Everyone take a deep breath. In and out. Relax. The trade is practically done and based on the Twitter reaction Tuesday night, I’m going to assume you are a part of the majority of the baseball world that loved the trade for the Toronto Blue Jays. Despite the rampant optimism, there is a definitive downside to this trade that just about everyone seems to be ignoring. There are a number of things that can go wrong and that can adversely effect the future of the organization.
After a tumultuous 2012 season, the Blue Jays needed to make a move this offseason to shake up their on-field product, and on Tuesday General Manager Alex Anthopoulos did more than that.
Financially speaking, he made the single biggest trade in franchise history. Personnel wise, Anthopoulos made enough noise to potentially move his 2012 opening day starting pitcher to fourth on the depth chart. But is this really what the Blue Jays needed?
I don’t mean to rain on the World Series parade Blue Jays fans planned when news of the trade broke. I’m just here to clean up the metaphorical confetti that landed on Yonge Street last night.
The still unconfirmed 12-man trade has Josh Johnson, José Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck coming north of the 49th parallel while Toronto is sending Yunel Escobar, Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jeff Mathis, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino and Anthony DeSclafani to Miami in return.
Not a bad haul for Toronto while only giving up two players that spent significant time contributing to the Jays last year. One of those players, Escobar, had his exit all but spoken for after a slur written on his eye black stained the organization. The other, Alvarez, finished his first MLB campaign with an ERA of 4.18. Most fans will say good riddance to acquire the likes of Reyes, Buehrle and Johnson.
But what if I came to you a week ago and told you something pretty intriguing. What if I told you that the Blue Jays had a deal in principle that would trade five players under the age of 24, one of their current starting pitchers, their starting shortstop, one third of the Lansing Big Three and their highest rated outfield prospect and take on nearly $150 million worth of salary?
You’d probably ask what kind of mega-talent the Jays got back. Well what did they get back?
They got back a 34-year-old pitcher due $48 million until he is 36 that is undoubtedly in the descent of his career. They got back a pitcher coming off shoulder surgery in 2011 and a sub-.500 record in 2012. They got a $6 million backup catcher and an expensive, albeit talented, shortstop.
I agree that there is a much more promising storyline that fans will choose to focus on, but this trade may not be as great as it is being made out to be. There are the proven starters, the much-needed veteran voice in the locker room and the José-Reyes-is-awesome angles that are certainly great points, but amongst all the potential upside, there is a massive downside to this trade.
Sure, the Blue Jays markedly improved their roster for the upcoming season. They inserted two starting pitchers into their lineup that they hope can fill the space until Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Sanchez are ready to play major league baseball and added an exceptionally talented shortstop and leadoff hitter.
But was it worth it? What kind of impact will this trade have on the Blue Jays in two years? Three years? Four? Someone needs to play devil’s advocate, so why not me?
It is not unreasonable to think that Buehrle or Johnson or both will struggle this year. It is not unreasonable to worry that Reyes will still be in a Jays uniform in 2017, earning $22 million a season and quickly becoming nothing more than an untradeable contract. It is not unreasonable to wonder what could have been with a Hechavarria-Lawrie left side of the infield. It is not unreasonable to worry that despite all the apparent talent on the Blue Jays roster that they won’t be able to find a manager capable of dealing with it all. It is not unreasonable to wonder if Nicolino will become an ace pitcher that has Blue Jay fans wondering what could have been in 2015.
Josh Johnson’s contract is up at the end of this upcoming season, so depending on his performance this year, the Jays will either resign him (presumably for a lot of money) or let him walk. Seeing these new faces in Toronto will be beyond exciting for its fan base and its players for 2013, but as quickly as 2014, that same fan base may be forced to look back and question whether or not it was worth it.
There was no way Anthopoulos was waiting for the free agent market like last year instead of being aggressive in the trading game. He was fortunate enough to build himself a deep minor league system that he was able to turn into players that can contribute now, but just how badly he severed the future of the organization is a story that has yet to be told.
Again, I’m not saying the Blue Jays lost this trade. If I were in Anthopoulos’ position, I guarantee you I would have pulled the trigger on this deal based solely on the possibility of acquiring three all-stars in one trade.
The trade has been received amongst Blue Jays fans and media as one of Alex Anthopoulos’ greatest feats. While it may be impressive, the inherent downside of the trade needs to be stated. This does not mean I’m less excited for the start of the 2013 season that you are. It just means that if this trade backfires, I’ll be slightly more prepared to deal with another year at the bottom of the AL East than you are.