MLB Trade Deadline 2012: Assessing the Blue Jays' Key Transactions This Season

George HalimCorrespondent IIAugust 1, 2012

MLB Trade Deadline 2012: Assessing the Blue Jays' Key Transactions This Season

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    For the Toronto Blue Jays, 2012 has been a year of expectations.

    When the club unveiled its new-look uniform set, it did much more than that: it unveiled a new beginning, and a new team on the diamond that would help take the club back to postseason glory.

    With the pitching, offense and defense they had, a postseason push was definitely on the radar.

    Alas, the Blue Jays have been crippled by injuries, tough losses and more injuries. They're playing .500 baseball and trying to keep their heads above water.

    But through the craze that is the 2012 season, the Blue Jays are still within striking distance, only a few games back of a playoff spot.

    In this article, we'll look back on the major transactions management has made to take the Blue Jays where they are today in the league standings, and what better time to assess it then in the wake of the Trade Deadline?

Signing Darren Oliver

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    Darren Oliver has flown under the radar this season.

    Nonetheless, he was a tremendous acquisition for the Blue Jays in early January as he continues to impress every time he steps on the rubber.

    Oliver is into his 19th year as a Major League regular, and he picked a great time to put on his game face. So far he's been the Jays' most consistent pitcher, sitting at a career-best 1.40 ERA and 0.91 WHIP (also a career-best) through 38.2 innings of work.

    Oliver has raised the standard of "left-handed specialist" to a whole new level with opposing lefties batting a mild .209 against him this season.

    Oh, and he's also set the standard vs. righties, who are batting .179. 

Signing Omar Vizquel

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    It isn't every day you get to see a future Hall of Famer play for your hometown team, but what's even better is when that guy is Omar Vizquel.

    Vizquel was never going to make the All-Star team, nor lead the league in any hitting categories, but to have someone as sure-handed as Omar come into the game provides a sigh of relief.

    Not only that, but his presence in the clubhouse is admired.

    The atmosphere, experience and guidance he brings to the younger ballplayers is instrumental for them.

    What makes him more important is that it has nothing to do with statistics, just a love for the game he's had ever since his illustrious career began in 1989.  

Calling Up David Cooper

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    David Cooper is a first baseman with a lot of talent and a go-hard attitude, and he showed it to Jays fans as he showcased his talents when he was called up on May 25. 

    In 2011, Cooper appeared in 27 games and didn't appear to be ready yet, batting .211/.284/.394 to go with a .964 fielding percentage.

    This year he was given a chance to redeem himself, and he did so in a big way, batting .288/.329/.424 to complement a .991 fielding percentage through 25 games. 

    Not only did he raise his stock, but he proved to John Farrell that he's ready to play in the bigs. 

The Week of the Injured Pitcher

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    Injuries are inevitable for athletes. It's going to happen. That being said, no one could have predicted the week of June 10, when the Jays' hopes of making a run at the playoffs took a serious turn for the worse. 

    It all started on Monday, June 11, when Brandon Morrow felt a "pull" on his right side, nine pitches into his start against the Washington Nationals. Morrow has been out ever since (although he's begun his rehab starts).

    That Wednesday, Kyle Drabek was yanked from his start after having felt a "popping" sensation in his right elbow. Although he insisted he felt no pain or discomfort, unknown to himself, he was done for the season.

    Finally that Friday, fans had their fingers crossed hoping Drew Hutchison could make it through the game. Alas, he took to the mound only to get pulled nine pitches in after feeling discomfort in his right elbow as well. He too was shut down for the remainder of the season.

    This was a huge blow to the Jays' postseason dreams, and gets us thinking: where would the Blue Jays be today had none of those pitchers been injured?

Sergio Santos Gets Injured

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    Fortunately for Toronto fans, there was a gap between mourning periods.

    A couple months prior to the injuries suffered by Morrow, Drabek and Hutchison, Sergio Santos had gone down with what didn't seem like a serious injury.

    On April 21, Santos was placed on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation. Since then, he had thrown three bullpen sessions, but in late June, he had a setback.

    On June 25, Jays fans got the news they were dreading, as he was transferred to the 60-day DL, and later it was confirmed he would receive season-ending surgery.

    Although he's on the road to return in time for the spring of 2013, this was a major letdown for Jays' fans as Santos was expected to take over the closer role for years to come.

    Unfortunately it didn't work out the way they'd hoped, but there's always next year. 

The Emergence of Casey Janssen

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    Casey Janssen has been one of the bright spots for a Blue Jays team looking for something to look forward to in their bullpen.

    When Sergio Santos went down with his injury, it was fitting that the set-up man (then Francisco Cordero) took over the closer role. Cordero is second on the saves list among active players, so it made sense.

    Logically. 

    It didn't work out too well as Cordero just couldn't get the job done in the ninth inning, blowing three out of five save opportunities. It was almost like flashbacks of Jon Rauch all over again. 

    On May 9, with the Jays up by three, Casey Janssen was given the ball, and they've been giving it to him ever since. 

    Janssen has strung along a streak of 13 straight saves for the Blue Jays. He throws strikes 65 percent of the time, all the while walking only 5 batters. 

    It'll be interesting to see what happens when Santos comes back next year, because after years of being a middle-innings relief pitcher, Janssen seems to have found his niche in the closer role. 

Luis Perez Gets Injured

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    On Sunday, July 8, against the Chicago White Sox, Toronto fans received some familiar news about one of their pitchers. 

    Luis Perez was pulled from the game vs. the Chicago White Sox with discomfort in his throwing elbow. MRI's the following day revealed a torn UCL, ending his season. 

    It was a shame considering how well Perez was doing in the early going of the season. This was his first season as a full-time big league reliever, and he carried a scoreless inning streak through his first eight appearances.

    Perez, along with veteran Darren Oliver, was set to be the one of the Jays' priority lefties coming out of the bullpen this season. But as opposed to Oliver, Perez was able to eat up a few more outs, sometimes pitching three full innings. 

    This was yet another blow to the Jays, as it forced Alex Anthopoulos to make some moves that otherwise wouldn't have been necessary.

The 10-Player Deal with the Houston Astros

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    The Toronto Blue Jays didn't do too much at this year's trade deadline. In fact, they did a lot less than what everyone expected. 

    But on July 20, Alex Anthopoulos went through with a 10-player swap with the Houston Astros, with Francisco Cordero and Ben Francisco headlining the players leaving Toronto, and J.A. Happ and Brandon Lyon coming over from Houston.

    This trade wasn't meant to propel the Blue Jays into the playoffs, it was simply a wake-up call to the pitching staff.

    That being said, J.A. Happ plays a similar role as recently acquired Brad Lincoln: he can make spot starts or come in at any time from the bullpen.

    For Lyon, this isn't his first stop in Toronto. In fact, he played his first two Major League seasons with the bluebirds back in 2001-02. 

    This time around, he's set to provide another veteran arm for the Blue Jays pitching staff, and get some much-needed outs. 

The Resurgence of Edwin Encarnacion

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    Edwin Encarnacion is another pleasant surprise for the Blue Jays.

    After batting .244 in 2010 and .272 in 2011, he's exceeded those numbers again in 2012, reaching career highs in batting average, home runs and stolen bases. By season's end, he will have reached other career highs, including RBI and runs scored.

    He's been a juggernaut in the Blue Jays batting order this season, and a leader on the diamond. In fact, his numbers at the All-Star break should've been enough to merit him a spot on the American League squad.

    But alas, it's a popularity contest and he didn't make it.

    Nonetheless, Toronto's management took notice of his fine play, and rewarded him with a three-year, $27 million contract, securing him for years to come.

    "I'm very happy to be part of this organization for the next three years," Encarnacion said in an ESPN interview. "I love this country, I love Toronto and I love the fans."

    Well, Edwin, keep hitting the ball and Toronto will continue to love you back.   

Trading Away Travis Snider and Eric Thames

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    Trade deadline 2012 is the end of an era for the Toronto Blue Jays, sort of. 

    The Jays parted ways with two of its brightest players in outfielders Travis Snider and Eric Thames

    Snider was projected to bat .275 with 35 homers. He never came close to that, maxing out in 2010 with 14 home runs and a batting average of .255.

    In spring training, Eric Thames earned a spot on the big league team by hitting .359/.408/.578.

    Unfortunately, those numbers didn't translate into regular season play, as he only managed to hit .243/.288/.365, ultimately getting demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas on May 28.

    For the Blue Jays, they cleared up some traffic in the outfield and also managed to bolster their bullpen for the coming years.

    As for Thames and Snider, they need to flourish, and the only way that was going to happen was with significant playing time, which they weren't getting in Toronto.

    So with that, Torontonians are wishing good luck to Travis Snider and Eric Thames on a career that's just good enough to make them regulars, but not good enough for the Jays to regret this deal down the road.  

The Collapse of Ricky Romero

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    It's difficult to win games when your ace isn't able to do pitch like one.

    This season, Ricky Romero hasn't been able to get it going. His ERA has yet to drop below 3.29, and has literally climbed after every start this season.

    As if it wasn't tough enough for the Blue Jays to win without three of their regular starting pitchers, but when your best pitcher isn't pitching like the 2.92 ERA guy he was a year ago, it's nearly impossible. 

    Ricky Romero was supposed to be an All-Star, the ace, the leader of the pitching staff, but instead he's been struggling to throw strikes, signified by his 70 walks and 1.57 WHIP.

    For now all he needs to do is focus on getting back back to the basics. 

    In order for the Blue Jays to have a shot at the playoffs this year or next, Ricky needs to be Ricky again, and fast.