Toronto Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro explained his vision for the franchise, addressed the departure of Alex Anthopoulos and clarified the future of John Gibbons in an introductory press conference at Rogers Centre Monday.
Here’s the essential information from Shapiro’s session with the media…
What happened between Shapiro and Anthopoulos?
Anyone expecting a tell-all was disappointed, but Shapiro said he spoke extensively with Anthopoulos in person and over the phone. Almost all of the conversations revolved around their baseball philosophies since Anthopoulos preferred not to focus on his contractual status.
Shapiro’s philosophy appears to be built around collaboration, a point he returned to throughout the afternoon. While he sympathizes with those who were dismayed to see Anthopoulos leave, he expects to be judged by on-field results.
“I think in the end, the true test is ‘are we going to win.’ I understand the disappointment. I share the disappointment,” Shapiro said. “We’re going to move forward and seek to build a winning team and winning organization.”
Shapiro refuted the notion that he scolded Anthopoulos for dealing prospects at the trade deadline and said the moves that brought the likes of David Price and Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto were “great trades" even though they cost the Blue Jays talented prospects.
Will the Blue Jays hire a new GM?
Yes. In the interim, Tony LaCava will serve as GM, but Shapiro expects to conduct a complete GM search. He declined to say whether LaCava will be a candidate for the permanent position or outline a timetable for a new hire.
“I’m comfortable in Tony guiding our baseball ops staff,” Shapiro said.
LaCava emphasized his loyalty to the franchise regardless of how the search unfolds, joking that he’d clean up the media interview room if needed.
“I’m a Blue Jay. Whatever they need me to do that’s fine," LaCava said. "I’m humbled that Mark’s asked me to lead.”
Will John Gibbons return as manager in 2016?
Yes. Both Shapiro and LaCava spoke highly of Gibbons’ managerial skills. “He did a great job. It’s a no-brainer,” LaCava said.
How much of a say will Shapiro have in baseball operations?
Shapiro said he expects to foster a collaborative environment where insight from a wide variety of people leads to well-informed decisions. While he won’t get involved in minutiae, Shapiro spoke knowledgeably of prospects, option decisions and free agent strategies, indicating that he will have plenty of involvement in baseball ops.
How much do the Blue Jays expect to spend on payroll in 2016?
Shapiro didn’t provide a specific number, but he said he expects the resources to be there to sustain a winner. While he avoided free agent contracts in Cleveland, moving to a larger market provides him with some newfound flexibility.
"If you have a larger payroll you have a greater tolerance for risk," he said.
What happens to the Blue Jays’ policy of limiting player contracts to five years?
It’s history. Shapiro said he prefers to avoid long-term contracts when possible, but he left open the possibility of signing players to six, seven and eight-year deals under the right circumstances.
"I don't believe in absolutes," he said.
The Indians signed the likes of Grady Sizemore, Yan Gomes and Jason Kipnis to six-year contracts under Shapiro.
What happens to the Blue Jays’ front office?
Shapiro said the Blue Jays have asked all of their front office staff to stay on.
Does Shapiro expect to pursue David Price?
Shapiro has not reached out to Price or any of the Blue Jays’ other free agents, but he acknowledged the team’s need for pitching. At the same time, he stressed that the Blue Jays aren’t dependent on Price or any individual free agent.
"No one player holds the key to the future of this organization," Shapiro said.
At the very least, the elimination of the five-year policy allows for the possibility of a deal with elite free agents.
How do the Blue Jays expect to bolster a pitching staff in need of reinforcements?
With multiple starters hitting the open market, the Blue Jays will look at free agents and trade candidates in an attempt to strengthen their starting five.
"It's important to fill two spots in the rotation, either with guys that exist internally or externally," Shapiro said. "We're going to work to do that in a way that not just supports one year, but gives us the best chance to sustain a championship-calibre team."
LaCava said the Blue Jays haven’t made final decisions on the futures of Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna, but both could be considerations in the rotation.
What about R.A. Dickey and Marco Estrada?
Before leaving, Anthopoulos said the Blue Jays were pleased with R.A. Dickey’s strong finish, seemingly suggesting that his $12-million option for 2016 would be exercised. LaCava said the Blue Jays have yet to finalize option decisions, but echoed Anthopoulos’ praise for the knuckleballer’s work.
“R.A.’s second half was great,” LaCava said. “He did a great job for us.”
As for Estrada, Shapiro declined to say whether the club will extend qualifying offers to any free agents.
Will the Blue Jays upgrade Rogers Centre or their spring facility?
Though he intends to familiarize himself with Rogers Centre before charting out potential changes, Shapiro suggested he’s looking to enhance the fan experience. He doesn’t have firm plans for the Blue Jays’ Dunedin spring facility either, but suggested upgrades could be necessary.
“Spring Training is one of the most important resources in building a championship culture,” he said. “It needs to be a state-of-the-art facility that provides a culture capable of training and developing players in a cutting edge environment. It provides a competitive advantage, so we’ll look to do that, hopefully in Dunedin."