Though the game of baseball is played on the field, the real competition goes on upstairs, between the great minds of the organizations. For every Josh Donaldson, Mike Trout, or Clayton Kershaw, there is a management group that brought him to their team. Since success starts at the top, the Blue Jays expected hiring of Mark Shapiro as its new president is a ground-shaking acquisition.
Shapiro is a graduate of Princeton University, who had been apart of the Cleveland Indians organization for over twenty years. He started as a baseball operations assistant, before working his way up and becoming the general manager in 2001. He was later named as the club’s president prior to the 2011 season.
It did not take Shapiro very long to make a major trade. In his first season as a general manager, he kicked off a rebuild by sending Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew to the Montreal Expos in exchange for Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, and Lee Stevens. The move has been labeled as one of the "Trades of the Decade" by MLB Trade Rumors.
As a member of the Indians organization, Shapiro was given a top-20 payroll only once since 2003. His club’s most competitive season came in 2007, when Cleveland came within just one game of reaching the World Series. The Indians took three of the first four games over the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS, only to lose the next three straight to the eventual World Series champs.
Mark Shapiro & Analytics
As per Ben Baumer of ESPN, the Indians earned a reputation under Shapiro for heavily utilizing analytics:
"Unlike some clubs, wherein statistical analysts give something akin to expert witness testimony, the Indians have integrated analytics into everything they do, so that both technical and non-technical staff members are up to speed on the metrics the team uses." –Ben Baumer, ESPN
In this highly recommended interview with SABRanalytics, Shapiro had this to say:
"What the information and data and technology does, what brilliant analysts do, is give us better input to allow us to make good decisions."
"You read analytics, you read an article in (Baseball) Prospectus and think, 'How are we doing?' I wake up and have anxiety because there's constantly being new frontiers being pushed. And there's an openness to who can make us better…We look for people who have demonstrated, through video or scouting or analytics, that they're going to continue to elevate our thinking and make us better."
Some of the Best Trades for Shapiro as a GM:
1) Bartolo Colon & Tim Drew to the Expos for Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens. Colon posted a 2.55 ERA at the time of the trade, but his xFIP was 4.11 xFIP.
2) Jake Westbrook to the Cardinals in a three-way trade, returning Corey Kluber from the San Diego Padres.
3) Ben Broussard to the Mariners for Shin-Soo Choo.
4) C.C. Sabathia to the Brewers for Michael Brantley, Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, and Rob Bryson. Please note, Sabathia was only under contract for half a season.
5) Eduardo Perez to the Mariners for Asdrubal Cabrera.
6) Casey Blake to the Dodgers for Carlos Santana and Jon Meloan.
6) Einar Diaz and Ryan Drese to the Rangers for Travis Hafner and Aaron Myette.
Some Of The Worst Trades Under Shapiro:
1) Brandon Phillips to the Reds for Jeff Stevens.
2) Roberto Alomar to the Mets for Billy Traber, Matt Lawton, and Alex Escobar.
3) Franklin Gutierrez to the Seattle Mariners in a three-team trade, including Joe Smith and Luis Valbuena.
Changes We Could See
Ben Nicholson-Smith posted some good notes on Shapiro this morning:
Wonder if #BlueJays keep 5-year policy. Kipnis, Yan Gomes & Sizemore all signed 6-year deals with #Indians under Shapiro (h/t @TaoofStieb).— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) August 31, 2015
Like John Hart, Shapiro excelled at early-career extensions. Locked up Lee, Sabathia, Peralta, Sizemore, Martinez. Each deal $23.45M or less— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) August 31, 2015
If there is a knock on Shapiro, it is probably a lack of success at the MLB Draft. A list of Cleveland's first round picks can be seen here. Despite this lack of success, Shapiro has seemingly survived through making trades for up and coming stars. Francisco Lindor (first round) and Jason Kipnis (second round) represent two strong picks in recent years. If Alex Anthopoulos remains with the Blue Jays and continues to have success at the MLB draft, partnering him with Shapiro could be an exciting time for the people of Toronto.
Let us know what you think of Mark Shapiro in the poll!