Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos Has Blue Jays Ready To Compete, Eyeing Prince Fielder
The revival of the Blue Jays started when General Manager J.P. Ricciardi was fired. Taking over would be former scouting coordinator Alex Anthopoulos who had a lot of work to do with a Blue Jays team that found itself always looking up to the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East. Needless to say, Anthopoulos has been a revelation for the fans in Toronto as he hasn’t hesitated to make the necessary trades.
Trading Roy Halladay was bittersweet for the fanbase but it made the team better in the long run. Here are some of the notable deals that Anthopoulos has pulled off:
* Trading Halladay to Philadelphia for prospects including rising pitcher Kyle Drabek.
* Getting rid of Vernon Wells’ big contract by shipping him to the Angels.
* Trading proven starter Shaun Marcum to Milwaukee for highly touted 3B Brett Lawrie.
* Trading for young stars SS Yunel Escobar, 2B Kelly Johnson, and OF Colby Rasmus at their lowest value.
With Escobar, Johnson, and Rasmus, the Blue Jays have three guys that can easily give them at least 20 HRs and 80 RBIs if they reach their full potential. Combine that with rising superstar Brett Lawrie, (who has drawn comparisons to Mike Schmidt), and the Blue Jays have a brilliant core of young guys that can make for a scary lineup. Behind the leadership of sluggers OF Jose Bautista and 1B/DH Adam Lind, Toronto looks to compete with New York and Boston for years to come.
However, as bold as Anthopoulos has been in Toronto, he has proven to be hesitant when it comes to signing “the big free agent”. The big contract that former GM J.P. Ricciardi gave to Vernon Wells likely contributed to the passive nature of the guys in the Blue Jays’ front office. But, the time to sign “the big free agent” may be now for the Jays.
Recent reports indicate that not only is free agent first baseman Prince Fielder interested in the Blue Jays, they are at the top of his list.
In 2011, the 27-year-old Fielder posted a .299 batting average, 38 home runs, 120 runs batted in, .415 on-base percentage and 95 runs scored with Milwaukee. The five-foot-11, 275-pounder is also durable, having played 162, 161 and 162 contests in each of the last three seasons.
Fielder would be a game-changer and could help Toronto at the gate after the Jays ranked 25th out of 30 major league teams last year in attendance with an average of 22,445 per game.
Because of all the Albert Pujols talk, Prince Fielder has been somewhat forgotten. But not only may Fielder be a better long-term signing than Pujols, he may likely come cheaper. Fielder is younger, has proven to be durable, and has finally improved his batting average while continuing to put up serious power numbers. Additionally, the stats won’t show it but Fielder’s defense has improved tremendously since he broke in as a rookie for the Brewers.
Bringing Fielder to Toronto would be a HUGE step towards creating a championship-caliber team in Toronto. Prince Fielder and Jose Bautista would provide as good a 1-2 power hitting combo as there is in all of baseball. Combine that with the potential emergence of guys like Yunel Escobar, Brett Lawrie, and Colby Rasmus and the Blue Jays could be ready to challenge New York and Boston for the AL East crown.
Also, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has announced that the league will add a Wild Card team in each league no later than 2013. So even if the Jays don’t win their division, their chances of sneaking in the playoffs and doing damage are a lot better.
Toronto hasn’t made the playoffs since 1993 when they won it all on Joe Carter’s walk off home run. The Blue Jays faithful are craving for a shot at the playoffs and another title and while Prince Fielder might not be the “missing link”, bringing him to Toronto would go a long way in making baseball relevant in Canada once again.