Now that the 2018 season is behind us, the Toronto Blue Jays can turn their attention to next season. With plenty of work to do, what comes first?
Sunday brought a merciful end to a difficult 2018 season for the Toronto Blue Jays, and one that saw them lose their second straight to Tampa Bay, dropping their record to 73-89 on the season.
After a second consecutive disappointing year we already know the Blue Jays will move on from John Gibbons as their manager, and that more change isn’t likely far behind. There are some expiring contracts, arbitration cases, and a crowded 40 man roster to figure out before baseball gets rolling again next spring. There is a lot of work to do.
At times like these, I often imagine putting myself in the shoes of a team president to try to imagine what their role looks like. I would guess that the place to start is, “what is the most important thing to address?”
Well, for the Blue Jays this role belongs to Mark Shapiro as the president and CEO. While Ross Atkins no doubt has a mountain of work to undertake this winter, it all starts with Shapiro, who ultimately is the man most responsible for what happens with this team, beyond the ownership group of course.
And if I’m Shapiro, I’m starting in one of the unlikeliest of places, with myself.
There were reports that surfaced earlier last month that Shapiro was a person of interest to the New York Mets as they look to sort out their own mess of a front office. Joel Sherman of the New York Post was the first source, and mentioned that several executives around the league saw Mark Shapiro as a potential fit in New York, bringing Ben Cherington with him, and citing some differences between Shapiro and the ownership group in Toronto as the reason.
While the rumour died pretty quickly around Toronto baseball circles, it was enough that Edward Rogers felt the need to address things with his own Twitter account, and it’s been a topic that’s bound to come up again sooner than later.
It’s entirely possible that we could go another offseason without hearing another word about it. However, if I’m Shapiro and the Blue Jays, one of the first things I would do this offseason is publicly address the situation again, and make sure that fans, and more importantly those around the game know that he’s either committed to the job in Toronto, or he’s leaving. I realize the latter would require him being hired by the Mets, which could take awhile, but if there is zero truth to the rumour then I would squash it and move on in search of the next skipper as the next important offseason job.
The reason I feel this is so important is because of that next manager, his coaching staff, and any potential free agents the Blue Jays choose to pursue this winter. I realize that Shapiro and Rogers have already denied that the rift exists, but they would have done the same in early September regardless of the circumstances. Now that we’re in the offseason, there is a lot more freedom to address the issue if there is one, and there is no harm in reiterating that things are fine before you start a new offseason.
That sort of things may give the reassurance that the next manager needs in order to come to Toronto. While these jobs are coveted around the game, the best choices are often wanted by more than one team, so the Blue Jays will want to remain a desirable location. Not knowing for sure who the President/CEO they would have to work for is may well put a serious cramp in that for prospective coaches, and one that I wouldn’t blame them for balking at.
I’m not trying to throw gas on a dead flame here at all, but in my mind it’s a situation worth addressing once more in the coming days and/or weeks ahead. The focus will be on the playoffs for awhile, but teams like the Blue Jays and Mets are already out of picture, so their front offices will seek to get a head start on next year as quickly as they can, as will unemployed coaches and players looking ahead to 2019.
As long as Shapiro is still fully committed to being in Toronto, it shouldn’t be a problem to find a great coaching staff to bring in. The Blue Jays have a lot of reasons to be excited about their future, and anyone coming in has to know they have a chance to be a part of something special. In order for that to happen though, things have to be completely stable at the top, and for the sake of everything else on the offseason checklist, I would start there if I’m Shapiro.