On trade deadline day, a day when teams scrambled to fill last minute needs, a day that this season saw nine trades completed involving 25 players, the Toronto Blue Jays did nothing.
Alex Anthopoulos, the busiest man in baseball, the GM who has his hands involved in every rumour, stood pat.
Yes, he did make three trades in the days leading up to the deadline, but on a day when the Jays were rumoured to be involved with Matt Garza, Justin Upton, Ryan Dempster, Rafael Betancourt, and a handful of others, they did nothing.
And while many on Twitter were angry with the lack of activity, I can’t say that I was.
Was I a bit puzzled by it? Yes, I think I was. I, like many others, thought a follow up trade was on the way, something to bring in a new left fielder. But when you consider the options that were out there I’m not surprised. Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino didn’t really fit, and while Justin Upton would have been amazing, the price to bring in an MVP candidate on a team friendly contract must have been exorbitant.
So I’m OK with the lack of activity.
What the trade deadline did do, was leave me with mixed feelings. I’m not sure whether I’m frustrated in AA or if I commend him. In fact, I think it’s both.
My mixed feelings all come down to the bullpen, and AA’s constant struggle to improve it. It’s easy to see why it has been a major focus for the GM. As I write this, Toronto’s bullpen ranks dead last in the American League with a 4.25 ERA. In innings 7 – 9 this season, the Jays have allowed a league worst 141 runs and a league worst .764 OPS against. Just think how bad things would be without Janssen and Oliver. If Toronto had a solid bullpen, it wouldn’t be far fetched to think the team would have an additional 3-6 wins this season. Six additional wins would put the club in the lead for the second wild card.
So it’s frustrating to think that in this, Alex Anthopoulos’s third season as General Manager, the bullpen is still broken. But I do commend him, and this is why – he is tirelessly trying to fix it.
In 2010, there were eight Toronto relievers that made at least 20 appearances: Kevin Gregg, Shawn Camp, Casey Janssen, Jason Frasor, Scott Downs, Brian Tallet, David Purcey, and Jesse Carlson. With Frasor currently injured, only one of the eight are on Toronto’s active roster right now.
After that season, AA set out to re-construct the bullpen in order to better compete in the tough AL East. He brought in Carlos Villanueva, Octavio Dotel, Jon Rauch, and Frank Francisco. He promoted Luis Perez and Marc Rzepczynski from the minor leagues, and moved Jesse Litsch out of the rotation. What happened? The ‘pen was terrible, which prompted yet another blow up. Dotel and Rzep were dealt at last year’s deadline, and Francisco and Rauch left as free agents. In their place, AA brought in Sergio Santos, Darren Oliver, and Francisco Cordero in the offseason, to surely bolster the bullpen. On paper it was thought to be one of the strongest in the league, but paper rarely wins games.
Due to injury and a whole slew of ineffective minor leaguers (see: Chavez, Coello, Crawford, Beck, Igarishi, Dyson, Pauley) Anthopoulos is once again re-constructing the ‘pen, this time mid-season. In are J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon, Steve Delabar, and Brad Lincoln, desperately trying to provide some form of stability.
And who was the biggest casualty in our GM’s never ending quest for this stability? None other than fan favourite Travis Snider.
When I first heard about the trade I was shocked. Our one time top prospect, who is still only 24-years old, for a reliever? Really?
But it’s funny what Twitter will do. Aside from giving fans instant news about rumours and trades, it also allows us to hear the opinions of fans of other teams. And the reaction of Pirates fans spoke volumes about how Snider is perceived elsewhere.
The overwhelming majority of Tweets that I stumbled across were negative, with messages like “I can’t believe we just dealt our most effective setup man for a career .248 hitter”, and “the Pirates haven’t had a winning season since ’92, and now that we’re actually leading the Wild Card chase, we trade our best reliever for a failed prospect who can’t hit?”
So while Blue Jays fans were in mourning over getting rid of Travis Snider, Pirates fans were in mourning over acquiring him. Quite funny.
The bottom line is this: I think Blue Jays fans are guilty of overvaluing our prospects. Getting rid of Zach Stewart to help get Rasmus was a huge loss. Losing Nestor Molina to bring in Santos was a mistake. The prospects sent to Houston for Happ will create an unfillable hole. And now Snider.
In reality, maybe Snider is who he is – an average to below-average major league player. He played half a season in 2009, half a season in 2010, and a third of a season in 2011. Yes he was jerked around a bit by being promoted and demoted several times, but if you can’t hit big league pitching, shouldn’t that be expected? His career average is .248, his career OPS is .735, and he has struck out in over 27% of his plate appearances. Maybe the fact that he was a lovable character blinded us to those facts.
Look – Snider might end up being a star. But you know who also might end up being a star? Brad Lincoln. His numbers look great this year, he is a former first round pick, and he fills Toronto’s biggest need.
So while I’m frustrated that all Snider could bring back was a relief pitcher, I commend Alex Anthopoulos for trying to fix what’s broken.
And to me, that made for a successful trade deadline.