The Marlins-Blue Jays Trade, Part I: For The Blue Jays

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After my posting yesterday entitled Alex Anthopoulos’s Kitchen Sink wondering what the once-celebrated and now questioned Blue Jays’ GM was doing, he turned around and made a blockbuster trade to, on paper, place the Blue Jays squarely in the center of playoff contention for 2013. There must be a connection.

All they need now is a manager.

Here’s the trade breakdown:

Marlins trade RHP Josh Johnson; LHP Mark Buehrle; SS Jose Reyes; OF/INF Emilio Bonifacio; C John Buck and $4 million to the Blue Jays for SS Yunel Escobar; INF Adeiny Hechavarria; RHP Henderson Alvarez; C Jeff Mathis; and minor leaguers LHP Justin Nicolino, OF Jake Marisnick, and RHP Anthony DeSclafani.

The Blue Jays had a payroll of around $84 million n 2012 and for 2013, with these contracts they just absorbed, that rises by around $30 million based on the additions and subtractions. Over the life of the contracts with Reyes’s and Buehrle’s deals backloaded, they’ve just taken on a lot of money. That’s before calculating the addition of Maicer Izturis and raises/contract escalations for existing players.

The Blue Jays are now a $100 million+ team and their roster implies that they have to contend. They gave up a lot, but are now relevant in the AL East as something other than a building, growing, and hoping entity.

The American League East is in flux. No longer are teams like the Blue Jays and Orioles sentenced to preseason relegation as a moderately annoying inconvenience that might put up a fight early in the season with the pretense of trying to contend only to be slapped down in July and raided for players by true contenders. It’s turned upside down. The Red Sox are a mess; the Yankees are trying to learn to function with payroll constraints and ancient, declining, expensive stars; the Rays are pinching pennies; and the Orioles and Blue Jays have legitimacy.

The afterglow still holds questions. Johnson is one of baseball’s best pitchers when he’s healthy, but has had shoulder issues. Reyes is surely going to be unhappy at having been moved from Miami to Toronto and having to play half his games on turf. Buehrle can pitch on Mars and provide 200 innings. Buck is a feast or famine part-timer. And given the redundancy of Bonifacio and Izturis and that they have nowhere to play him, Bonifacio might be making a brief stop in Toronto and be on the move again relatively soon.

On paper, the Blue Jays have jumped ahead of the Yankees and Red Sox; the 2012 Orioles were a creature of circumstance that will need to get better to maintain. The Blue Jays’ rotation of Johnson, Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero, and J.A. Happ is already one of baseball’s best. The lineup is invigorated by a healthy Reyes to join Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Their questions are the bullpen and who’s going to manage the team. (Willie Randolph would be a good, under-the-radar consideration. He wouldn’t put up with the fundamental mistakes evident under John Farrell and Randolph deserves another chance.)

24 hours ago, I posed the question of where the Blue Jays are headed. They answered it with a flourish. They’re trying to win. With this collection of talent, there’s no excuse for them not to do that in 2013. In fact, they don’t have much of a choice.

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Alex Anthopoulos’s Kitchen Sink

Ballparks, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Stats, Trade Rumors, Uncategorized

Unwed to a particular strategy as his predecessor was, when Alex Anthopoulos took over as Blue Jays’ GM replacing J.P. Ricciardi, he exhibited a freshness that invigorated the franchise. Ricciardi did a better job than he’s given credit for, but a series of poor drafts and feuds with players from his team and others as well as the consistently mediocre, “almost there” results, led to his ouster. Anthopoulos took the controls, executed a series of well-regarded trades getting quality prospects Kyle Drabek and Travis D’Arnaud for Roy Halladay; as well as acquiring Brandon Morrow for Brandon League and was rightfully judged as a solid choice and up and coming executive who could be trusted.

The Blue Jays looked to be a team on the rise with plenty of young talent and a forward thinking GM who knew the numbers, but also trusted his old-school baseball people with flexibility of trying speed in lieu of power and on base percentage. But the on-field results are still mediocre-to-bad and now there’s a rising scrutiny on Anthopoulos. His great moves such as getting Morrow and finding a taker for Vernon Wells‘s atrocious contract have been mitigated by his poor moves such as trading Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco. Colby Rasmus and Yunel Escobar were two players who had worn out their welcomes in their prior stops, but were talented enough to make it worthwhile to get them. Escobar is still a player the front office wants to strangle because of his brain dead behavior and Rasmus has been the same disappointment with the Blue Jays he was with the Cardinals; in fact, he’s been worse.

Now the strange decision to sign career utility player Maicer Izturis to a 3-year, $10 million contract while trading a better player Mike Aviles to the Indians for a scatterarmed reliever (the Blue Jays have plenty of those) Esmil Rogers calls into greater question what the plan is. In 2012, the entire pitching staff was decimated by injuries and the strategy Anthopoulos has used to construct his bullpen with journeymen such as Kevin Gregg, Francisco, Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel, and Sergio Santos has been a failure. His hand-picked manager, John Farrell, was roundly criticized for game-handling skills that were bordering on the inept and a profound lack of fundamentals that cost the club numerous games.

This kitchen sink strategy is reminiscent of a sous chef getting the head chef job, having many plans and innovative ideas, then overdoing it making things worse than they were before. Anthopoulos is trying a lot of different tactics, but it doesn’t hide the bottom line that his choice as manager was traded away only because the Red Sox desperately wanted him and was in serious jeopardy of being fired if they hadn’t; that the Blue Jays have consistently been labeled a team to watch, but sat by haplessly as the team that finally overtook the Red Sox and Rays in the AL East was a different kind of bird, the Orioles, with a roster that was widely expected to lose 95 games in 2012.

The Blue Jays have yet to hire a manager to replace Farrell. The trade was completed on October 21st. How long does it take to find a new manager? The pedestrian names who struggled elsewhere such as Don Wakamatsu and Manny Acta have been bandied about. How many managers does Anthopoulos get to hire and fire? How many tries at getting the recipe right will he get before the scrutiny falls squarely on him?

Getting Brett Lawrie and Morrow; dumping Wells’s onerous contract; and the perception of knowing what he’s doing have carried him this far. Much of what’s gone wrong with the Blue Jays hasn’t been the fault of Anthopoulos, but there comes a time when there has to be a legitimate improvement on the field before the question, “What’s the problem here?” is asked. That time is coming and if the Blue Jays don’t get better quick, it will be asked of Anthopoulos and right now, given the ponderous managerial search, it doesn’t appear as though he has an answer that will placate the angry masses.

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Mets Sign Ronny Cedeno and the Michael Kay Scale of Idiocy Shatters

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How many teams have a backup infielder that could be considered “good”?

I’m not talking about a super-utility type who plays semi-regularly and could play every day in one particular spot if needed.

Mark DeRosa of a few years ago fits into that category; Tony Phillips of years ago (under Sandy Alderson with the Athletics) was one; Mike Aviles of the Red Sox qualifies now.

But the Mets sign Ronny Cedeno as a backup middle infielder and the universe is being sucked into a black hole of Madoff-like proportions.

This Mets bashing is self-indulgent, random and is mistakenly equating the financial issues to player moves. They’re separate entities.

Is Cedeno a “good” player?

No.

He’s a backup middle-infielder and defensive replacement for Daniel Murphy at second base.

The Yankees and their fans are openly pining for the return of Eric Chavez to be the backup third baseman, yet Chavez wasn’t much more productive at the plate than Cedeno was in 2011.

Is it because one is a former All Star and recognizable name? Is it because he’s considered handsome?

Chavez played in 58 games; he batted .263 with a .320 on base percentage and .363 slugging percentage. In 175 plate appearances, he had 10 extra base hits and 2 homers. The Yankees paid $1.5 million for that and his scheduled trip to the disabled list.

The fans want him back.

Why?

He did nothing for them in 2011. Nothing.

Teams that are considered “powerhouses” for 2012 have the following backup middle infielders:

Phillies: Wilson Valdez

Yankees: Eduardo Nunez

Red Sox: Aviles

Rangers: Michael Young

Angels: Maicer Izturis

Brewers: Cesar Izturis

Young is DHing and playing some first base and is an All Star caliber player. Maicer Izturis can play every day if necessary as well. The others are players you can find cheaply and on someone’s Triple A roster; or in Mexico; or the Independent Leagues.

The Braves don’t even know who their starting shortstop is and have done absolutely nothing this winter. (Nor have the Yankees, come to think of it.)

But is the Mets decision to sign Cedeno worthy of the laughter and linking to finances as if they’re scanning the crowds for someone who’ll look good in a uniform and can stand at shortstop so they’re not fielding eight players?

Of course the financial woes are contributing to the lack of spending, but to say that because the team is in financial disarray that it’s going to extend to the field with the players they already have is an attempt to find reasons to castigate the franchise. Because the signing of Cedeno and the decision to hire a perceived “bankruptcy specialist” CRG Partners were so closely aligned in time, there’s an “obvious” connection between the two.

Except it’s only obvious if it’s made obvious.

It’s a logical fallacy.

Does Michael Kay really believe that the Mets are going to lose 110 games?

Even on the Michael Kay Scale of Idiocy, it’s stretching it. But not far enough to say it’s impossible that he does believe it.

Statistically and practically, it’s almost impossible for a team to lose that many games no matter which players they’re putting on the field; and with the Mets, they have talent on the roster. If they were in the Central Divisions of both the American and National Leagues, they could hang around contention.

They’re not.

They’re in the National League East.

But 110 losses? The Astros of 2011 were one of the worst teams I’ve ever seen and they won 56 games. The 2012 Mets are worse than the 2011 Astros?

If the Mets have a terrible year or a better-than-expected year, it won’t have anything to do with Ronny Cedeno; his signing has nothing to do with finances either. So why, other than an agenda, is it being treated as such?

I’m going to be adding a Fantasy Baseball page this season. If you can write and know Fantasy, contact me at the top of the page. I’m still looking to accumulate candidates. It’s unpaid, but people will read your stuff.

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