Toronto Blue Jays: 5 Smart Moves That Have Them Prepped for the Playoffs
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The Toronto Blue Jays were the talk of the town when they won back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993. Then, the strike happened, and the club has suffered at the turnstile ever since. Naturally, the Jays' on-field performance has followed suit, managing to be pesky but October-free, finishing no higher than second place in the AL East (just once in 2006).
It's only been a few years, but general manager Alex Anthopoulos has already garnered the reputation of Grandmaster in the chess game of baseball operations. He took care of the tough stuff first, trading Roy Halladay to the Phillies soon after being named GM in late 2009.
Jose Bautista was already on the roster at that point, but he hadn't yet become the hitter he is today. Acquiring the slugger is just about the only big move that hasn't happened on Alex's watch.
Here's a rundown of Anthopoulos' five-best transactions.
5. Signing Francisco Cordero for 1 Year
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He's not what he used to be, but Cordero has consistently outperformed his peripherals, chalking up a 3.17 ERA against a 3.51 FIP during his career. In 2011, he set a career best in Ground Ball Percentage with 50.
Since he's not even expected to be the pen's best pitcher, that's not too bad at all.
4. Trading for Sergio Santos
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This one seemingly came out of nowhere.
The White Sox have restarted their traditional cycle, which is equivalent to pumping gas while the car's still running. They claim to be rebuilding but still wish to keep several veteran players.
Fortunately for Toronto, emerging closer Sergio Santos was not one of them.
The 28-year-old former shortstop burst onto the scene with 13.07 K per nine en route to 30 saves, and he looks to continue his dominance.
The best part? The Jays get him for six more years, if they so choose, courtesy of a White Sox-initiated extension that was given not long before the trade. Talk about cost certainty.
3. Trading Shaun Marcum for Brett Lawrie
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Yes, Shaun Marcum was pretty great for the Brewers last year, but the bottom line is that he's due for free agency after 2012, and the Jays needed to get younger.
Brett Lawrie, a British Columbia native, is a strong bat at third base who's made an immediate impact—he posted 2.7 WAR, which is above average for a full season—except he did it in just 43 games.
This guy is going to be a big part of the next great Toronto team.
2. Acquiring and Extending Brandon Morrow
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Brandon Morrow looked quite enigmatic when the Jays picked him up from the Mariners for flamethrower Brandon League. He walked too many and struck out a good number of batters, but he couldn't seem to stick in the rotation or the bullpen.
Fortunately, he's found a place to flourish in Toronto—the starting rotation.
Despite the seemingly tougher role, he's striking out more, walking less and pitching more innings than we ever thought he would.
The contract extension is really the key since Morrow is just 27, and many expect him to really break out this year. It wasn't long ago that he showed flashes of brilliance against some of baseball's best. He will get better, and the Blue Jays seek to reap the benefits.
1. Locking Up Jose Bautista
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There may not be a player who means as much to his club's future success as Jose Bautista. The career journeyman took a hairpin turn towards stardom near the end of 2009 and carried late-season success into 2010 and beyond.
Bautista is the real deal, and Toronto was sharp enough to see that before the 2011 campaign even began, as his current deal traverses the '11 through '15 seasons.
At $65 million over five years, Joey Bats may seem like a risk, but he earned about half of that already. Even if he fell off a cliff and became an average (2 WAR) player, he'd still net surplus value by the end of the contract.
Talk about a sweetheart deal for the Toronto Blue Jays and a sign of great things to come.