Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Little Touch of Terrific

We've made a point through most of this year of toning down some of the outlandish fanboy praise for Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, if only to pull back the reins on some of the expectations that have been built up by his initial moves over his first two years in the post. Anthopoulos is not wizard, secret agent, ninja, evil genius or whatever other stock movie character to which he has been compared.

And yet, it's hard not to let the plaudits fly after another extraordinary player personnel move yesterday.

Within the past week, we had told people that we thought it highly unlikely that the Jays would have any capacity to acquire a player such as Colby Rasmus. The notion that a player would be available when he is controllable, plays a premium position, possesses all five tools and has seemingly yet to reach his ceiling seemed to be remote at best. Add to that the fact that a number of other suitors were certain to step forward if he were to become available, and the notion that the Jays would empty out their newly restocked system for him just didn't compute.

Of course, we hadn't really factored in Anthopoulos' ability to make possible the impossible. Trading Vernon Wells' contract? Impossible! An unmovable contract! Getting value for Roy Halladay when he's shrunk the pool of possible destinations to one? How could anyone do such a thing? Acquiring another team's number one prospect in their system? That just doesn't happen! Don't be ridiculous!

What we especially love about this deal - and much of the Anthopoulos oeuvre - is how it flies in the face of conventional wisdom. The Jays are a team that, if the baseball scriptures are to be heeded, should be selling. They should be emptying out their system of talent sending pieces to buyers. Because that's how this works.

But this trade is yet another example of Anthopoulos both flouting the conventions, and using the momentum and ambition of other "contenders" in order to extract what he needs to build a solid core of a team that will be in Toronto for at least four-to-five affordable years. And he does it without leaving the other teams feeling as though they were fleeced. That's no small accomplishment when you consider the magnitude of this equation: The bodies, contracts, cash, futures and picks getting balanced out somehow in such a manner that three teams could walk away satisfied.

Moreover, the Rasmus trade is positively brilliant in as much as it makes the team's lineup better now and in the future while essentially costing the team a left-handed reliever and a pitching prospect. (There's a lot of clutter and contracts that were swapped, but in essence, this deal comes down to Stewart and Rzepczynski for Rasmus. And were you to tell us that the cost of acquiring Colby Freaking Rasmus would be two young pitchers drawn from a growing crop of hurlers, we would have told you to stop dreaming.

In baseball, as in most other pursuits, there are no sure things. It's entirely possible the Colby Rasmus ends up being a decent centrefielder who hovers below an .800 OPS and occasionally rubs his teammates the wrong way. But there's evidence to suggest that, at 24, he can grow into a transcendent player who is the sort of star that we as Jays fans covet when they are given outlandish contracts by the Yankees or Red Sox.

The true brilliance of this trade is that it's as if sometime, eight-to-ten years down the road, Alex Anthopoulos decided to forgo the free agent sweepstakes, hop into his modified DeLorean and zip back to a time where he could acquire the $100 million player for pennies on the dollar and enjoy the years which built him up to that value before someone else paid through the nose for that past performance.

And there we go...getting all supernatural again. Alex Anthopoulos brings that out in us.


Milton Sports Guy said...

AA is indeed a ninja.

Also, I had an enjoyable time perusing the Cardinal blogs yesterday and sifting through the obscenities and other commentary directed at LaRussa and the GM.

And then there's the expected reaction to the Corey Patterson acquisition by that fan base, which was as expected.

Good times.

Oh, and did I mention how badass AA is?

jsinnarajah said...

This deal was pure gold for the Jays. Rasmus is essentially an .750-777 OPS right now and he's perceived as not playing to his potential. He also is a good athlete and in this division you need exceptional athletism to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox. Plus he's controlled for another few years, so if/when Gose is ready to come up, Rasmus could become a valuable trading chip in 2013 for AA. The bullpen takes a hit right now, but if you slide Luis Perez in for Zep, you have a shutdown lefty. Tallet can be a long reliever/occasional starter and now you have a clearer path to review Litsch until the end of the season. My only concern is the logjam in the outfield and at third once Lawrie is called up. Inevitably you will play Bautista in RF, Rasmus in CF, Snider in RF. Thames should DH, but then what do you do with Rajai Davis and Edwin Encarnacion. Ideally we'd move those two for some other parts like another bullpen arm, but we'll see. Rajai does give us a speed option in the later innings. Finally, Teahen could be a potential gem as well. The Jays have a long history of getting power out of underachieving bats. Teahen is versatile enough to play some second too, so if he can play all over the diamond and give us some pop, you essentially get a better version of Mike McCoy.

@NorthYorkJays said...

"It's entirely possible the Colby Rasmus ends up being a decent centrefielder who hovers below an .800 OPS and occasionally rubs his teammates the wrong way."

This results in a 3-4 win player, which is why this trade is so fucking golden - the downside still fills a hole at the MLB level.

Mylegacy said...

AA has the Midas Touch - no question.

Morrow - clearly our pitcher with the best stuff.

Escobar - a top four SS in all of baseball.

Lawrie - a mega-prospect who's KILLING AAA.

Rasmus - a kid who should soar like an eagle now that that albatross LaRussa is off his back.

Four EXCEPTIONAL, SPECTACULAR talents that wouldn't be with us if ANYONE ELSE was our GM.

At the end of his career, AA is gonna end up making Pat Gillick look like a minor league talent.


Tony said...

Excellent post, Tao, though I would quibble with this:

"There's a lot of clutter and contracts that were swapped, but in essence, this deal comes down to Stewart and Rzepczynski for Rasmus."

I'd argue that Frasor represents an important part of the deal, just as much as Stewart does. Doesn't make the deal any less good, of course.

Tao of Stieb said...

For the White Sox, Frasor might be a bigger part of this deal, but the Sausage King was gone after this season. We might miss him over the next six weeks, but he was not a part of the future of this team.

Which isn't to say that I didn't like Frasor...Sad to see him go, but that's mostly nostalgia.

gabriel said...

Listening to Frasor's exit interview, it sounded to me as though Frasor would be quite happy to come back to Toronto as a free agent at some point. It'll probably be a few years, but I bet we see Frasor again.

Anonymous said...

Why is Frasor the "sausage king"?

Tao of Stieb said...

DrewGROF gave him the nickname. We were trying to think of a nickname for Frasor, and because he was Chicago, he was named after Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago.

It's a Ferris Bueller reference.

OK. It's a stretch, but it caught on.

Burger_Man said...

Must admit I always preferred the "Ginger Jockey" moniker for Frasor.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough. Thanks. Nothing yet for Rasmus?

Andrew said...

While Frasor and Dotel weren't going to be part of the future, remember that the Jays gave up the draft picks those guys might have brought back in the off-season here as well. That said, it's still a great deal even if both of those type B guys end up declining arbitration.

Anonymous said...

early review on Rasmus- he looked bewildered- no where to go but up after alst night, and everyone loves him already, so this should be fun. Time to get some shirts made: "I believe in AA"

Tao of Stieb said...

Andrew: Point taken. In my rush to be glib, I neglected to mention those sammich round picks, which definitely have value.

Anonymous said...

Although, Rasmus himself is a type A. So, barring rule changes, he would net two picks in a few years if someone were to sign him.

@NorthYorkJays said...

"For the White Sox, Frasor might be a bigger part of this deal, but the Sausage King was gone after this season."

He has a club option for 3.75m. There's no reason to think he was gone after this season if they were willing to offer him arbitration this year.

Anonymous said...

ssooooooo, time to start a pool for Rasmus' first hit, rbi, HR, etc.. ??

Dogandabeer said...

Still waiting for any of the above, in way of a pool.
So far I am winning with a guess of 8 whiffs before a hit.

Grock said...

Unless a change of scenery (ala Escobar) is what Rasmus needed to show his potential, I see don't see the plus side of this trade.

We've lost one of the best BP pitchers in the game in Frasor, regardless of future team plans, 3 prospects (to be named later, which means STL gets to choose), for a player that even Pujols wanted out of there.

Rasmus sucks against LHP, and there is a lot of great LHP in the AL East.

I just can't get gushy this time over AAs trade, considering we got back an aged Trever Miller, Brian Tallet and a kid who may never live up to the hype.

Here is a thought. Name a player who is happy to leave a perennial contender to go to a team that hasn't contended for 20 years, and that team is in a division where contending means beating either Boston or the NYYs?

Why do you think our much loved Roy Hallday wanted the hell out of Toronto? He still has 5 - 6 good years left in him and he knew that Toronto wasn't close to that position in his time.

No, gush all you want about the Rasmus trade, I just don't see this as a "Ninja" trade, where we stole Rasmus for a bag of used balls. We gave up a lot to get this kid and I hope as much as all your readers that it works out as a Ninja trade.

But then I have turned pessimist for the sake of fan sanity the past couple of years, but I expect to see STL in the pennant race far more in the next 10 years than seeing the Jays there.