Toronto Used Farm System, Not Free Agency, To Build Its Talented Lineup

During a recent broadcast of the critical Blue Jays series against the Yankees, one of the commentators mentioned that neutral fans should be rooting for New York. He then explained that people still disliked the Yankees because of their reputation for using big money to buy players rather than develop them through their farm system.

The broadcaster went on to explain how the roles were now switched, alleging that Toronto's roster was filled with more "bought" players than New York's. While it was true that during the George Steinbrenner days the Yankees acquired the most expensive free agents, that has not been the case in the last five years.

To illustrate his claim, the commentator pointed out that only two of the Blue Jays starters, center fielder Kevin Pillar and second baseman Ryan Goins, came through the Toronto system. The rest, he explained, were not products of the minor league affiliates of the Blue Jays.

The implication was that Toronto, like the Yankees of the 90s and 00s, simply bought their players instead of developing them. That assertion is erroneous, however, when one makes a closer inspection of the Blue Jays lineup.

The sluggers in Toronto's lineup, unlike those of the 90s Yankees, were not purchased as free agents. They were acquired through trades for primarily minor leaguers, meaning that the Blue Jays have indeed greatly benefited from their farm system.

Jose Bautista came over from the Pirates in exchange for prospect Robinson Diaz way back in 2008. That same year, Edwin Encarnacion was acquired from the Reds for oft-injured All-Star third baseman Scott Rolen. Third baseman Josh Donaldson, the likely American League Most Valuable Player, was acquired from Oakland last winter for Brett Lawrie and three prospects.

Even beyond the trio previously mentioned, most of the Toronto lineup was also set up through trades. Outfielder Ben Revere was acquired in August from the Phillies for two prospects. First baseman Justin Smoak was selected off waivers from the Seattle Mariners last winter. Shortstop Troy Tulowitski was acquired from the Rockies at this year's trade deadline for Jose Reyes.

Overall, catcher Russell Martin was the only Toronto player in the starting lineup who was acquired through free agency. Compare that amount to the number of not just the 90s Yankees, but also the current New York lineup. On the field wearing pinstripes were three players acquired through free agency, first baseman Mark Teixiera, right fielder Carlos Beltran, and second baseman Stephen Drew.

To accuse the Blue Jays of buying players rather than using their farm system would be completely unfounded. The talented roster they currently have may not be products of the Toronto system, but most of them were acquired in exchange for its prospects.
By Doug Poe

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