So when the great site Fangraphs started counting up the best-run organizations in baseball, starting from the worst (Washington Nationals), I had a feeling that it wouldn't be long until our beloved Jays were profiled.
And, yeah, it wasn't. The Jays were ranked #20, meaning 10 organizations were rated worse. The Jays were graded C+ for ownership, C for front office, C+ for major-league talent, a strong B for minor-league talent, and an overall grade of 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.
They do give the Jays credit for a strong minor-league system, particularly liking the quartet of Arencibia, Snider, Cecil, and Cooper, but don't seem very optimistic about 2009:
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.
Actually, the Jays won 86 games last season, not 87, but that's 18 more than the Orioles. I know it's popular to say that the Jays will be fighting the O's for last place, everyone seems to be saying it, and it is possible, but I just don't see it - the Orioles would have to get a ton better and the Jays would have to get quite a bit worse. The O's did underperform their pythagorean record by 5 games, but the Jays did so by 7 games, which is a much flukier occurrence for a team that was 10 games over .500, like the Jays were. I do worry that the offense will struggle again this season, but you have to think the Jays will score more runs, and I don't think the pitching will totally fall apart. Even if the rotation flounders, the Jays have some serious talent like Cecil and Mills who are just knocking on the door for their chance this season. But Fangraphs must really like the Orioles, since they're up to #17 now and they still haven't written about them, meaning they think they're either in the top half or #16 in terms of organizational strength.
Anyway, check out the link for more on the front office and on Ricciardi -- for my part, I'm just hoping that folks are underrating the Jays since it looks on paper, at first glance, like they didn't really compete last season and have lost a lot of talent since then. I think things go a little deeper than that, though.
Today's post comes from a great song from the Boston-based band Piebald.