With the All-Star break right around the corner, this seemed like a good time to take a look back at Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins' first offseason.
Shapiro's tenure in Toronto got off to a rough start. Shapiro was announced as the team's next president on August 31st. After the season, many were upset that Alex Anthopoulos decided not to return to the Blue Jays. Shapiro became public enemy number one in Toronto, before he made any real decision. Initially, Tony LaCava was hired as the interim GM, before Ross Atkins was officially hired in December. The duo has faced criticism since they came to Toronto and nearly every move they made during the off season was met with a large amount of disdain and resentment. Frankly, nothing these two did was going to make up for our anger from AA leaving.
But, now that we've had some time to adjust, it seems like we have the ability to look back and objectively assess what Shapiro/Atkins did this offseason.
November 11: Resign Marco Estrada for 2 years/ $26 million
This move wasn't met with the amount of criticism that Shapiro felt later in the offseason. But, many were still unsure about whether Estrada was worth $13 million per year. But, Shapiro made the deal anyway and I think it's easy to say this one paid off. Estrada has been brilliant for the Jays up to this point. Estrada is 5th in the American league in ERA and was named to the All-Star team. While an injury will keep him from making the trip, he should be back to help the Jays in the second half.
Verdict: Great signing
November 20: Trade Liam Hendriks for Jesse Chavez
This was easily the most controversial move Shapiro made this offseason. Fans were upset because it seemed ridiculous to us to trade one of our best bullpen pieces for a swing man. But, the move was made to provide another option in the rotation. While Chavez has yet to see time as a starter, he's been an important piece in the Jays' bullpen. Chavez is third on the team in appearances (31) and second in the bullpen in innings pitched (32.1). While his play on the mound hasn't been great (3.62 ERA), he's been a reliable option for a struggling bullpen. Hendriks, on the other hand, has struggled so far this season as he boasts a 6.15 ERA. Hendriks has battled injury, so the sample size is small, but Hendriks has been far from the player he was last season.
Verdict: toss up, we won't know who won this trade till the end of the season, at least.
November 27: Sign J.A. Happ for 3 years/ $36 million
Many, including myself, were unsure what to think of Happ coming back to Toronto. His last round in Toronto yielded uneven results and harsh feelings. But, this season Happ has been solid. His 11 wins leads the team, and he's been solid as a 4/5 starter. He's not the flashiest guy, and doesn't generate much buzz, but his ability to give the team a solid performance every out is incredibly valuable.
Verdict: Good signing
December 4: David Price signs with Boston for 7 years/ $217 million
This was case of a controversial non-signing. The appeal to bring Price back is obvious. Price has been one of the best pitchers in baseball since he made his debut. After being acquired at the deadline in 2015, Price went 9-1 in 11 starts for the Jays. He posted a 2.30 ERA and 1.009 Whip. He was one of the main factors in getting the Jays back to the playoffs and almost won the franchise's 5th Cy Young. But, the Jays didn't bring him back. Price's contract pays him $30+ million through his age 36 season. Additionally, Price has been poor this season as he boasts an 8-6 record to go along with his 4.64 ERA. The peripherals suggests he's pitched better than this, but it's still hard to stomach that kind of money for what the team is getting.
Verdict: Price will most likely bounce back, but don't expect the Red Sox to get there money's worth, The Jays' starters have been good this season so it's easier to say that it's probably a good thing we didn't sign him.
December 11: Sign Darwin Barney for 1 year/ $1.05 million
This is a move that flew under the radar and nobody really paid much attention to. Many expected Barney to provide organizational depth and spend his season in Buffalo. But, not even Shapiro could have predicted he would have been as valuable as he's been. Barney has hit .292 over 185 plate appearances, while providing good defense. He's arguably ahead of Goins on the depth chart and has been perhaps the Jays' biggest surprise up to this point in the season.
Verdict: Good signing
Jan 8: Traded Ben Revere for Drew Storen
This was a move that generated a lot of divided feelings. Many loved what Revere provided for the Jays at the end of the season last year and were excited to see him in the leadoff spot once again. But, the move to bolster the bullpen, with one of the games better relievers in baseball, was appealing as well. But, up to this point Storen has been a disappointment. His in ability to keep the ball in the park has been a great struggle for him this season. His ERA of 5.81 is well higher than his career mark of 3.25. But, Ben Revere hasn't really set the world on fire for the Nationals either. Revere has been shuffled in and out of the starting lineup and has struggled when on the field. He's currently slashing .225/.273/.289, all of which represent career lows since 2011. His WAR of -.9 ranks among the worst in the MLB among outfielders.
Verdict: Neither team has won so far, both players have been disappointments.
Players Claimed/ Minor signings:
Shapiro and Atkins did a great job this offseason of making minor signings and claiming players to fill out the organization and provide depth. Guys like Joe Biagini, Gavin Floyd, Pat Venditte, and Junior Lake have all provided some level of assistance to the big league club. Other guys such as Darrell Ceciliani, Alexi Casilla, Domonic Brown, and Jesus Montero have all provided organizational depth for a team that lacked a AAA roster to begin the off season.
It does need to be mentioned that not all of the guys Shapiro brought in worked out. Scott Copeland, Brad Penny, and Roberto Hernandez all represent signings who are no longer with the organization. But, overall it's fair to say that they did an okay job over the offseason.
Determining how successful Shapiro and Atkins will be in Toronto will take years to know. And, while we can't make any decisions based on the first off season, it's fair to say that up to this point, this off season seems to have worked out pretty well for the team as they are in the running for another playoff berth in 2016.