Should the Blue Jays have allowed John Farrell to Go to the Red Sox?
After months of speculation, baseball’s worst-kept rumor finally came true as John Farrell has left Toronto to become the new manager of the Boston Red Sox. The Jays received infielder Mike Aviles as compensation, and sent pitcher David Carpenter to Boston to complete the trade.
Farrell did not have much success in his two years with the Blue Jays, as he had an overall record of 154-170 and never posted a winning season. In Farrell’s defence, the Blue Jays never provided him with the resources he needed to compete in the American League East, and their lack of roster depth was painfully exposed during an injury-plagued 2012.
After taking a hard-line stance in 2011 and preventing Farrell from talking to the Red Sox, it was a surprise that Toronto let him walk to the Red Sox for little more than a utility player. Given the glaring lack of depth at every position on the Blue Jays roster, it would have made sense to allow Farrell to leave in exchange for an impact player like Dustin Pedroia or Clay Bucholtz, the latter of whom the Jays asked for last year when the Sox first tried to steal Farrell. Instead, the Jays allowed their manager to leave and were not able to significantly upgrade their roster. So why did Toronto let Farrell walk away for so little in return?
The Blue Jays may have soured on Farrell after a disastrous 2012 campaign that saw veteran Omar Vizquel speak out late in the season about the lack of accountability for young players on the Blue Jays. A glaring criticism of Farrell is that the performance of many young players under his watch has greatly deteriorated. Yunel Escobar (.644 OPS) reverted back to the inconsistent and troublesome player he was when the Blue Jays acquired him in 2010. Colby Rasmus (.223/.289/.400 in 2012) failed to develop into the reliable everyday center fielder the Jays so desperately need. Kelly Johnson was allowed to play every day despite being one of the laziest, least-motivated players the Jays have had in recent memory. Pitchers Henderson Alvarez and Ricky Romero both took dramatic steps backward in 2012 after decent 2011 campaigns. Brett Lawrie only slugged .405 in 125 games. In my opinion, Farrell’s move clearly indicates that the Blue Jays did not have the confidence in him that they did two years ago, otherwise they would have prevented him from walking away to a competing club in their division.
Or perhaps Farrell soured on the Blue Jays after ownership refused to make any significant upgrades to the roster or financial investment in the team during Farrell’s two seasons as manager. Farrell also may not have wanted to work through what seems like an endless rebuilding project in Toronto. Although we may never know for certain, Farrell may have undermined the Blue Jays bargaining position with Boston by refusing to commit to staying in Toronto beyond 2013. What is most likely is that both the Blue Jays and Farrell wanted to end their relationship, although we will probably never know whether Farrell asked to leave or was encouraged to leave by the team.
The consolation for Toronto is Aviles, who has played five different positions in the Majors, and posted a .663 OPS while playing 136 games in 2012, mostly at shortstop. As his career line of .277/.308/.408 indicates, he is a decent hitter with poor on base skills and a bit of power. He also brings a bit of speed to the table, with 51 steals in 69 attempts. He is under team control until 2015, having earned $1.2 million last year, and could be a cheap placeholder at second or short until Adeiny Hechavarria or another player is ready to take over a full-time job in the Toronto infield.
Despite Farrell’s lack of success in Toronto, the Blue Jays needed to stand up to their big division rival and not allow them to acquire an asset who may assist the rebuilding effort in Boston. Farrell served as the pitching coach in Boston between 2007 and 2010, and the Sox pitching staff was one of the best in the A.L. during his tenure. He knows Boston and many of the players on the roster well, and he could be the calming, competent field boss that the Red Sox have needed after Terry Francona was let go in 2011. It would have been better for the Jays to have kept Farrell for one more season, even against his will, and let him walk for nothing after 2013 than to get the paltry return that they did.
The Red Sox are a team in chaos after a disastrous 2012 campaign and the Blue Jays could have forced Boston to hire a less desirable, less qualified manager by making Farrell unavailable. That is exactly what happened in 2011 when Bobby Valentine was hired, and the results in Boston in 2012 were disastrous. The last thing the Blue Jays need is for Boston to become competitive again, and there is no telling what kind of magic Farrell might be able to work with an upgraded Sox roster.
Perhaps the most upsetting aspect of this whole incident is that Farrell left the Blue Jays for a last-place club that lost 93 games, which sadly confirms that Toronto is not a choice destination for many players or coaches in Major League Baseball. Indeed, such has been the case for many years and will not change until the Blue Jays find a way to once again become a true, perennial contender.
Follow me on Twitter: @MaxWarnerMLB