With spring training less than a month from getting underway, the 2015-2016 offseason is winding down with most established free agent players off the board. Who knows if they've got something up their sleeve, but with the Blue Jays having struck early and near their reported payroll limit, my guess is we're not going to see any more major additions between now and Opening Day.
Three months ago at the end of October, I took a hypothetical look at a 2016 opening day roster based only on 40-man players under contract or control for 2016. That essentially serves as a "replacement level" offseason, so I thought it would interesting to compare that to how the 25-man roster and depth stands now (at least in my estimation, things are far from set in stone). And since Mark Shapiro took over as ultimate baseball decision maker right after that point, in some sense it's a report card on his first offseason in charge of the Jays.
|J. A. Happ
Of the 25 spots, I have 17 overlapping on both lists, and would be 18 if not for a subsequent surgery knocking Travis out of the opening day picture. And that excludes both Josh Thole or Justin Smoak, who at the time I had tabbed to be non-tendered. It also includes only one of Sanchez and Osuna in the bullpen, with the other depth in the minors. So as few as four spots could be considered as having turned over in the last three months, though the number of roles would be closer to double that.
Quite obviously, the on-field team is better today on paper than it was then, but that's obviously an extremely low hurdle considering the added $30-million in 2016 payroll and $40-million of future commitments. The more interesting question to me is whether the Jays are actually better off as a franchise (both 2016 and beyond) considering both the costs incurred and benefits purchased.
Position-wise, little is changed especially long term. For me, Saunders is both higher ceiling and lower floor compared to Revere, but that increased risk is mitigated with Pompey a great depth option (and he could well make the opening day roster over Carrera). Those and Smoak are upgrades in 2016 over the options on the 40-man three months ago, but at the cost of an additional 3.5-million or so in payroll. Particularly in Smoak's case, I'm not sure they're better off having done so.
On the pitching side, adding rotation depth was an obvious need even though a frontline starter would have made a lot of sense to me even with a substantial long term commitment. I'm still a believer in Hutchison and could see him having a better 2016 than any of Estrada, Happ and Chavez, but it's best that he has to prove he's figured things out first. On balance, Estrada and Happ are upgrades in 2016 over the expected value of their replacements, but neither is without risk either.
Likewise, the bullpen is better just by virtue of having freed up the young would-be starters as options. For me, Storen and Hendriks is a push for 2016, the biggest difference being that one of Sanchez or Osuna is a big upgrade over the expected value of Tepera (or Delabar or Jenkins if you assume they won't likely give preference to out-of-options players). Both of them could make it a lockdown pen, but there's the cost of weigh in terms of long term development and depth.
All in all, I'm not sure the opening day roster is even a whole lot better now than three months ago, which is a pretty damning indictment to begin with. In terms of being better off, there was really only one brutal move, but nothing to offset it either on the decidedly plus side. The folks at Neifi Analytics put the Net Present Value of the Jays' offseason at roughly -30 million, which ranks in the bottom five. Now that's a black box calculation, and eye balling some of the estimates for other teams I don't buy into all of them (Milwaukee at +115 million?), but that strikes me as about right for the Jays. And that's neither a very good nor inspiring start to the Shapiro era.