Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Day That Everything Changed

There I was lamenting another mundane Tuesday night.

And then the Blue Jays pulled off the biggest trade in the history of the franchise. 

With his credibility in a precarious state with the Toronto fan base, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos silenced his critics by striking a deal with the Miami Marlins that'll see Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, and John Buck come to Toronto in exchange for Yunel Escobar, Henderson Alvarez, and prospects Adeiny Hechavarria, Justin Nicolino, Jake Marisnick, and Anthony DeSclafani.

Sometimes it's hard to recognize truly seminal moments when they first occur.  I'm sure nobody anticipated how profound an impact the Mike Sirotka trade would have when it was first consummated.

Sometimes, however, it's not.  This is one of those moments.

In a move that makes the Alomar-Carter swap look virtually insignificant, the Blue Jays just executed a truly seismic deal that drastically changes the complexion of the franchise.  In one evening, Toronto added upwards of $150M to its payroll while parting with a veritable army of youthful assets, many of them highly esteemed prospects.  A number of pundits have suggested that this deal puts Toronto in a position to compete for a playoff spot in 2013.

Though the deal has yet to receive approval from Major League Baseball, we might as well dive right in and get the analytical juices flowing.  Here goes nothing.

What we got:

1. Josh Johnson - RHP; 28 years old; Career ERA: 3.15; Career W-L: 56-37

An ace-calibre pitcher, Johnson immediately becomes the best hurler in Toronto's previously beleaguered rotation.  Armed with a devastating slider and a fastball that sits around 93 mph, Johnson can blow you away with swing-and-miss stuff; his 9.2% swinging-strike rate in 2012 ranks above that of Zack Greinke, David Price, and Madison Bumgarner.  Though he's only made 68 starts since 2010 -- he's battled arm issues throughout his career --  Johnson can be dominant when healthy, and has a 2.87 ERA over that span, averaging 8.4 K/9 with an impressive 1.17 WHIP. 

2. Mark Buehrle - LHP; 33 years old; Career ERA: 3.82; Career W-L: 174-132

There really are no surprises with Buehrle.  He's going to make 30 starts.  He's going to throw 200 innings.  He's going to keep you in games with impeccable command (career 2.03 BB/9) and by mixing his pitches effectively.  And if he manages to sneak a fastball by you -- his heater averaged 85 mph in 2012-- you need to reevaluate your career choice.  Nevertheless, Buehrle remains one of baseball's most reliable workhorses, and the importance of his stabilizing presence in the rotation cannot be overstated.

3. Jose Reyes - SS; 29 years old; Career slash: .291/.342/.440, 92 homeruns, 410 stolen bases

A four-time all-star, Reyes remains one of the most exciting up-the-middle players in the game.  The 2011 NL batting champion represents Toronto's first legitimate leadoff hitter since Shannon Stewart.  While he doesn't walk as much you might hope (career 7.1 BB%) his exceptional speed and impressive bat-to-ball skills keeps his OBP (and BABIP) high.  He's a gamechanger on the basepaths, averaging 36 swipes a year since 2010.  His defensive metrics suggest his fielding abilities have regressed a touch in recent years, but, to the best of my knowledge, he's never written an kind of discriminatory slur across his eyeblack.

Addendum: One associate of mine dutifully noted that I omitted any reference to Reyes’ past injury troubles.  However, I feel as though rumours of his fragility have been somewhat exaggerated.  Since 2005, Reyes has played at least 126 games in all but one season.  

4. Emilio Bonifacio - UTIL; 27 years old; Career slash: .267/.329/.343, 110 stolen bases

A versatile speedster, Bonifacio can play a number of positions and is a pretty attractive candidate to hit in the nine-spot.  Since 2011, he's stolen 70 bases in just 216 games and has played at least 100 innings at six different positions, including 2B and LF.  Expect him to battle for playing time at 2B with newly acquired Maicer Izturis.

5. John Buck - 32 years old; Career slash: .235/.303/.405, 118 homeruns

I'm reluctant to write anything about Buck because the catching situation in Toronto is so uncertain right now.  But whatever.  You probably remember Buck from his lone campaign in Toronto, when he smashed 20 homeruns with an .802 OPS.  He's not that guy anymore.  He's an older catcher whose offensive abilities have deteriorated considerably.  He's fashioned a .667 OPS in his two seasons with the Marlins, posting a horrendous .192/.297/.347 slash line in 2012.  We had to take him to complete this deal.

What we gave up:

1. Yunel Escobar - SS; 30 years old; Career slash: .282/.353/.390, 53 homeruns, 26 stolen bases

His fate effectively sealed by the now infamous eye-black fiasco, Escobar alienated himself from the Toronto fans in 2012 -- and surely evoked the ire of Toronto management -- with his embarrassing gaffe and disappointing performance on the field.  A career .282 hitter, Escobar hit just .253 last season with an OBP of .300.  His .wOBA was an abysmal .284, and his walk rate plummeted to 5.8% (career 8.9%).  While nobody's ever passed up the opportunity to criticize Escobar's hustle, he still plays good defense at a premium position, and can be quite valuable offensively, his 2012 abberation notwithstanding.  He's only a year removed from a 4.2 fWAR season.

2. Henderson Alvarez - RHP; 22 years old; Career ERA: 4.52; Career W-L: 10-17

Alvarez really opened some eyes when he posted a 3.53 ERA over 10 starts in 2011.  Unfortunately, his development didn't move in the right direction in 2012, as he posted a 4.85 ERA with a 1.44 WHIP over 32 starts.  He lacks swing-and-miss stuff -- his 5.1% swinging-strike rate ranked last among qualified pitchers -- and was extremely susceptible to the homerun in 2012, averaging 1.39 HR/9.  That said, he's got a lively fastball (though it can flatten out at times) and good command, averaging 2.22 BB/9 over his 41 career starts.  If he can add another pitch to his repertoire, Alvarez could be a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy.  And, let's remember, he's only 22 years old.

3. Adeiny Hechavarria - SS; 23 years old; Career slash: .254/.280/.365 (41 games)

Listed as Toronto's eight-best prospect by Baseball America, Hechavarria is widely considered among the best defensive shortstop prospects in baseball, if not the best.  There's little doubt that he will be an outstanding defensive major league shortstop in the near future.  There is doubt, however, on the other side of the ball.  Never lauded for his hit tool, Hechavarria projects to be "a bottom of the order hitter with the potential to steal 15+ bases and notch 20+ doubles with a low average and low OBP," according to BaseballProspectNation.

4. Jeff Mathis - C; 29 years old; Career slash: .198/.256/.314, 34 homeruns

Ne'er there was a person who so prominently exemplified the principles of backup catching.  Mathis can't hit a lick -- his slash line speaks for itself -- but his catching abilities keep him in a job.  His blocking and receiving are both excellent -- 5.7 FRAA over his last 164 games -- and he can manage a staff.  On top of that, he threw out 41% of attempted base stealers in 2012, according to, more than 15% above the league average.

5. Jake Marisnick - OF; 21 years old; Career slash: N/A

This one could hurt.  Baseball America considers Marisnick Toronto's second best prospect, behind only Travis d'Arnaud.  According to Kevin Goldstein, formerly of Baseball Prospectus, Marisnick is "a big, majestic athlete with above-average speed, excellent hitting skills, and is just starting to tap into his power, which projects as plus. He's a good center fielder, and his arm is a weapon."  Marisnick put up impressive numbers with Low-A Lansing in 2011 -- 14 homeruns, .888 OPS in 118 games -- but struggled upon promotion in 2012.  There are rumblings that his swing has been tinkered with a number of times and that it still needs work; Marisnick's holes were exposed in 2012, when he hit just .233 in 55 games with New Hampshire.  Nevertheless, he still projects to be a future stud; Goldstein says he "could be a 20/20 center fielder, and that might be light."

6. Justin Nicolino - LHP; 20 years old; Career ERA: N/A; Career W-L: N/A

One-third of the pitching prospect triumvirate known as the "Lansing 3," Nicolino is universally considered to have the lowest ceiling among the three.  The Blue Jays' fifth best prospect according to Baseball America, Nicolino's "command/control give him a chance to develop into a No. 3 starter," says Fangraphs' Marc Hulet.  Nicolino averaged 8.61 K/9 with 1.52 BB/9 in 124.1 innings for Lansing in 2012, en route to a 2.46 ERA.  While it hurts to lose him, the Jays were fortunate not to part with Aaron Sanchez or Noah Syndergaard.

7.  Anthony DeSclafani - RHP; 22 years old; Career ERA: N/A; Career W-L: N/A

A former sixth-round pick, DeSclafani made his professional debut with Lansing in 2012, posting a 3.37 ERA and 1.83 BB/9.  Admittedly, I know very little about this guy, so I'll defer to, well, the man himself.  "I currently have four pitches a fastball, curveball, changeup, and slider. My fastball can range anywhere from 90 to 95 mph,” DeSclafani told Brian Crawford of He is not considered among the pantheon of top Jays prospects.

Well that took a lot out of me.  I'm going to go have a nap or something.



  1. Awesome post! Write more!

  2. I don't think you can reasonably consider this a wholehearted endorsement of indiscriminate spending, Tao.

    And thanks for commenting.

  3. wow great article.

    The trade lets us capitalize on the final quality years joseB can give us and the fact that our three best position players are now from the same country will presumably help jose reyes transition and overall locker room unity/leadership. Another concern for me is if josh johnson can regain his all star calibre stuff he had when he was considered the best pitcher in baseball. Your points are very convincing but i think the driving factor in his return to dominance is the simple fact that he is playing for a contract.
    I'm a little worried about marisnick but I'm very happy we didn't have to give syndergaard or sanchez 2 players that are more vital to our future success. Although on the outlook it might hamper our future i believe that the quality of our young outfielders right now (rasmus/gose/sierra) would create somewhat of a log jam whenever marisnick made the jump. Also these three outfielders have had success at the major league level something marisnick hasn't had the opportunity to do yet and by no means is guaranteed. It is possible although unlikely that right now is the peak of marisnicks value and the perfect time to dish him for established talent. Either way we should find out soon because the marlins as of right now have 5 players signed for next season.

    Considering all these factors i agree with you and AA that the reward is worth the risk not only from a baseball standpoint but also from the business end of things as they should see a major spike in tickets sales if toronto becomes a contender. All in all an exciting trade that is sure to bring the jays to the forefront of toronto sports (as long as the leafs are still shit)
    sorry for the essay I was just feeling it