Wow. What can be said that hasn’t already been said? A lot of you have been asking what our opinion of the blockbuster trade that took place between the Blue Jays and the Marlins is. Please accept our apologies; having real jobs has gotten in the way. Until we live the dream of becoming full-time bloggers, please accept our gratitude for your patience.
Moving on. This past June I had the opportunity to travel to Miami and witness the Blue Jays play the Marlins in their brand new ballpark. I salivated over many of the Marlins players and fantasized about how they might look in a Blue Jays uniform. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would come true.
The trade that sent Henderson Alvarez, Jeff Mathis, Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino and Anthony DeSclafani to the Miami Marlins for Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck has reinvigorated my passion for being a Jays fan. Many of you know the love I have for Yunel Escobar and how I defended his actions during the Maricón scandal. I’ve followed Jake Marisnick‘s career closely ever since the Jays drafted him because he is a bona-fide five-tool player and is exciting to watch play. I love Cuban baseball and Cuban baseball players, and Adeiny Hechavarria is one Cuban who plays the game with defensive panache. I quickly became a fan of his as soon as he was called up to Toronto this year. With that said, I didn’t feel a single pang of regret knowing that the Jays were able to acquire three certified studs in Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. These guys are the real deal and this trade moves the Jays from basement-dwellers into contenders for the 1st or 2nd wild card at the very least…
…should they all stay healthy.
Let’s have a look at my projected lineup:
1. Jose Reyes, SS
2. Brett Lawrie, 3B
3. Jose Bautista, RF
4. Edwin Encarnacion, DH/1B
5. Colby Rasmus, CF
6. Adam Lind, DH/1B
7. John Buck/JP Arencibia, C
8. Rajai Davis/Moises Sierra, LF
9. Maicer Izturis, 2B
Super-sub: Emilio Bonifacio
This is a lineup that can compete with any in the AL. They have the two-headed monster in Encarnacion and Bautista that can only be matched by Cabrera and Fielder of the Detroit Tigers. They have a combination of speed and power that is unrivaled in the AL. They finally have a legitimate lead-off hitter in Jose Reyes. There is still room for improvement in left field and at the first base position, if that’s where Adam Lind ends up playing (and he continues to play like a replacement level player). But what team doesn’t have weaknesses? This lineup matches up against any in all of Major League Baseball.
In 2012, it seemed like the entire Blue Jays rotation became good friends with Dr. James Andrews via the dreaded Tommy John surgery. With a 12-18 month recovery time, it became clear that the Blue Jays needed an injection of two starting pitchers into the rotation to maintain any level of respectability for 2013. The acquisition of Mark Buehrle and super-stud Josh Johnson does that and more. Buehrle is the innings-eater that the Blue Jays so desperately require. The ability of Buehrle to consistently pitch 200+ innings per season makes an already strong Blue Jay bullpen that much stronger since they won’t have to eat as many innings. And Josh Johnson? He is a star, in my opinion. A legit front-of-the-rotation ace. Coming off a shoulder injury in 2011, there was uncertainty around JJ as he struggled at the beginning of the season. However, he finished strong. From Keith Law:
Johnson is an ace when healthy, which he seldom is; he finished the year looking strong, back to 93-97 with a plus curveball and above-average slider again, and if he looks like that all year he could be worth 5 wins above replacement to a Jays team that hasn’t had that guy since it traded Roy Halladay.
The key for Johnson is his health of his shoulder, of course, and should he spend any significant amount of time on the DL the impact of this trade shifts considerably. Let’s have a look at how the five-man rotation lines up:
1. Josh Johnson
2. Brandon Morrow
3. Mark Buehrle
4. Ricky Romero
5. JA Happ/Chad Jenkins/Dustin McGowan?
A trickle-down effect of having Johnson and Buerhle as a part of the rotation is that Ricky Romero will be under less pressure to carry the team. Pitching at the back end of the rotation, he’ll be facing the 4th and 5th starters of other teams. As a result, he should receive more run support and experience the luxury of having a little bit more breathing room since there is more room for error. This situation should hopefully help to get his confidence back, and coming back from elbow surgery, there is hope that he will be able to regain the form that he showed in 2011. These are all best-case scenarios. With the dubious health-history of Johnson and Morrow, this feel-good story could turn into a nightmare should either (or both) of them spend any significant amount of time on the DL. The Blue Jays still have little-to-no starting rotation depth.
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As I said before, if Buehrle puts in his 200 innings and Morrow and Johnson are healthy for the whole season, the Blue Jays bullpen is a force to be reckoned with. I analyzed what the Blue Jays bullpen would look like in 2013 back in March; since then the Jays have added fireballers Jeremy Jeffress and Esmil Rogers. Here’s how it stacks up:
Cory Wade/Marcus Stroman
Brett Cecil/Aaron Loup
Sergio Santos ?
This bullpen could be bolstered even further should Darren Oliver be persuaded to play one more season. This trade should certainly help that cause. I’m still not sold on Casey Janssen at the back-end of the bullpen. He had the lowest BAbip of his career at .242 and that number is unsustainable. With that said, should Janssen falter in the closer’s role, there are plenty of capable arms to step in.
This trade puts the Blue Jays’ salary commitments at a level in excess of $100 million for the first time in team history. Detractors of the trade point to the fact that the amount of money owing to Reyes and Buehrle limits the Jays’ flexibility to make additional moves. Again, Keith Law
The lone negative for Jays fans is that the team has acquired a substantial amount of money owed, with Buehrle and Reyes both under contract beyond this year and possibly limiting the team’s ability to make further moves this offseason or next.
But making a deal like this lessens the need for the Jays to make additional moves since it turns them into a contender right away. Would I rather have my hands tied while in first place or free to wheel-and-deal while in the basement? The choice is clear. The Blue Jays have been building for the future for the last 20 years; I can’t express in words how elated I am to see them finally go for it.
There are other spin-off effects to this trade. Many MLB players and former GMs on Twitter have been offering their condolences to the Miami five for being traded to Canada.
The trades of Reyes, Buehrle & Bell will certainly impact this Free Agent class where top players will now insist on No-Trade clauses
— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) November 14, 2012
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) November 15, 2012
After huge tax hits that Reyes, Buehrle and Johnson will take, you wonder if agents should/will ask for one-team no-trade clauses: To TOR.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 14, 2012
True, players will have to pay more in taxes. But hey! Obama plans on taxing the rich so that the US doesn’t fall off that fiscal cliff that they have been running toward. No big deal.
Toronto is also a world-class, cosmopolitan city with a vibrant Latin community. It’s a great opportunity to turn a hater into an appreciator. The only thing not to like? The turf. Jose Reyes has a long history of hamstring and leg injuries; the Rogers Centre‘s Astro Turf will certainly do him no favours in that regard. Like the starting rotation, the infield has little-to-no depth. Should Reyes go down, there is an immediate, gaping hole at the top of the order. There is absolutely no one in the system who could come in and replace Reyes at shortstop, save Maicer Izturis. Then Izturis’s second base position needs to be back-filled. Bonifacio as a full-time second baseman is not ideal; a contending team doesn’t play Mike McCoy. This is where the lack of flexibility to make moves issue gains traction.
But do we know that the Jays don’t have any flexibility? Alex Anthopoulos has never been clear what his “payroll parameters” are. He said payroll would rise; he never said how much. Who is to say that the Jays have reached their ceiling at $110-120 million? Would Rogers back up the brinks truck again, knowing that the team is so close? I wouldn’t doubt it – after all, they make enough money as it is from my outrageous cellphone, cable TV and internet bill. Maybe we could get Roy Halladay back in a deal? His trade value has never been lower….
The final aspect of this trade is that it will presumably widen the field of candidates that are interested in the Blue Jays managerial vacancy. Not only will the incoming manager be starting with a team that – on paper – should be contending for a playoff spot, he’ll also not have to worry about players writing potentially inflammatory expressions on their eye-black. A win-win, to be sure.
As I mentioned previously, Toronto lays claim to a vibrant Latin community. While two key pieces to the Blue Jays’ Latin puzzle have departed, they are being replaced with Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifaco. Jose Reyes even dabbles in rap/reggaeton. Although he leans a little too heavily on the auto-tune for my taste, he is an exciting personality that is sure to be embraced by Blue Jay fans. With Christmas just around the corner, now is the perfect time to show your support for Toronto’s new acquisitions with a Los Azulejos t-shirt from the Mop-Up Duty online store. As always, all proceeds go directly to the Jays Care Foundation. ¡Vamos Los Azulejos!
Stay tuned on Sunday and Monday when Matthias digs into his heat maps to provide analysis of the players coming to Toronto in this trade.
Featured image courtesy of ESPN.com