Sometimes a baseball team is in a position where it should make moves for the short term. Sometimes it’s in a position where it should make moves for the long term. Sometimes it can do either or both.
Right now the Toronto Blue Jays should be making moves for the short term. See, most of their best players are getting up there in age. They’re going to be relying heavily on RF Jose Bautista (34), 1B Edwin Encarnacion (32), SS Jose Reyes (32), C Russell Martin (32), SP R.A. Dickey (40), and SP Mark Buehrle (36). That’s a lot of guys past their prime. They’re still good, mind you, or at least they were last year and there’s reason to believe they will be again this year. The point is not that these guys aren’t good.
But they won’t be good for too much longer. It’s a rare baseball player who’s still good at 33 years of age.*
So, if the Jays are going to win with these guys, it had better be pretty soon.
And the Jays do want to win with these guys.
So it had better be pretty soon. Like, this year, preferably.
Therefore they should be making some moves that will pay off this year, as opposed to a few years from now.
But that’s not what they’re doing.
– They’re turning centre field over to Dalton Pompey (22), who looks good, but who knows if he’s going to be able to put it together in 2015? He might need a year or two to acclimate to the major leagues.
– They solved their second base problem by trading for Devon Travis (24), who probably won’t be ready for the major leagues by the start of the 2015 season, and will get by as best they can with Maicer Izturis and Steve Tolleson and Munenori Kawasaki and Ryan Goins and Ramon Santiago until then.
– They’re going to be using some combination of Marcus Stroman (24), Drew Hutchison (24), Daniel Norris (22), and Aaron Sanchez (22) to play key roles on the pitching staff. They all looked good last year, but young pitchers will break your heart.
These are all long-term moves. They’re moves that you make because you expect them to work out well in a year or two, but not necessarily right away. But necessarily-right-away is exactly what the Jays need right now.
They need to win this year. Not because the manager and general manager are worried about their job security; that’s their problem. But because the clock is ticking on their strongest assets. This is not the year to try to get by with prospects and spare parts.
(Note: of course it’s true that veterans can let you down just as badly as young players. Their performances are somewhat more predictable in the short run, though, and you take what edges you can get.)
* Let me put it this way. Here’s a list of everybody who’s ever played for the Jays who’s going to be exactly 33 in the 2015 season (according to seasonal ages on Baseball Reference):
Only fourteen guys; I thought it would be more. Oh well. Anyway, of those fourteen, only five still have major league careers: Hill, still a regular but it looks like he’s on the downside; Janssen, still a closer but starting to show some cracks; Johnson, clearly on the downside; McGowan, who hasn’t signed with anyone at the moment and whose future is unclear; Quiroz, a bench player who had two major league at bats last year.
Of the rest, some of them are never-weres, but there are also some good players there. Guys who couldn’t make it to where Bautista, Dickey, and Buehrle are now. So, great for Bautista, Dickey, and Buehrle, but with every year it makes it a little more likely that they won’t be able to do it again the next year.
This is the club that Reyes, Encarnacion, and Martin are joining in 2016.