Saturday, November 5, 2011

On "The Plan" and Albert Pujols

Pictured: The apple of our collective eye.
Much has changed since Alex Anthopoulos took charge of the Toronto Blue Jays in late 2009. In the time since, Alex has made a point of keeping the attention of fans focused squarely on The Plan, that is, the acquisition and development of a core of young, controllable, high ceiling players with the end goal of stringing together multiple playoff appearances. The Silent Assassin, as he has become known in circles of like-minded baseball degenerates, has pulled off some trades that are simply embarrassing to the other parties involved, and at this point, anyone who would claim Anthopoulos has not done an outstanding job as G.M. disqualifies him or herself from conversation between rational adults.

However, high fives and handjobs aside, young talent is - by its nature - volatile. This fact Toronto fans know all too well. Over the past several seasons, we have watched names such as Hill, Lind, and Snider undulate between the the canyon that is the Mendoza line and the Mount Kilimanjaro of Silver Slugger stardom, with each spending significant time in the vast limbo of the "he's really figuring it out" grasslands. Much thought has been put into explaining why the first two names have had the successes and failures they have had, with the third resulting in an equal amount of contemplation in the form of head scratching. Players that excel one season sometimes flounder the next, and prospects that can't miss often do just that.

It is for this reason that veteran talent is valuable. Players who have shown consistent performance year in and year out. I'm not interested in talking about Proven closers like Papa Grande, or clubhouse leaders like Michael Cuddyer. I'm talking about the best player in baseball.

This kind of talk immediately runs counter to the current situation the Jays find themselves in. One would be hard pressed to argue convincingly that Toronto is one piece away from a contending team in the AL East. Under official Plan dogma, the mere mention of signing a massive free agent deal constitutes heresy, punishable by disapproving stares from Getting Blanked commenters. But this is Albert Pujols. The Albert Pujols. How close does one have to be to the fruition of years of planning before such an idea becomes palpable? At what value of x does it become reasonable to sign a player like Albert Pujols long term, when you find yourself x pieces away from contention?

Any attempt to consult history regarding the answer to this semi-qualitative question would no doubt lead to an answer so heavily drenched from year to year in opportunity and context that it would be impossible to draw any conclusions going forward. One could of course make the argument that any signing like Pujols would be ill advised, since the value added per dollar spent would probably equal out to be far below major league average. Dollar efficiency is great, but if you've got the money to do so, it's never going to hurt to pile 7 or more WAR onto your team for the foreseeable future.

When you think about the current state of the Toronto Blue Jays in relation to Albert Pujols, certainly keep the plan in mind, but I think the water is far murkier than some would lead to you believe regarding what is and is not a good idea for a developing team. The best player in baseball is waiting for someone to pay him.

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