Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason of every MLB team before spring training begins in mid-February. Our series continues at No. 22 with the Toronto Blue Jays.
2009 record: 75-87
Finish: Fourth place, AL East
2009 final payroll: $84.1 million
Estimated 2010 opening day payroll: $68 million
Oh, you know. Just a wee little trade.
It took a new general manager, two extra teams and a mighty deep swallow, but the Toronto Blue Jays finally did under Alex Anthopoulos what they wouldn't under J.P. Ricciardi: trade Roy Halladay(notes), their ace, their franchise, their linchpin.
Painful though it was, the specter of Halladay's impending free agency hanging over an entire season necessitated it, and Anthopoulos ably recognized that when he took over for Ricciardi in early October. Ten weeks later, Halladay was outfitted for a Phillies uniform and handed a $60 million extension, and Anthopoulos, 32, had executed a career-defining deal months into his job.
He will make dozens more moves over his career as Blue Jays general manager, big and small, and none will ever face the scrutiny of this one. His return, in the end, was pitcher Kyle Drabek, infielder Brett Wallace(notes) and catcher Travis D'Arnaud, and while they don't need to succeed in triplicate, this had better not be a Blake Stein, Eric Ludwick, T.J. Mathews-type situation, either.
The Blue Jays lasted deep into the Aroldis Chapman(notes) negotiations, a sign that the team's financial landscape isn't barren. Which is good to see, considering outfielder Vernon Wells(notes) is owed – gulp – $107 million over the next five years.
Anthopoulos recognized quickly what Tampa Bay and Baltimore did a few seasons back: Competing in the AL East, particularly against New York and Boston, often takes an organizational retooling. He can't rid himself of Wells, so Anthopoulos took his most valuable chip – one he was going to lose in six months anyway – and cashed it.
Now comes the fun part: figuring out how to execute the plan that will oust the Yankees or Red Sox. Anthopoulos immediately invested money into scouting, an area somewhat abandoned under Ricciardi's watch and seen by Anthopoulos as cost beneficial. One thing of which Anthopoulos can't be accused: copycat management.
This doesn't make Toronto a threat this year. The Blue Jays rolled out a plethora of young pitchers last season, all of whom looked great at times and mediocre at others. Shaun Marcum(notes) is back from Tommy John surgery to anchor the staff, joined by left-handers Ricky Romero(notes), Brett Cecil(notes) and Marc Rzepczynski – pronounced Zep-CHIN-Skee, for those curious – and their respectable strikeout rates.
Some pieces will click, some won't. That's what happens when a team rebuilds. The Blue Jays are in the first phase, and it's going to feel awkward for a while, trusty, reliable No. 32 not coming out every fifth game, replaced by some kid on the mound. And don't forget the kid in the front office, either, the one whose wee trade gets bigger by the day.
BLUE JAYS IN HAIKU
Blue Jays would love if
Wells took long sabbatical
Please, just paint full-time
NEXT: Baltimore Orioles
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Vernon Wells
- Alex Anthopoulos
- The Blue Jays