Blue Jays fans are heard at State of Franchise

Blue Jays fans are heard at State of Franchise

Blue Jays fans are heard at State of Franchise
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' offseason was put up for review on Monday night in front of a large group of season-ticket holders at the club's annual State of the Franchise at Rogers Centre.

President Paul Beeston, general manager Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Farrell were on hand to field questions from the nearly 1,000 fans in attendance. It was an opportunity for the most loyal Blue Jays followers from the Greater Toronto Area to get answers about the direction of the team.

The tone was mostly positive, with the exception of a few confrontational questions, but it was nothing new to Anthopoulos, who has been down this road before and anticipated being put under a microscope.

"I think we've gone over a lot of these topics, so it's pretty much what I expected," Anthopoulos said. "I think it's a similar atmosphere, the same vibe each year, but it's just a little bit more exciting this year. There's more attention and more media. There's more excitement about the club. It feels like a really big deal, in a great way."

The Blue Jays' season-ticket holders seemed to be somewhat split in their analysis of Toronto's rather uneventful offseason. The early part of the meeting was dominated by fans who were upset Anthopoulos didn't acquire a big bat to complement Jose Bautista in the middle of the order and another top starter to help anchor the rotation.

Most of that displeasure seemed to dissipate as the session progressed, with several fans standing up to praise Toronto's front office for its overall rebuilding efforts and not sacrificing the future for a short-term fix.

Along the way, other pertinent issues were raised, such as the possibility of adding a natural-grass surface to Rogers Centre, competitive ticket prices and even the need for a larger variety of Blue Jays gear aimed at women.

The night kicked off, though, just as everyone had suspected -- with plenty of talk about Prince Fielder, Yu Darvish and Carlos Beltran. All three players were linked to the Blue Jays at various points in the offseason, but all ended up elsewhere.

When it came to Fielder, the Blue Jays' brass more or less confirmed that Toronto was never a serious contender for his services. The Blue Jays have a club policy of not handing out contracts that span more than five seasons, which effectively eliminated Toronto from those sweepstakes.

"We do not want to tie our hands as to what we're doing in the future," Beeston said. "Prince Fielder is a terrific talent ... but having said that, he was looking for the long-term contract that we would not commit to. If it had been a one-year deal, we would have been there. If it had been a three-year deal, we would have been there. If it had been a five-year deal, we might have been there.

"Once it got over that, it didn't make a whole lot of sense for the Toronto Blue Jays, given where we want to go, what we want to do and our options into the future."

Anthopoulos sidestepped a question about whether his club made a bid on Darvish, but he reiterated that the offseason plan all along was to exhaust the trade route and not commit a lot of dollars to a premium free agent.

The one free agent the Blue Jays appeared to have a lot of interest in was Beltran, who signed a two-year deal in St. Louis. One fan wanted to know why Toronto didn't take a risk on such a short-term contract, and Anthopoulos responded with an indirect answer that provided plenty of clues about how the negotiations went down.

"With a lot of players, at times, some of them don't want to play on turf, no matter what money," Anthopoulos said immediately after being asked about Beltran. "Some of them don't want to DH at no matter what money, and some of them have health concerns from the medical staff that the club may feel they have to DH, and if they have to DH, they're unwilling to sign no matter what the dollars are.

"At that point, I don't know what you can do, other than taking the shot."

Beeston provided the highlight of the State of the Franchise in 2011, when he said the Blue Jays had the potential to eventually spend upward of $140 million to $150 million in payroll, and he once again stole the show on Monday night.

Toronto's president was his usual upbeat self and riled up expectations surrounding his team by stating that within the next five years, he believed the Blue Jays would make the postseason at least two or three times.

"I think we are headed in the right direction," Beeston said. "I believe in the philosophy of signing these kids in the Minor Leagues. I believe the way that we've built in the Minor Leagues, that's where it's really going to come to fruition. We've got a good team, we've got a better team that we had last year.

"As we go forward, I think you're going to see that five years from now, we better be in the postseason. The month of September better start meaning something to us, because that's what you want and that's what we want."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.