Friday, November 23, 2012

So...Um...The Blue Jays Made a Trade

So, you may have heard some baseball news over the din of rejuvenated Toronto interest in the Grey Cup1. In addition to re-hiring John Gibbons as manager and signing Melky Cabrera to patrol left field, there was the news of an early Black Friday shopping deal.

The Jays sent shortstops Yunel Esobar and Adeiny Hechavarria, catcher Jeff Mathis, and a trio of prospects - pitchers Anthony DeSclafani and Justin Nicolino, and outfielder Jake Marisnick - for pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, shortstop Jose Reyes, utility man Emilio Bonafacio, and catcher John Buck.

Holy crap!

Just as Jeffrey Loria tore apart the Montreal Expos, he's fleeced the taxpayers and fans of the Miami Marlins, much to the benefit of the Toronto Blue Jays. There is almost unanimous approval from Toronto's fan base, although some are worried that, if Reyes and Buehrle don't really want to be here, and Johnson leaves next year once his contract expires, the team will have given up too much.

When you break it down, though, Escobar was on his way out after the eyeblack incident was necessarily blown out of proportion, Hechavarria is a fantastic defensive talent with very little offensive upside, and while the Jays gave up some highly regarded prospects, they kept their three top pitching prospects and their top overall prospect in Travis d'Arnaud.

The trade, rightly so, is being compared not to Alex Anthopoulous' other big deals - the 2012 deal with the Astros that brought JA Happ and Brandon Lyon to Toronto, or the 2011 deal with St. Louis for Colby Rasmus - but to the December 1990 deal with San Diego that brought Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter northeast, paving the way for back-to-back World Series.

The San Diego trade was obviously a huge part of the team's 1992 and 1993 World Series wins - Alomar collected 6.6 and 6.1 Wins Above Replacement in '92 and '93, respectively, although his 1999 and 2001 seasons in Cleveland were the best in his career. Carter's best season in blue was actually in 1991; he suffered a severe decline afterwards, but that doesn't matter thanks to a swing on a 2-2 Mitch Williams pitch. McGriff had a solid 1992 season in San Diego, but never quite performed as he had in Toronto, and Fernandez never matched his numbers from his first go around north of the border.

As for this franchise-changing deal, expectations are high. Josh Johnson's "off" season last year would have had placed him tops among Jays pitchers in terms of WAR; Mark Buehrle would have been third behind Brandon Morrow. In 2009 and 2010, Johnson accounted for nearly 12 WAR. As for Reyes, the cry has been that he simply doesn't get on base enough to be a leadoff hitter (his projected lineup position). Well, I'll trade a .340 OBP for 40 steals per year - and maybe another 25 from Bonifacio - and even the 4.5 WAR he put up last season, which would have topped the team's batter. Sure, his fielding skills have decreased, but Brett Lawrie's range goes from shallow left field to shallow center, so who cares?

At the end of the day, or the sake of excitement along, this is a monumental trade - that apparently all started with a discussion about Josh Johnson. If the Blue Jays win a World Series within the next 5-7 years, chances are that this trade will have been a significant starting point.

Oh, and on a side note - this was brought up by Jeff Sammut and Mile Wilner on the Fan - hopefully new manager John Gibbons will have the foresight to parade Johnson and Buehrle out when the Jays host the Red Sox and ex-manager John Farrell. Frankly, I'd have the new faces throwing batting practice, delivering the lineup cards, leading the seventh inning stretch, and serving wings and beer in the stands on off-days.

Go Jays go, welcome to the bandwagon - it'll be pulling up next to the CFL on so everyone can jump off over the next couple of weeks.

1 - Thanks to the NHL lockout, the fact that the Argos are in it, and that it's being hosted in Toronto. Honestly, eliminate one of those three, and no one cares

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