Hey, remember last week, when I looked ahead to how a new manager might make use of a player like Mike Aviles, holding out hope for some creativity and ingenuity with respect to platoons and defense and what-not? Yeah, never mind about all that.
Alex Anthopoulos flipped Aviles quicker than a downtown Toronto real estate speculator, albeit perhaps with less expectation of profit. Any added middle infield flexibility Aviles' presence on the roster represented evaporated quickly in favour of yet another hard-throwing righty reliever in Esmil Rogers, who (for now) joins Steve Delabar, Brad Lincoln, and some others of that ilk in a somewhat crowded bullpen.
It's a curious deal for a bunch of reasons, the first of which is related to the deal that brought Aviles to Toronto in the first place. I remain of the view that getting a viable, versatile middle infield piece in return for a manager with a middling track record was a bit of a coup for Anthopoulos. In fact, the GM himself seemed to envision some kind of 2013 role for Aviles too, based on his comments to the media after the trade was finalized. Yet here we are a week later with the same questions about second base that were there at the end of the season. There's obviously a lot of off-season left, with time to answer the infield questions and others, and we can't know which players the organization might be targeting as potential fits. But it's certainly frustrating as a fan to see a roster gap partially dealt with, and then thrown back into uncertainty within a span of days. And as Colin Wyers of Baseball Prospectus pointed out on Twitter yesterday, while two data points don't make a trend, this practice of appearing to win a trade, only to quickly move the most useful return piece elsewhere for a relief pitcher, does look to be a bit of an Anthopoulos specialty.
If all that wasn't troubling enough, I had an even more uncomfortable thought yesterday as I mentally digested this deal: what does it mean for Sergio Santos? Or more to the point, is it possible that the team remains pessimistic about Santos coming back healthy enough in 2013 to be effective in the late innings? Santos is surely Exhibit A for why accumulating bullpen depth is a good thing, because you never know how hard-throwing, maximum effort pitchers who tend to find careers in relief will hold up. Santos certainly has the potential, as well as a short but impressive track record, to be a shutdown reliever for the Jays. But shoulder surgeries are a tricky business, and despite reports that he'll have no problem being ready for Spring Training, it's interesting that Anthopoulos continues to accumulate right-handed relief regardless. I mean, maybe I'm being paranoid and Santos will show up to camp buckling knees with a slider and blowing a fastball past batters like nothing ever happened. I'd love if that were the case. It's just... does that really seem like the most likely scenario? And isn't it better to prepare for the possibility that he might not be the same pitcher again?
If there's a saving grace in this whole business, it's that the Jays are rid of Yan Gomes, a player for whom my dislike grew with every appearance. I don't have anything against the guy personally, and he seems like an earnest enough ballplayer. But frankly, there was no reason to think Gomes had a future as even a borderline utility player for the Blue Jays, and I'm relieved that the organization will no longer have to deal with the temptation to pretend he might. At whichever positions he might have been expected to fill in, I truly think the team can find plenty of other options who can do the job more effectively at the same price. I wish him well, but packaging him in a deal for a living, breathing major-league baseball player of any kind was probably a best-case scenario.