TORONTO – Paul Beeston’s contract extension to remain Toronto Blue Jays president and CEO through the 2015 season is a short-term fix, one that provides stability and closure after nearly two months of lingering uncertainty.
Shifting the focus back to the field – hey, remember all those concerns about the bullpen and second base? – as a year of opportunity and judgment looms, while also giving the club’s first ever employee a send-off campaign before his retirement makes sense.
It’s time to circle the wagons for a run at a wide open AL East. No distractions needed.
There’s a road map now to the next president and CEO, although beyond noting that “Beeston’s successor will start when he retires,” team owner Rogers Communications offered few details on the route it’s taking.
“We will not be commenting on the succession process or timing,” said the release.
Still, settling things down – shortly after compensation talks for Dan Duquette ended over the Baltimore Orioles’ demands for Jeff Hoffman and other top prospects – leaves unresolved all the big-picture issues facing the Blue Jays.
Major strategic decisions may be needed as soon as this summer if the club falters badly, and having a president and CEO on a farewell tour plus a general manager in the final year of his contract isn’t ideal for that. You’d want the person who implements the club’s next long-term plan to be part of developing it strategically, too.
Winning cures all, but if things go sideways, calls must be made on Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and R.A. Dickey, who all have club options for the 2016 season but would be at their peak value before this summer’s trade deadline. Pending free agents Mark Buehrle and Dioner Navarro could also be valuable chips if the Blue Jays decide a retool around new pillars Russ Martin and Josh Donaldson is needed.
On the flip side, Alex Anthopoulos will have earned an extension if the Blue Jays make the playoffs, and what happens if the next president and CEO doesn’t immediately take to him? Such a feeling out period would have preferably been happening now.
That’s probably not possible at this point, though the Blue Jays can take some solace in being in much better shape than the Orioles, who appear to have badly overplayed their hand on Duquette and now find themselves with an executive vice-president, baseball operations who wants to be elsewhere.
Mending fences in the front office will be difficult and mistrust can linger – just as it did with John Farrell and the Blue Jays after the Boston Red Sox made their first run at him after the 2011 season. Perhaps once some time has passed, the Orioles may reset their demands for Duquette, as the Blue Jays eventually did with Farrell, and a deal can be struck.
In the interim, the Blue Jays will be free to explore the many candidates that will emerge for the post, with Beeston’s upcoming retirement acting as an invitation for those interested to apply.
While all that looms, there’s the short-term fix patching things over, with the right things said to end a saga that’s hung over the Blue Jays since word of their interest in Duquette and Ken Williams of the Chicago White Sox leaked on the eve of the winter meetings in December.
“Paul is one of baseball’s greats, whose passion for – and commitment to – winning is unparalleled. He is a proud Canadian and we’re proud to have him lead Canada’s team for the upcoming season,” Edward Rogers, the Toronto Blue Jays chairman, said in a release. “We have been in discussions with Paul about his future with the team since his contract expired in October. There were many rumours flying about, but it would have been inappropriate to comment on such matters publicly. Make no mistake – we are elated to have Paul continue to lead the team for this season.”
Added Beeston: “I love this ball club and the fans. I wake up every day thinking about the game and bringing another championship north of the border. I’m excited for the season ahead – we’ve got a great group of guys who are fiercely competitive and hope to be playing ball in October.”
Beeston’s been there five times before, and this is his last shot at a sixth.