Blue Jays aren’t about to win PR points by hiring another Farrell

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins. (Chris Young/CP)

TORONTO – From an optics standpoint, the Toronto Blue Jays aren’t winning this one.

It’s been seven years since they traded John Farrell to the Red Sox, but his departure never sat well with Blue Jays fans – and who can blame them? After two seasons as Toronto’s manager, Farrell asked to be let out of his contract, choosing his ‘dream job’ in Boston over the one he already had. It worked out for Farrell, who won a World Series in his first season with the Red Sox, but Blue Jays fans didn’t necessarily forgive or forget.

Even in 2015, when Mark Shapiro dropped Farrell’s name at an off-season press conference, fans bristled at the mention. By then, Farrell was an afterthought, just not one fans wanted their front office applauding.

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

Now, the Blue Jays are about to hire another Farrell in a high-profile role. Shane Farrell, the son of the former manager and a one-time Blue Jays draftee himself, is expected to be named the team’s next amateur scouting director, as first reported by Robert Murray. Though GM Ross Atkins declined to comment on the status of the search when reached Saturday, he has previously indicated that the club hopes to have a hire in place before the holidays.

Farrell, 30, comes from the Chicago Cubs, where he was a west coast crosschecker. His ties to the Blue Jays organization date back to 2011, the first season his father managed the Blue Jays. That summer, Toronto made him their 46th round draft pick, but he never played professionally and soon transitioned to a front office role.

In Chicago, Farrell worked alongside two brothers, Luke and Jeremy, at various points. Jeremy works in the Chicago front office as a field coordinator while Luke pitched for the Cubs in 2018 before joining his current team, the Rangers.

The Blue Jays are hiring Farrell at a critical time. Just six months remain before they make their highest pick in decades – the fifth overall selection in 2020. Underscoring the importance of the pick, the Blue Jays haven’t chosen this high since 1997, when they landed Vernon Wells. With the worst of their rebuild potentially over, there’s hope that they won’t be picking this high again any time soon. Farrell’s first pick may be his most important.

Along the way he’ll have support from other executives such as senior VP of player personnel Tony LaCava, described by Atkins as a “stabilizing force.” Still, Farrell won’t have the luxury of easing into the new role.

The timing’s more rushed than usual because former scouting director Steve Sanders left to become the Pirates’ new assistant GM less than a month ago (he’s now working for former Jays executive Ben Cherington, who also happens to be the GM who acquired Farrell from Toronto back in 2012).

Regardless of the circumstances, this move won’t likely be popular with Blue Jays fans. Cue the ‘dream job’ jokes now.

Yet one experienced scout for a National League team believes Farrell was the right hire even if it’s met with criticism.

“The honestly not fair at all,” the scout said. “He works his ass off. Nobody will outwork him, and he’s very intelligent and a strong evaluator who trusts his area guys.”

Clearly, it would be unfair to assume Farrell will treat Toronto as a stepping stone just because his father did. But by that same logic, we can’t assume he’ll be successful simply because his family’s well-connected in the game.

The way the MLB Draft plays out, it’ll be years before we know how Farrell’s draftees do. In the meantime, he probably shouldn’t expect a particularly warm embrace from the many Blue Jays fans who still haven’t forgiven his father.

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