The trade is a few days old now and beaten to a bloody pulp by the blogosphere....but dammit - I want a turn! So here it is....
The deal is a win for the Blue Jays. Not because Yunel Escobar appears to be flashy as fuck fielding the ball at short. Not because, discounting this season, he was viewed as an elite bat at the position. Not because he gets on base and not because he flashes power. And the trade is definitely not a win because Alex Anthopoulos has rid the team of any shortcomings in the "old" shortstop's game.
It's a win for the organization because the logic behind the deal trumps the end result - good, bad, or otherwise - and Anthopoulos continues to prove he's unafraid of taking on the risks necessary to execute his plan. Er, I mean, The Plan.
(...and yes, I'm cringing at opening the door to references to the "5-year plan" oft-attributed (but never actually proven) to JP Ricciardi. So just don't, OK?)
Anthopoulos has always - from day 1 on the job - maintained he was much more interested in targeting elite talent over quantity of talent. Those players come with a degree of built-in risk, but it's the only way for the Jays to compete with the wallets of the Yankees and the Red Sox. Flipping a stopgap shortstop solution, no matter how well he's performed, for a cost-controlled player at the same position with a potential to be great is a risk you have to take.
I was one of those guys openly questioning the wisdom behind signing Alex Gonzalez in the preseason. I found it fairly unlikely he'd accumulate any sort of trade value and didn't see the upside contribution over the team's current version of Alex Gonzalez (John McDonald). Yeah, I was wrong there. Shocker! Raise your hand if, on April 1, you thought the Jays might parlay Gonzalez and 2 non-elite (more later) prospects for a potential all-star calibre shortstop. Now put your hand down, you god-damned liar.
Here's what the Jays really gave up:
* A veteran shortstop playing to the absolute peak of his abilities, who very likely was in his final year with the team, and if not, almost certainly in his final productive year with the team. No offense to Gonzalez, who was a total pro and exceeded any and all expectations, but if you think he's capable of carrying this performance through 2011.....well, I don't know what to tell ya'. Other than to say "he isn't". (But I've been wrong before. Have I mentioned that?)
* A left-handed reliever with amazing minor league stats (K machine!) and an even more amazing human interest angle (he's tiny!).....who scouts regularly insist has middle relief upside.
* A scrappy, gritty, speedy little Reed Johnson of the infield, who might have a decent career as a major league utility player.
All of the above are worthy assets. But all of the above would fall under the label of quantity. Quantity can be accumulated. Quality is more difficult to come by. And if Gonzalez maintains his pace and leads the Braves to the playoffs - a hearty pat on the back to him, because that just was not going to happen with the Jays. If Collins exceeds expectations and thrives in the late innings, and Pastornicky develops into an everyday sparkplug of a player? The cost of doing business.
One last question I've been kicking around in my head, admittedly almost immediately on hearing the announcement - what of Adeiny Hechavarria? I'll tell you what of Adeiny Hechavarria. It's fantastic for the development of Adeiny Hechavarria. Let's say you're a big bonus Cuban shortstop flailing away in the minor leagues, but looking at a depth chart with names like Alex Gonzalez and Mike McCoy ahead of you. Neither of whom the organization has any real investment in.
Now let's say you're the same Cuban shortstop who sees another Cuban shortstop ahead of you on that depth chart, out to prove he is indeed the elite major league player he was on the verge of becoming. Under which scenario do you think a player would push to get the most out of his talents?
Smart guy, that Anthopoulos.