The Toronto Blue Jays have been making a lot of minor moves lately. If you have been watching their activity on the waiver wire, you would have seen multiple names come and go through the Jays' system; a few of them pitchers.
Yesterday, however, the Jays made their first trade (second, if you count the John Farrell fiasco as a trade) of the offseason when they acquired Esmil Rogers from the Cleveland Indians.
Let me think for a second here—what was arguably the turning point of the Jays' season?
Oh, that’s right, when three of their five starting pitchers went on the disabled list within a week.
Now we move to this offseason. The first trade Alex Anthopoulos makes is for a pitcher, and for some reason people are complaining about that move? Jays fans were begging AA to go and get some pitching help when Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison all got hurt. Anthopoulos instead opted to stay the course, and when he did make a move it was to help the bullpen and not the starting rotation.
Sure, it was frustrating to see the team spiral downward and eventually out of contention. It was hard to watch the rotating door of pitchers and never see a true ace come out of that pack. Even though Ricky Romero stayed in the majors all season, even he couldn’t help calm the Jays' pitching woes.
So what AA has realized is that you can never have enough pitching depth, and that is what he has made his first offseason target.
Esmil Rogers is a 27-year-old from the Dominican Republic. He has played in parts of the past four seasons with the Colorado Rockies and the Cleveland Indians. His career ERA is 5.95 and he was brought up a starter and moved into the bullpen.
His strikeouts-per-nine ratio is 8.1 and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is 2.01. These, at least, are decent numbers. Now when you isolate just his numbers since moving to the American League they get even better: 3.06 ERA, 9.2 SO/9, 4.50 SO/BB.
Maybe he didn’t like playing in the hitter-friendly Coors Field in Colorado. Maybe he learned how to keep hitters guessing when he moved to Cleveland. Whatever it was, Rogers has a fastball that can top out at 95.7 MPH. That is wicked speed that can be used in late-game relief situations.
There can be no denying how important a team's bullpen is, and Jays fans should know this first hand.
AA, in his first two years, tried to put the bullpen together with one-year pieces such as Kevin Gregg, Jon Rauch, Frank Francisco, Octavio Dotel and Francisco Cordero. AA has instead opted to revamp his bullpen with a younger and more controllable crowd, much like the rest of his roster.
Rogers fits into that mold well. A younger guy with a power arm to go along with Steve Delabar, Brad Lincoln, Casey Janssen and Sergio Santos—five guys that can be a great bullpen core for the next few years.
What most people, I think, were complaining about is the fact that Toronto gave up two infield/utility players who could have potentially solved the Jays' void at second base.
I was never happy with Mike Aviles as compensation for John Farrell in the first place. I would much rather see Adeiny Hechavarria earn his stripes and go through the motions as a major league player. He figures to be a big part of the Blue Jays' future; why not let the future be the present in this case and see what happens?
As of right now Yunel Escobar is the starting shortstop, and until I see or hear AA say anything differently, I would love to see Escobar and Hechavarria up the middle in 2013.
Aviles wouldn't have been a great fit in Toronto. He is not a bad player, but he seems to excel more in a backup role than a starting position. While the second base market is thin this year for free agents, again, I would rather see Hechavarria manning the position.
According to The Morning Journal, Indians management has also said Aviles' best role will be in a backup position.
As for Yan Gomes, he's at best a backup player. I looked at many comments on the above sites that stated Gomes would “come back to haunt the Jays” or that “he had a lot of potential.”
I believe these are overstatements. While Gomes seemed like a great guy and while he can play a lot of positions very well, he doesn’t figure to have a legitimate role on this team in the foreseeable future. Why not trade him while his value is a little high and get a back a player who can be reliable in a role you need filled?
Of course, the Blue Jays need to have a second basemen by Opening Day and they could have had either Gomes or Aviles at that position, but pitching and pitching depth is the more important concern at this point.
There are still many questions that need to be answered, such as: Who will be the new manager? Can the Blue Jays acquire one or two quality arms for the rotation? Can Rajai Davis be the everyday left fielder or will the Blue Jays go out and land another one? Will it be Adam Lind, Edwin Encarnacion or a newcomer playing first base next season? Is Travis D'Arnaud about to take the next step?
Each of these will be interesting to follow over the course of this winter. For the time being, I think fans need to relax and realize two utility fielders for a power pitching arm is not the end of the world.
Follow me on twitter @matthewsookram
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