After the "hysteria and hyperbole" (TM John Lott, NatPost and J-School Jedi) subsided on Friday night, we received a number of cards and letters outlining to us that the only way to determine the efficacy of trading of Vernon Wells was to see what the Jays did with the money that they saved.
To which we say: Are you frickin' kidding us? Do you not realize and appreciate what was just accomplished here?
Before the trade, Jays were on the hook for $86 Million to a player with ongoing injury and performance issues over the past three seasons. They were going to carry on a significant percentage of their player payroll being attributed to a player who is likely (given age and past track record) to diminish in on-field value. Now, they've moved a contract that was deemed "untradeable" right up until about 5 PM Eastern Time on Friday evening.
"But wait!" you exclaim! "It shouldn't matter because Alex Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston said that money wasn't an issue, which I of course took to mean that the Blue Jays can spend all of the money that they want and sit on a huge contract if they have to because Rogers is totally the richest company ever!"
To which we respond: You've really got to learn to parse words better than that, and stop hearing what you want to hear. (Also, you should probably see a shrink, because we're assuming that this sort of behaviour doesn't limit itself to the Blue Jays. For your sake and the sake of your loved ones: Get help.)
When AA or Beeston make claims along these lines, they are intended primarily to move the conversation away from Ricciardi-style defeatism where the limitations of the budget made competing in the AL East seem to be an impossibility. Which is not to say that they are cynical, because if the Jays' front office can make a compelling business case for upping the payroll, we're sure that their comrades around the Rogers senior management table (you know, the mobile and cable guys who make all that money that you're looking to piss away on Vernon Wells' 2014 performance) might actually be able to buy in. But no one at that table is going to put their own personal performance bonus on the line so that the Jays can heave cash at this fire or that one in the hopes of putting them out.
What the Jays bought themselves this weekend was payroll flexibility. And that flexibility will allow them to look towards extending their relationship with the products of their own system over the next four season. They'll have the funds to lock up Travis Snider, should he turn into the 35 homer, 5 WAR player that we think he can be. That $21 million four years from now will also go a long way towards locking up Deck McGuire, or some June 2011 pick of whom we haven't yet even heard the first peep.
Just because the Jays have this additional money today, it doesn't mean that the trade pulled off this weekend can only be judged based upon how they spend that extra dough. Because frankly, spending the money in your pocket just because you've got it is how Tony Reagins got himself into this deal.