Griffin: Jays need to be transparent on Darvish and move on
So if not $50 million then what actually was the Jays' posted offer on Yu Darvish?
If the Jays weren't in fact close to the Rangers' reported winning bid of $51.7 million, which secondary Jays' sources at one time seemed eager to leave teed up as truth for public consumption, when given the chance to correct, then what was it?
People who claim to have inner knowledge of the final bidding are jumping in with finger-wagging certainty that the Rangers won by "a country mile" and it was "not even close". But what exactly does that mean? Even if a new number is presented as fact, is it accurate? If the posting system is working properly then the only people that should know the Jays' actual dollar offer are the Jays and several people at the Commissioner's Office. Only the winning bid is announced. It's up to the Jays to end speculation and move on.
The Jays, in the club's third year under GM Alex Anthopoulos, have had a hard and fast policy of total silence whenever it comes to speculation on anything to do with players and player acquisition. That includes refusal to confirm interest in any trades, in identifying other clubs for discussion and offers to free agents, including the Japanese star, Darvish.
It worked well for them in the cases of Roy Halladay and the Phillies, Cuban free-agents Aroldis Chapman and Adeiny Hechavarria, the contract negotiations with agent Bean Stringfellow and Jose Bautista and last January's dealing of Vernon Wells to the Angels. Wells and Halladay both appreciated the Jays' close-to-the-vest approach.
But that policy sometimes leads to reported Jays participation and in interest being exagerrated and perpetuated, in rumours not being nipped in the bud and continuing to grow. That then encourages media searching out secondary sources, subject to interpretation. There Are even top player agents that will include the Jays as being interested in their client in order to drive up the price, confident that Anthopoulos won't confirm or deny. It's always been clear that there are times when the club would benefit from total transparency. Darvish is one of those times.
On Wednesday morning, Anthopoulos had staged a 15-minute conference call with local Toronto media to say nothing. He coyly deflected questions of what had been Jays' interest in Darvish, of having made any offer at all and of the dollar amount that was reported by national sources said to be runner-up to the Rangers' reported winning bid of $51.7 million.
He must have known that being recognized as runner-up would generate fan support since he would be perceived to have made a sincere effort. In this case the speculation was helping the team's off-season image and interest. But, now, with all the denials of the $50 million bid that had been reported in multiple outlets elsewhere before being confirmed here, angles offered about the plucky Jays being competitive for Darvish, the previous fan and media support is turning to frustration and anger at being played. Are the Jays trying to take unwarranted credit for aggressiveness to curry public support?
It was reported early in the process from important sports souces around baseball since the bidding on Darvish had closed the week before that the Jays were in at $40-50 million and that they were considered front-runners, along with the Rangers. Those sources of a rich Jays offer included the New York Post, the Dallas Morning News, ESPN.com and CBS Sports, among others. Right up until the moment the Hakkaido Nippon Ham Fighters announced they had accepted the winning bid on Tuesday night, the Jays were being hailed in many circles as the likely winners of the posting. The Jays officially remained silent. Did they think they had a chance or were they just smiling and taking in the fan fervour?
Policy is nice, but in this particular case the Jays need to step up and make an exception to their standard opaqueness. If the Jays indeed made a good-faith bid to Nippon Ham, even if it was lower than reported, if the Jays were expecting to have a chance to win the rights to Darvish but underestimated the Rangers' interest, who had claimed publicly that they didn't have much money, then nothing should change with fans in terms of the perceptions of their aggressiveness towards improving and contending in the off-season.
Those who support what the team is doing will now expect them to change direction from Darvish quickly and throw all their resources into adding young controllable talent via trades to make them a contender in 2012. One clear need remains a starting pitcher, the mid-rotation guy that would have been Darvish if they had won the posting.
But if the posted bid for Darvish was token, just to be on the record as having interest then that changes all perceptions. That means that they sat back in this case, watching the way they were lumped with the leaders for Darvish and smiled knowing that they weren't serious players for the prize, but willing to take fans and media kudos for their efforts. That's wrong and that's why they need to set the record straight.
In either case, a good challenge to throw back at the Jays right now is to give them the same 30 day window that the Rangers have to sign Darvish and check back in with Anthopoulos on January 18 at 5:00 p.m. Challenge the Jays to makes moves in the next month that make the roster stronger than it would have been if they had been putting all their efforts into negotiating with Darvish.
Darvish may well turn into a legitimate #1-2 starter but part of the attraction in chasing him was the sizzle that he brought to the off-season. There is still the likelihood the Jays made a good-faith bid for Darvish, but public sentiment is turning aganst them.
Anthopoulos can only gain back the attention and support of Jays fans by making some smart, aggressive, baseball oriented moves in the next 30 days. Not just for the sake of spending the $52 million that they would have had to win the Darvish sweepstakes to prove they're not cheap, but by staying within the team's philosophy of sustainability.
However that does not also mean they should not step up in the next week and make an announcement on the Darvish bid coming clean and moving on. Stay tuned.