Toronto Blue Jays Offseason Moves: Prince Fielder
As a Toronto sports fan, I am getting fed up. Across all of the sports teams this city has, certain things are consistent. We have rich ownership, high profile and highly respected General Managers, a world class city and market, and a loyal fan base that would fill a stadium up for a winner. Yes I said it. Toronto fans would flock to the Rogers center for a winner. Back in 93 and 94, the glory years of the Blue Jays, the Skydome was regularly packed. Not many baseball teams can lure 50,000 fans to watch their team, but Toronto did it.
What has changed? Many people will point to the Baseball Strike in 95 as the catalyst that destroyed baseball north of the border. Many American columnists think that the Canadian baseball fan base has turned their backs on the Major Leagues and will never forgive the league for what it did. For those who don’t remember, when the season was shut down for the strike that year, the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays were both leading their respective leagues. What a travesty it would have been for the world series to have featured two Canadian teams. Baseball is the great American past time. Teams like Boston, New York, Chicago or L.A. need to be represented in the Fall classic. Not two Canadian cities like Montreal or Toronto.
In any event, I don’t think the strike is what destroyed the Toronto fan base. The Jays will never be relocated to the United States. There is a genuine love for baseball in Toronto. The problem has been the attitude of ownership. The owners we’ve had seem to think that by penny pinching and fielding a cheap team, they will drive up their profit margins. Torontonians aren’t stupid. When there is a team of nobodies on the field, people will just not pay to show up, and that is what has happened. Attendance has plummeted at the dome. Regardless of the Rogers centers new renovations, regardless of managerial promises to spend money, nothing has happened.
The AL East GMs in Boston, New York and even Baltimore continue to increase payroll and lure more star power to their stadiums. While the Jays continue to penny pinch and field a team of nobodies. Jose Bautista came out of nowhere to become a superstar, but if he didn’t, would the Jays have even one bona fide star player? No. The real answer is not yet. Alex Anthopoulos has done a lot of good since coming to the Jays. He brought Brett Lawrie to the Jays from Milwaukee, albeit at the hefty expense of opening day starter and then staff ace Shaun Marcum. Lawrie is supposed to be the next big thing, a Canadian homegrown talent who is projected to be the next Wade Boggs. He alone will not be enough to dethrone the Yanks or Sox and get the Jays to the World Series.
With another wild card coming next season, the time is ripe for Toronto to make an impact move. Sergio Santos is a nice discount piece, but he isn’t going to put us over the top. What Anthopoulos needs to do is spend some of the projected 120 million dollar payroll that Beeston promised the Toronto media, and get a big name free agent who will draw crowds to the Rogers Center and strike fear in the hearts of the rest of the AL. The man I am speaking of is none other than Prince Fielder. His father Cecil was once a proud Jay, crushing bombs into the upper decks of the Dome. His son would be the impact bat the Jays need.
Anthopoulos has built this team to win within the next few years. The sad reality is that not many big bats will reach free agency within that time frame. This is a perfect opportunity. Sign Fielder for 5 years at his asking price (similar to Ryan Howard money). Move him to DH, so his body can withstand the rigors of 160+ games over that time span, and let his offensive numbers justify his pay cheque. He will draw in crowds, and generate a few more wins single handedly. By the second or third year of his deal, the prospects will have matured, Gose and McGuire will be on the big club, and the Jays will have a legit roster than can win it all. Imagine a line up of Gose, Lawrie, Bautista, Fielder, Lind, Rasmus, Thames, Arencibia, etc. It all sounds good in theory, but the focal point of that line up is clearly Fielder.
I beg you Anthopoulos, do what your GM brethren in other Toronto Sports have failed to do. Sign a legit all star, and watch the crowds flock to the Rogers center, the wins mount, and the revenues pour in. Your bosses will be just as happy about it as we the fans will.