Late Thoughts Regarding The Dustin McGowan Extension


Yesterday it was announced that the Blue Jays signed RHP Dustin McGowan to a 2-year, $3 million extension with a club option for a 3rd year at $4 million.  I was in favour of the deal as soon as it was announced, but I wasn’t able to expand on my thoughts due to that pesky thing known as a day job.

My Twitter feed blew up with opposition to the signing, which is why I jokingly added the #haterstotheleft hashtag.  From a strictly business-minded managerial perspective, this extension makes little sense.  Getting Blanked’s Drew Fairservice noted a number of reasons as to why this deal befuddled him:  McGowan has never pitched 170IP in a season, with his injury track record it’s risky to have him take up a roster spot, he put up poor numbers in his short stint last season, he has a career 1.6 WAR, etc. etc.  These are all valid points.  I can’t think of a single pitcher who has missed 3 years of time due to a shoulder injury and come back to have a productive career, let alone regain his “stuff.”

In my opinion, former Blue Jays GM JP Ricciardi would not have made the same deal for those same reasons.  So why did Anthopoulos?  If we dig a little deeper, we will find that this deal is indicative of the transformation in the organization’s culture, spearheaded by current Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos.  Whereas before, JP Ricciardi would have referred to McGowan as “the player,” Anthopolous refers to him as “Dustin.”  That speaks volumes.

Following Ricciardi’s departure, much of Anthopoulos’ efforts were focused on investing resources into player development.  The importance of scouting was again emphasized; there was a hiring spree of scouts at all levels while additional minor league affiliates were added to develop prospects.  Baseball decisions were made after weighing both quantitative (statistics) and qualitative (scouting reports) data.  The Blue Jays did their homework on a player’s character before deciding whether or not to bring him into the fold.  In addition to changing the organization’s philosophy on the field, Anthopoulos changed the way the Blue Jays conducted business off the field.  This included being open and honest with players and their agents as well as conducting business in an ethical manner.  Taking all of that into consideration, this deal should come as no surprise:

“If you believe in the person, most times you’re going to be right more than wrong,” he said. “Whether you’re a little high on the money or a little low at the end of the day, the mistakes I find we’ve made as an organization is we may have just not have done an evaluation of the human being first and foremost.” – Alex Anthopoulos

To be clear, this deal does not represent much of a financial risk at all to the team.  It does not preclude the club from adding and subtracting parts from the roster as they see fit.  This deal is proof that the club is “putting its money where its mouth is.”   They believe in the player Dustin McGowan. Most importantly, the Blue Jays believe that the “stuff” McGowan exhibited in his short stint last season (as well as this spring) is at a level that he can compete at the Major League level and make a positive contribution to this team.  “Live by the sword, die by the sword,”  to abuse yet another cliché.

Blue Jays Assistant GM Tony LaCava sit with GM Alex Anthopoulos. 

But this is not a deal solely based on business considerations.  For those who don’t know, McGowan has been out of baseball since injuring his shoulder in 2008.  From then until now, the Jays have invested approximately $2 million in salary alone while McGowan rehabbed his various injuries.  If it were me, I would have become emotionally invested in such a grueling comeback.  After investing so much time, I’d want Dustin to be around so we could share in his successes together.  I think Anthopoulos feels the same way:

“I didn’t want him to leave.”

“You can’t help but root for him … We were going to see this thing through, start to finish, good or bad.”

“We’re not blind to the fact that yeah, there’s a ton of risk here,” he said. “But in this division and what we’re up against and what we’re trying to do, we have to take a little more risk — or maybe a lot more risk — than a lot of the other teams. But I’ll take the risk on the right human being.” – Alex Anthopoulos

This extension sends a message to all the players in the Jays’ farm system.  That message is that if you as a player, work hard, persevere and make a commitment to us, then we will make a commitment to you.  It also sends a message indirectly to players on all 29 teams around the league who may be debating which organization they would like to play for when they are eligible for free agency.  It’s all part of making the Toronto Blue Jays the employer of choice, if you will.  They do have to compensate, after all, for having AstroTurf and high taxes…

If McGowan flames out, it costs the Jays $3 million. A Rogers rounding error.    If McGowan pitches to his potential, the Blue Jays will have a top-of-the rotation starter on their hands.  To me, there’s nothing about this deal that I don’t like.

Blue Jays president Paul Beeston, Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed & Rogers Vice-Chair Phil Lind.

It comes as no surprise that Paul Beeston was 100% in support of this deal.  It is the exactly the same kind of deal that Pat Gillick would have made when the Blue Jays were seen as a model franchise.

Photos courtesy of John Lott, Chris So/Toronto Star, Mike Cassese/REUTERS and Daylife/REUTERS.

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