Blue Jays: Thoughts on Giving Up Catching Prospect Travis D'Arnaud
Far more rash decisions have been made with a job on the line than the one by Alex Anthopoulos to trade the best catching prospect in baseball for the reigning National League Cy Young winner.
However, the situation in Toronto shapes up to look a bit like the "Gift of the Magi."
Though they have thoroughly convinced the baseball world that they would like to be involved in a pennant race for a change, the Toronto Blue Jays have sacrificed 23-year-old catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud to acquire the late-blooming phenomenon, 38-year-old R.A. Dickey.
D'Arnaud is known not only for his for his power and his defensive prowess, but also his handling of winning pitching staffs. The young catcher won a minor league championship with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats in 2011. He is a remarkably equipped young catcher.
Surely, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle were looking forward to working with, potentially, a future star.
We know the trade for R.A. Dickey was a good baseball decision by Anthopoulos. Like a star quarterback in the NFL, having one of the league's finest rotations is often enough to get a team into the playoffs.
Also, Antopoulos knew that he'd need to finish the offseason with a bang to impress ownership. Any GM whose team misses the playoffs the entire time he's been in town has job security issues.
Still, the young GM might have been able to build a perennial championship contender in Toronto without trading for Dickey. In 2013 and beyond, his team would still have featured a fantastic rotation, especially if Johnson were to sign the contract extension he's expressed interest in, and considering that Drew Hutchison will be back with the team in 2014.
That would have left the Jays with Johnson, Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero and Hutchison, all throwing down the pipe to d'Arnaud. A good catcher means happy pitchers, and d'Arnaud is expected to be one of the best.
And if Romero continues to struggle in the coming seasons, Noah Syndergaard, a prospect who was sent to New York in the Dickey trade, would have been coming up within the next four years. Syndergaard could make for a decent fourth or fifth starter, at least.
The situation described above isn't much worse than what the Jays have on their hands right now. Having R.A. Dickey, not only a Cy Young winner but a knuckleballer at that, means some security for at least four or five years.
But the ceiling for d'Arnaud's tenure with the Blue Jays is much higher than Dickey's. Turning 24 this year, the highly touted prospect could have been spending the next five to seven seasons in a Blue Jays uniform. That's a long time to spend with potentially one of the best young catchers in baseball. With a stacked rotation and a great catcher, teams can do a lot.
And to take one more prod at the Dickey trade, isn't it funny that the Philadelphia Phillies won a World Series with Cole Hamels as their ace, but when they traded for Cliff Lee, they failed to beat the New York Yankees in the World Series? You'd think that rotation would have chewed up the New York lineup in five or six games. Instead, the Phillies only took two games from the Yankees.
Apparently, pitching isn't everything.
I more than sympathize with Anthopoulos. In fact, I probably would have done it myself. I can't argue that the Blue Jays don't have the potential to win a championship while Dickey is pitching well for them.
But the R.A. Dickey era in Toronto, without much doubt, will be a short one. Tim Wakefield was an acclaimed knuckleballer who pitched well into his forties, but the tail end of his career in Boston was cringe-worthy. Who is to say that Dickey will fair much better than the likes of Wakefield?
The Travis d'Arnaud era, on the other hand, might not have lasted those five or seven years, but the time wouldn't have been hampered by age. The performance wasn't guaranteed, but the ceiling was definitely high.
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