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The Toronto Blue Jays brain trust has proclaimed they will be looking to improve the roster this offseason via the trade route, however, which players are completely untouchable?
The Blue Jays will be searching for controllable impact arms this offseason but as we all know that will not come cheap especially seeing the Jays don’t historically wade into the deep end to land the high priced free-agent catch.
Ross Atkins and company definitely have the assets to net a big fish via trade but who would you be willing to part with from the current roster. In order to get quality, sometimes you have to give up quality.
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NEW YORK — Major League Baseball’s average attendance dropped 1.7% this year for its fourth straight decline, and five of the six biggest drops were by teams with losing records.
Toronto, Seattle, San Francisco and Detroit combined for more than 1.8 million fewer tickets, and a 259-388 won-lost record.
The 30 teams averaged 28,339, according to the commissioner’s office, down from 28,830 last year — the first time the average was below 30,000 since 2003. Total attendance of 68.5 million was down more than 5 million from 2015.
The players’ association maintains attendance has been hurt by an increase in rebuilding teams, which its members and staff label “tanking.”
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“The wilful failure of too many franchises to field competitive teams and put their best players on the field is unquestionably hurting our industry,” union head Tony Clark said last week.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says rebuilding is cyclical and attendance and record correlate in some markets but not all. He also points out the success of the sport in television ratings and an increase in minor league gates.
ATLANTA – By now, the front office flair of Alex Anthopoulos is well recognized and for the most part appreciated by the win-now segment of baseball fandom.
The Montreal native who helped build the Blue Jays franchise back into prominence a few years back recognizes the nuances of the modern game and the importance of having a deep and productive farm system.
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But there is a craps player at the core of Anthopoulos as well, a gambler not shy about rolling the dice to make a big score when the timing and the table conditions are just right.
He did it in Toronto, boldly trading for players such as Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and David Price while signing others like Jose Bautista and Russell Martin, all huge components in setting up the playoff runs of 2015 and 2016.
Now as the Braves begin their post-season journey here on a sizzling Thursday evening in the south, and considered as a sleeper threat to win it all, one of his latest high-stakes moves is a big reason why.
For the second time in their respective careers, third baseman Donaldson and general manager Anthopoulos are together for some October baseball. And to this point anyway, it couldn’t have worked out better.
“We gave him the biggest one-year contract in the history of the game and that contract reflected the fact that we thought he had a chance to be healthy and if he was, he would be one of the better players in the game,” Anthopoulos said in an interview with the Toronto Sun. “Short term it was good for both sides. Josh had been hurt for two seasons in a row so there was always that risk.
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“From his standpoint, a lot of things lined up well for him. But really, this is what we all hoped for.”
That one-year, $23 million US deal had its skeptics on both sides. Why would the Braves, for example, pay that kind of money for a player who couldn’t stay healthy in his final two years with the Jays?
And for Donaldson, at age 33, why would he agree to a one-year deal at this point in his career?
The answer for both was risk-reward and trusting their respective instincts.
“We understood when we got him that he was in line for a big contract with Toronto and unfortunately he got hurt,” Anthopoulos said. “Both of us looked at this as a place for him to rebuild his value, be in a good clubhouse on a good team and to re-establish himself.
“For us, the advantage was that coming into 2019 we knew what we had here and that he could be a valuable addition.”
Anthopoulos hit all the right notes in his pitch for the Bringer of Rain. Come to the south and play for a team you were a fan of as a kid. Be a role model for a young, talented and motivated group of players. And finally, get healthy and lead that team to the postseason.
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“It’s been a good fit for him,” Anthopoulos said. “First and foremost, Josh wanted to go to a team where he had a chance to win. Obviously, that was important to him. We had just come off winning the division and adding him only made us that much more competitive. And his familiarity with the staff helped.”
The familiar face factor was indeed critical to Donaldson, especially given his frustration with the Jays the previous year when he missed most of the season due to a variety of ailments.
When the Jays fired head trainer George Poulis after the 2017 season, Anthopoulos wasted little time bringing him and assistant Mike Frostad to Atlanta. The long-time Jays employee and Donaldson were tight, a relationship that immediately flourished here.
“There’s no magic, it’s his hard work,” Poulis said of Donaldson’s resurgence. “He’s very, very diligent at working.
“It’s the same as I remember in Toronto. I’ve been in this game for 30 years and I’ve always had a deep respect for the everyday player. To see Josh do it and be determined … He’s a special person, no question.”
Almost incredibly given his age, the violence of his swing and his recent injury history, Donaldson has been that reliable everyday player in 2019, a force at the plate and a reliable defender at third.
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Health has been key, as he has both trusted his body and worked to get it back to the supreme condition that allowed him to play in 155 games including 100 consecutive.
“When I was hurt, there were some people who thought I didn’t want to play,” Donaldson said, shaking his head. “They thought I was done. They had no idea what I was going through. That’s not me.”
The logical next question is one that is on hold — for now. What’s next for Donaldson?
If he leads the Braves to their first playoff series win since 2001 and to a 10th World Series appearance in franchise history, it will be difficult to let him get away.
“Everything that both sides hoped would happen has,” Anthopoulos said. “He came here and was comfortable, was able to stay on the field and was able to perform at a high level to put himself in a position to get the contract he deserves.
“Whether that will be from us, we’ll see. Rightfully there’s going to be a lot of demand on him. We think we have a lot to offer as well. Josh has been great and has been a huge part of our success. We’d love having him here long term.”
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George Poulis is a big fan of his boss and not just because the Braves general manager rescued him off the unemployment line when the long-time trainer was let go by the Blue Jays.
In Braves Alex Anthopoulos, Poulis sees a winning personality with motivation to excel.
“Alex is a guy who is very driven,” said Poulis, who worked for Anthopoulos with the Jays and was hired in Atlanta prior to the 2018 season. “He doesn’t settle for second best. Every waking hour, he’s working and pushing people to get better around him.
“That’s what I love about Alex the most. He makes us all better people.”
As for third baseman Josh Donaldson, Poulis is also rather bullish on the Bringer of Rain.
“I’m not into predictions, but I’ll never bet against this guy,” Poulis said.
“We’re going to draw 68-plus million people at the big league level,” Manfred said, “another 41 million in minor league baseball — they’re actually going to be up. I’ll take 110 million people going to see the sport live. That’s a really, really awesome number in an environment where people have more and more and more alternatives to consume.”
Toronto had the biggest home attendance drop, falling 575,137 in a season in which the Blue Jays went 67-95 for their third straight losing season and most losses since 1980.
Seattle fell 507,769 as the Mariners went 68-94, their poorest record since 2011. San Francisco went down 448,425 and ended a streak of nine consecutive seasons at 3 million or more that coincided with three World Series titles. The Giants went 77-85 in their third straight losing season.
Detroit dropped 355,540 while going a big league-worst 47-114, the second-most losses in team history. The Tigers’ 1.5 million home attendance was their lowest since their 119-loss season in 2003.
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Washington, which earned an NL wild card and beat Milwaukee to reach the Division Series, fell 269,823 following the departure of Bryce Harper to Philadelphia as a free agent.
Baltimore dropped 256,385 while going 54-108, and the Orioles’ 1.3 million fans at home were their fewest in a non-shortened season since 1978 at old Memorial Stadium.
In all, home attendance dropped for 14 of the 30 teams, although three of those teams fell by less than 100,000, Miami rose by 198 people to 811,302 while going 57-105 in Derek Jeter’s second season as chief executive.
Kansas City went down by 185,448 and fell below 1.5 million for the first time since 2006.
On the plus side, Philadelphia rose 569,297 after signing Harper and despite an 81-81 record finished above 2.7 million for the first time since 2013, when the Phillies started a streak of six straight losing seasons.
Minnesota went up 334,955 boosted by a 101-61 record, the second-most wins in team history, San Diego went up 227,863 after signing free agent slugger Manny Machado but skidded to a 70-92 record. The New York Mets went up 217,537 boosted by an August spurt and their first winning record since 2016.
Rays win American League Wild Card 5-1
For me personally and most of you, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are going nowhere. That is a no-brainer. However, I value Cavan Biggio just as high as the likes of Bo and Vladdy. The baseball IQ and raw tools he put on display over the final two months of the season is very promising. Biggio is untouchable.
That leaves Lourdes Gurriel Jr. as possibly your best trade chip from the roster and although I am a huge Gurriel fan, I am listening if a team comes calling and is willing to offer up an arm. Gurriel has shown flashes of brilliance with the stick but has struggled to remain on the field due to injury at times.
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Obviously, the Jays are not parting with Nate Pearson as the plan is to couple him with whoever they can acquire at the front of the rotation. Alek Manoah and Eric Pardinho are probably also on the no-trade list among minor leaguers.
There is some speculation in Blue Jays circles that the team acquired Simeon Woods Richardson to flip for a pitcher closer to being MLB ready this offseason. That type of move would make sense as he is still a number of years away and Atkins was pumping his tires pretty hard following the trade.
NEXT: Blue Jays: What free agents should they target this offseason?
It should be an interesting offseason to see what is available on the market and exactly what the team is willing to surrender to solidify the starting staff moving forward.