Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Splish Splash - This Is What You've Wanted All Along

Hey look, it's Emilio Bonifacio!

You wanted a splash, and you got it. In fact, it's hard to conceive of a move more splashy than this. Twelve players - Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck in one direction, and Yunel Escobar, Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jeff Mathis, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, and Anthony Desclafani in the other - along with tens of millions of dollars in salary shifting north. Not to mention the deep impact on the psyches of the two fan bases.

Big names. A much bigger payroll. It's precisely that for which so many of you - fans and media alike - have clamoured over the past few years. It's a demonstration of might. A show of strength. And as such, I hesitate to dampen the expectations or somehow speak ill of this pending mega-deal.

And yet, here I stand with a bucket of cold water weighing heavily in my hands, the weight of which is dominating my thoughts at the moment.

Okay, let's take a step back. Let me splash a bit of that bucket's contents on my own face to snap myself out of this odd funk, and to accentuate the positives of this proposed deal.

The Blue Jays come out of this deal with a pitcher who can pitch like a legitimate staff ace, and another starter who has traditionally been reliable for more than 30 starts and 200 innings per season. plus an All-Star offensive talent at a premium position who has put up WARs around 6.0 in multiple seasons. Plus, they get a versatile switch-hitting utility player and a veteran catcher who returns to the fold, and who remains a pretty good catch and throw guy.

If that's where the Blue Jays netted out at the end of the offseason, you would have probably been pretty satisfied that they were living up to their promises of adding big league players to the 2013 roster. And maybe more importantly, you would have been happy to see the payroll's "parameters" - collect yourselves, it's gonna be okay - broadened somewhere closer to the $120 million mark.

If seeing "proven veterans" added to the 25-man roster and a substantial amount to the payroll is your thing, you're understandably over the moon today. I can't blame you, either. The notion that the club has more resources going forward expands my notion of what will be possible in the coming years, and that maybe the Blue Jays will settle into life as a top-10 payroll. This is all good, and the sort of thing you can dream on.

Now, here come the bucket.

Let's not mistake this trade for a long term solution to the Jays' woes. Because the Jays are trading for a single season of Josh Johnson (or his pursuant value) this trade is completely oriented towards success in 2013. The Blue Jays needed two starters to plug into their rotation while they wait on the development of the next generation and the convalescing masses, and in order to get that, they needed to take two bad contracts - Buehrle and Buck - and one very expensive-if-defensible contract in Reyes.

The Jays also moved five players under the age of 24 to Miami, and while upsides of Alvarez and Hechavarria seem to be as something less than All-Stars, they are still in their ascendance. The Jays' system doesn't seem to have been overly culled in sending Nicolino (perhaps the most movable of the Lansing Three) and Marisnick (who struggled in a year in which he was pushed through two levels), but there's plenty that is going in the other direction.

And all of that is wagered on Josh Johnson being healthy and having a good season next year. That's the bottom line.

Certainly, the notion of José Reyes as a fixture in Toronto is an attractive one, even at that price point, but by this time next year, people will be judging this trade on two levels: Did the Blue Jays make the playoffs? Or did they retain Johnson beyond 2013? Otherwise, you're staring down the $39 million left on Buehrle's deal and hoping that it is offset by Reyes' performance, minus the $82 million he'll be owed from 2013 through 2017.

And don't forget that the mere presence of these players by no means guarantees a good outcome. As much as the Marlins were pushed to the forefront at the beginning of last season, let's take a moment and recognize that the same players we're gleefully taking in are the ones who were heralded as missing pieces which would put them over the top in the NL East last year.

Our splash? It's last year's splash in Miami.  

There's plenty of downside to this deal, but if I'm going to be optimistic about it, I'll recognize that a bigger payroll permits the Jays to make some mistakes and sit on them if they need to. If Buehrle's contract turns into Barry Zito's in two years' time, it's possible that this newly flush front office can swallow it and go about their business. 

Again, let me be clear: It's really fun to envision all of these players wearing blue next year. Also, this move is probably a much better one than overpaying for one or two starting pitchers. Would I trade this package for Zach Greinke and Anibal Sanchez or Edwin Jackson? Probably not, especially when you consider the years and annual salary they'd have commanded if they even deigned to come to Toronto.

Ultimately, the team is better today than they were at lunchtime yesterday. If I feel somehow as though I have to begrudge the mechanism that got them to that place, then let me at least acknowledge that there's a reason to be excited about the team on the field. And that should be all that matters.

But if this goes completely pear-shaped, keep in mind that this is the game that many of you implored the Jays to play. You want this? You got it. 


Devin Z. Shaw said...

If Buehrle turns into Barry Zito, that means he'll pitch the Jays to the World Series in his second to last year of his contract. That's airtight logic! Amirite? Amirite?

The Ack said...

What's the alternative, Tao? Overpay in the FA market for Anibal and Edwin to find those 2 starters?

Target bounceback/reclamation projects, or 2nd tier guys, hoping for an Orioles-esque resurgence all the while waiting for the other shoe to drop?

Wait on the prospect seeds to finally bloom, and hope the fanbase isn't so disenchanted when they do that they don't bother returning?

Sincerely, I am not trolling you - far from it - I just think that while it is true that we the fans and the media may have backed AA into this corner, isn't this the direction we have always agreed the club is headed? Trade the chips when the time is right, and open up the wallets. Well, here we are.

I suppose my premise is, any big money move or series of big money moves will come with a pile of risk, otherwise it's a strategy every single franchise would take.

AA, Beeston, and Rogers exec took the temperature of the fanbase and decided this was a necessary spend. I find it difficult to argue that if ever there would be a time to do it, now is that time.

mike in boston said...

I'll recognize that a bigger payroll permits the Jays to make some mistakes and sit on them if they need to

Yes. While it's obviously better not to take on bad contracts, this option shouldn't be completely rejected.

If every contract you take on needs to be team friendly, then I don't think you can hope to win the AL East. Payroll flexibility allows you to make calculated gambles like this one, and those gambles might well pay off and get you to 93+ wins.

Anonymous said...

it maybe last year's marlins splash but they didn't have 3 other legit MLB starters plus bautista (ok lets pair him off with stanton), but then ee and lawrie are expected 3-5 WAR players also. this is going to be a good team and a very fun team to watch. additionally, it is last year's splash at last year's prices in a marketplace that is inflating very rapidly do to TV money. plus, it's not over yet. a catcher will be moved for a pitcher to give us 6 MLB quality starters plus Drabek and Hutch potentially back later in the year.

Anonymous said...

I think you've been forgetting to take your happy pills day

KissMyPurpleButt said...

^^ probably infant induced lack of sleep.

Anonymous said...

I want even more!

DJ said...

I was as excited about this trade as I have been about anything going into a season since 1993. Finding out Johnson only has a year left on his contract diminished that a touch, but just a touch.

I think Ack has it right: What are the other options here? A poker player who only puts his money in with the nuts is a losing player. And you can extend the analogy to taking on a potentially bad contract- every good player loses hands they bet hard.

Results are what determine success, but I think any semi-knowledgeable fan can look at this trade and fairly say that AA did something to make this team substantially more capable without ruining the farm system. The team may not wind up better- every new guy might blow out a knee in spring training- but AA made something happen in a realm where he has more leverage (trading as opposed to FA signings).

TLDR: I'll take my chances with this one.

Anonymous said...

hey , how about sending happ and drabek back to philly along with johnson for doc? the jays really only need a 2 year bridge to get to the "young guns" so why not bring doc back and see if they can get a championship for him in toronto?

bakatron said...

why won't those hallday evangelists go away? he loves it in phillie, he forced a trade out of toronto and his team mates thought he was a jerk (plus he's in decline).

Tao of Stieb said...'s the responses. (Because I always have to have the last word. Stamped it, no erasies.)

Devin: It's easy for you to be a cheeky monkey, what with those two World Series titles in the last three years. Laugh it up.

Ack: (Deep breath...) You're totally right. I don't fault the team at all for this trade, and I think it is actually kinda brilliant in some ways.

I think what I'm pushing back on is the narrative that has started already, where the Jays started to spend and therefore spending is the only path to contention/glory/playoffs. IF this works, I fear that people are going to forget how they acquired JoBau and EE and rehabilitated them, or how they took a chance on Brandon Morrow, or the time and effort they spent on nurturing Casey Janssen.

Moreover, I still hold to the idea that you need to draft, develop or acquire young talent to form the core of a perpetual contender, and I think that this latest transaction - while still very positive - is a bit of a step away from that process.

Thankfully, the team didn't empty their very deep farm system for this deal.

Do I contradict myself? Very well then. I contradict myself. I contain multitudes.

David said...

Tao: I understand your reservations, but I think you're overlooking an important point. The fact is that this trade does *not* get away from the idea of building through the minors. The Jays still have a deep system, but it's in the lower minors. That's what happens when you draft a lot of high-school players. Even if they had done nothing, they would still have had to wait for several years before these players made the majors. So they played both games -- they traded away a couple of players in the high minors to allow them (hopefully) to contend in the next couple of years. And when that's done, the next wave of minor-league players will have arrived. So it's not one or the other -- AA has played both games! Brilliant.

Unknown said...

Agreed, it is good that they didn't sell the whole farm on this one. I like the trade a ton at first, a little less once i looked at the overall. Hopefully we can extend JJ and therefore really make it worth while. Buehrle i think is worth every penny even if he goes .500 the whole way. He's a veteren that eats innings. From all accounts his prep is second to none, so i see him and RickyRo getting on famously (and perhaps helping each other?). The biggest wrinkle i think could be if Reyes is pissy because he's now moved from the place he chose one year before. Can his legs handle the turf at the Dome? I hope so.

KissMyPurpleButt said...

AA saw an opening and took it. Its a gamble. I happen to think a good one. Even if JJ leaves after 2013, AA will give him the qualifying offer and we will at least get a draft pick out of it.

I don't think AA is done yet. As many have said there are 4 catchers on the 40-man.

Can't wait for April...

plain_g said...

i am with tao a little in that

A) we gave up 4 pieces of controllable young talent with upside plus a legit major SS on a team friendly deal, and we got back two 1-yr-old free agent contracts and 1 yr of an ace. so it feels like an overpay without a real 'key' acquisition (unless johnson extends or you think reyes at 5/100 is what the jays wanted all along).

B) the last time rogers opened the wallets (burnett, ryan, wells, glaus, overbay, thomas) there was actually some decent value in there, but the two bad contracts ended up scaring off ownership from spending for 6 years. if this goes badly (as it very easily could), are we in for another 6 years in the desert under a new GM?

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Bruno Gerusi's Moustache said...

I like the trade, can't say otherwise. Certainly Jays fans won't be able to polish the glossy sheen on the unknown futures of Marisnick, Nicolino and Hech, but it's not as if the minors are now about as barren as Stephen Harper's honesty. Besides, there are other prospects to get excited about, such as Santiago Nessy, Roberto Osuna, Alberto Tirado, D.J Davis et al.

I also like the Cabrera signing, though I'm slightly concerned how Melky will do without the aid of pharmaceutical enhancement. Without his chemical sherpa to guide him up almost up the summit of the NL batting title, I honestly don't know what to expect of Melky when climbing solo.