, but either way I don't think it will amount to the Jays contending in 2010. I don't think they can.

Let's say that the club, as some have suggested, hires a new team president, general manager and maybe even a new field manager and commits $120 million to team payroll.

Under that scenario, the Jays would keep Roy Halladay, who will become a free agent at the end of the season, and try to fill holes.

Considering the Jays will finish the year between 25-30 games behind the Yankees this season, they're going to have to beef things up in all areas.  They would need another front line pitcher, a shortstop and catcher - as both Marco Scutaro and Rod Barajas are free agents, and they would need a middle-of-the-order hitter. 

Could $40 million extra or so in the budget afford those players?  Perhaps, but even if the Jays could get the money and, say, sign Matt Holliday, who will be the best free agent hitter on the market, will those changes really be enough to make up all that ground?

Hard to say, but I doubt it.

Besides, building through free agency is always costly, and I don't mean in terms of money.  The money, while a big deal, isn't the be-all and end-all anymore, it's the term, and term is what all free agents want.

Last season, C.C. Sabathia got a seven-year deal and Mark Teixeira signed an eight-year contract.  The Jays have already been burned on the Rios and Wells deals when it comes to term, so I don't really imagine that they would jump at a chance to add another long term contract in an effort to win something before Roy Halladay's seemingly inevitable departure after next season.

More to the point, I think the Jays have been down that road for the last few seasons.  Whether they've spent $80 million or $100 million, it's never been enough to make the post-season.

What they need to do is start over and sell a rebuilding process.

When I say start over, I don't mean gut the team, but rather build with the pieces that they have without spending extra money to get 15 more meaningless wins.

There is little doubt that Aaron Hill and Adam Lind have arrived as key building blocks and Travis Snider could hopefully be there too one day.

The pitching staff looks promising with Ricky Romero, Jesse Litsch, Shaun Marcum et al.  While there might not be a true No. 1 there, it's not like the Jays are void of pitching.

Here are the steps to rebuilding the Jays on the field:

Trade Roy Halladay:  I know he's great, and I know he's the face of the franchise.  I also know that he's stated that he wants to pitch in the post-season, and that he's not going to sign an extension without seeing how the team does.

So the Jays have two choices.  If they play him out in an attempt to win this year, and he walks after the season, they will only get two draft picks.  If they deal him this off-season, they will get players and/or prospects that are known quantities.

Those players would have to include at least one young pitcher who could have ace potential, which would go a long way to solidifying the pitching staff beyond the 2010 season.

I know it would be an unpopular move and a hard one to make for a new club brain trust, but the bottom line is that if there's a 99% chance that Halladay's leaving anyway, the club will be much better off in the long run cutting a deal and getting the most they can for their asset.

Get a cleanup hitter:  The club has missed a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat since Troy Glaus left a few years ago.  While Adam Lind is hitting there now, the club should alleviate the pressure on him by getting a veteran guy there who can handle the job.

I'm not talking about a big-money free agent, but seeing the way that Wells and Rios suffered by batting in a different spot than they should have been, it would behoove the Jays to protect their cornerstone young bats.

Play the "right way": Reed Johnson was loved when he was here.  Why?  Because he played with heart.  He dove for balls in the outfield and he always seemed to be giving it his all.  The Jays have been well out of a playoff spot for the last 16 years, and attendance now is at an all time low.  I think the style of play has something to do with it.

Get Faster: The Jays are in the bottom third of the league when it comes to steals, and it seems like the stolen base is slowly becoming less taboo in the game.  Would Jays fans love to see a guy steal 40 bags?  I bet they would.

Team speed can also be applied to going from first-to-third or second-to-home on certain base hits.  Speed on the bases can force the opposing team into making mistakes as well as push more runs across on nights when the offence isn't in sync.

Spend Smarter: I think the Rios and Rolen moves from earlier in the year show that the Jays are not planning on spending a large sum of money on payroll.  By large sum I mean they'll be much closer to $80 million than $100 million and, for the record, I'm okay with that.

For the last few years, the Jays have thrown money at their big league club in order to win now and it hasn't worked, so why not try something new?  The diehard Jays fans understand that the difference between 75 or 85 wins and missing the playoffs and 65 or 75 wins and missing the playoffs is negligible.

Fans will put up with a rebuild as long as the Jays take the money they've saved on not paying the big league club and put it back into the organization.

Take the savings and sign your draft picks.  Missing out on three of their top four picks this season sets the rebuild back a little, even though they get those picks back next season.

There is satisfaction in watching home grown talent emerge.  That was true this year with Lind and Hill and it was true years ago seeing guys like George Bell, John Olerud and Tony Fernandez flourish.

The only caveat to this is when the team looks like it's turning the corner in a few years, ownership will have to step up to add the missing pieces.

Selling a rebuild isn't easy, and people don't want the Jays to become the next Pittsburgh Pirates, who haven't had a winning season in well over a decade.  But rebuilding for the future doesn't have to be negative as long as the fan base is patient and ownership is willing.

Can the Jays soar into the playoffs again despite the high payroll of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox?

Eventually I believe they can, if they stick to the plan.

As always, we want to hear from you.  What should the Jays do to improve their on-field product?  Let us know using the Your! Call feature.

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