As Alex Anthopoulos enters his fifth year as the GM of the Toronto Blue Jays, 500 Level Fan continues to look back at how well he has done during his time in charge. Last week we looked at his success in free agency and with managerial hirings. Today, we will investigate the trades he has made, and see if he truly deserves the nickname “Silent Assassin”.
Trades have been a part of baseball forever and, like it or not, they always seem to define the legacy of a general manager. From way back in 1920 when the Red Sox sent Babe Ruth to the Yankees for cash, there have been spectacular and terrible trades. The Toronto Blue Jays franchise is no different. Think Pat Gillick, and you immediately think of “The Trade” – Alomar and Carter for Fernandez and McGriff. Think of Gord Ash, and one of the worst trades in team history instantly comes to mind – the Sirotka deal.
In four years, Alex Anthopoulos has made a staggering 48 separate trades. The majority of these deals have been relatively minor – think Fred Lewis from the Giants for a player to be named later, Chris Malone from Colorado for Brad Emaus, and Michael Schwimer from the Phillies for Art Charles, to name a few. But many have been very significant, both in terms of the number and quality of players changing teams. By my count, there have been 15 significant transactions in the AA era containing a total of 20 trades (some transactions have multiple trades, as shown below), including three of the most iconic and important trades in team history.
Using hindsight, I’ve split the deals into four categories – Good, Bad, Wash, and Too Soon to Tell. Read on and feel free to disagree.
Dec 23/09 – Brandon League and Johermyn Chavez to Seattle for Brandon Morrow
Chavez hasn’t amounted to anything and is now on the Cubs. League made the All-Star team as Seattle’s closer in 2011, but has struggled otherwise. Morrow has shown flashes of brilliance, but has too often been inconsistent and injured. The potential is still there however – even if it comes in the bullpen as a future closer.
Nov 17/10 – Danny Farquhar and Trystan Magnuson to Oakland for Rajai Davis
Farquhar never played for the A’s, and Magnuson only threw 14.2 IP. Both were later re-acquired by AA in separate deals (though neither did much with the Jays). Davis began his tenure with the Jays as the starting CF, but has since settled very well as the 4th outfielder, stealing 125 bases in three seasons.
Dec 6/10 – Shaun Marcum to Milwaukee for Brett Lawrie
Marcum pitched very well for the Brewers in 2011, regressed in 2012, and then was awful for the Mets last season (1-10, 5.29 ERA). Lawrie has been injured and inconsistent, but plays incredible defense at third and still has the looks of a future superstar if he can put it all together. I still have faith that he can.
Jul 27/11 – Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart to Chi White Sox for Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen; Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Corey Patterson, Marc Rzepczynski, and cash to St. Louis for Trever Miller, Brian Tallet, P.J. Walters, and Colby Rasmus
Though this was two separate trades involving 11 players, it was essentially Jackson, Dotel, and Rzep for Rasmus, and it goes down as an ultimate buy low for Anthopoulos. Rasmus was out of favour in St. Louis, and clashed repeatedly with Tony La Russa. While struggling mightily his first year and a half, Rasmus emerged last year as an outstanding player, putting up a .840 OPS, 22 HR, and a team leading 4.8 WAR. Cards fans will say that they won this trade because they won the World Series in 2011, but every single one of the players they acquired are now gone only a season and a half later.
Jul 30/12 – Eric Thames to Seattle for Steve Delabar
Thames only made 130 plate appearances for the Mariners in 2012 and hit .220, before spending 2013 in the minors for Seattle, Baltimore, and Houston. Delabar dominated out of the Jays ‘pen last year, earning a trip to the All-Star game for his efforts. He looks to be a fixture in relief for years to come.
Dec 16/09 – Roy Halladay and cash to Philadelphia for Travis d’Arnaud, Kyle Drabek, and Michael Taylor; Dec 16/09 – Michael Taylor to Oakland for Brett Wallace; Jul 29/10 – Brett Wallace to Houston for Anthony Gose
This was three separate deals, and it essentially boiled down to Halladay for d’Arnaud, Drabek, and Gose. At the time, it was seen as a great deal for the Jays. Halladay was essentially forcing Toronto’s hand, and AA had only been in charge for about two months. To get two of baseball’s top prospects in d’Arnaud and Drabek seemed like a coup.
But it hasn’t turned out that way. d’Arnaud is gone, leaving town in the Dickey deal last winter, and Gose hasn’t shown that he has the ability to hit big league pitching. He will likely be back in the minors in 2014. Drabek has been a complete disaster. The former first round pick has gone 8-15 with a 5.37 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, and 109 walks over parts of four seasons with the Jays, including a second Tommy John surgery last year. He turns 26 in December and looks no closer to becoming a star than he does a bust.
Halladay dominated the NL in his first two years (40-16, 2.40 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, two All-Star nods, a Cy Young, a perfect game, and a playoff no-hitter), before tailing off the past two. To call this trade bad considering the extenuating circumstances may seem harsh, but I can’t see how you say otherwise.
Jan 21/11 – Vernon Wells and cash to the Angels for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera; Jan 25/11 – Napoli to Texas for Frank Francisco
Strictly speaking about the players involved, this will go down as one of the most regretful trades in team history. Rivera was awful for the Jays for 70 games in 2011, while Francisco was equally as bad in the closers role. Napoli, despite a degenerative hip condition and a disgusting beard, has hit 77 HR, with 223 RBI, and a .895 OPS for Texas and Boston in the past three seasons, and made the playoffs all three years.
However – by dealing Wells the Jays were able to save a ton of cash, cash they then used to sign Jose Bautista (and maybe even Edwin Encarnacion) to a contract extension. So it’s not as bad as it seems. Still pretty bad though.
Aug 23/11 – Aaron Hill and John McDonald to Arizona for Kelly Johnson
Johnson has to be considered at least a mild disappointment during his time in Toronto. After a fairly productive 33 game stretch to end 2011, his OPS dropped to .678 in 2012, and he set a club record by striking out 159 times, before leaving via free agency. Johnny Mac was a fan favourite, but the real stinger was the re-emergence of Hill in the desert. In two-and-a-bit seasons for the D-Backs, Hill has hit an even .300, with an .862 OPS, 39 HR, 142 RBI, 20 SB, a combined 7.5 WAR, two cycles, a Silver Slugger award, and an MVP vote. Yes he needed a change of scenery and likely never would have hit like that in Toronto again, but it still hurts to see.
Jul 20/12 – Asher Wojciechowski, Carlos Perez, David Rollins, Joe Musgrove, Francisco Cordero, Ben Francisco, and Kevin Comer to Houston for David Carpenter, Brandon Lyon, and J.A. Happ
Carpenter and Lyon are long gone, and Happ might not be far behind. Expected to solidify the back end of the rotation, Happ has been disappointing: 8-9, 4.60 ERA, 1.41 WHIP for the Jays. Though none of the five prospects Toronto gave up have yet reached the big leagues, some are close: Wojciechowski had a 3.56 ERA in AAA, and Comer and Musgrove were each promoted during the season. It will only take one of them to make an impact for the Astros to make this deal look really bad.
Oct 21/12 – David Carpenter and John Farrell to Boston for Mike Aviles; Nov 3/12 – Aviles and Yan Gomes to Cleveland for Esmil Rogers
This one hurts. Farrell turned around the Red Sox and has them on the cusp of the World Series. Aviles was decent in a part-time role for the Indians and likely would have been an upgrade over Maicer Izturis at second base, but what hurts the most is Gomes. While it’s true he didn’t play a full season with the Indians, Gomes was amazing behind the plate. For AL catchers with at least 275 AB, Gomes ranked second with a .298 average, 3rd with an .837 OPS, 7th with 11 HR, and 6th with a .346 OBP – numbers that were MILES ahead of the Arencibia / Blanco / Thole trio. Rogers was up and down, and may wind up as a decent back-end starter or long reliever, but the loss of production from the catcher spot stings.
It’s a Wash
Jul 14/10 – Tim Collins, Alex Gonzalez, and Tyler Pastornicky to Atlanta for Yunel Escobar and Jo-Jo Reyes
Reyes was unremarkable and Escobar, once thought to be the SS of the future, wore out his welcome with two-and-a-half up and down years, both on (OPS from .782 in ’11 to .644 in ’12) and off (eyeblack incident, perceived laziness) the field. Gonzalez was a one-year filler for Toronto who was never going to be here long-term, Pastornicky hasn’t been able to stick in the big leagues, and “Tiny” Tim Collins is now pitching out of the KC bullpen.
Dec 6/11 – Nestor Molina to Chi White Sox for Sergio Santos
Many cried foul when AA parted with Molina, but he has been terrible in the White Sox system, regressing back to Rookie ball in 2013. Santos has been dominant as a Blue Jay, but has only thrown 30.2 innings in two seasons. If he can stay healthy next year, this might end up in the “Good” column, but for now it’s a wash.
Jul 30/12 – Travis Snider to Pittsburgh for Brad Lincoln
This deal caused an uproar with Toronto bloggers, as many assumed Snider was jerked around in Toronto and would explode with the Pirates. A .226 average, .627 OPS (both worse than in Toronto), and being left off the NLDS roster say otherwise. Lincoln has been erratic to say the least.
Too Soon to Tell
Nov 19/12 – Anthony DeSclafani, Justin Nicolino, Henderson Alvarez, Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jake Marisnick, and Jeff Mathis to Miami for Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes and cash
Dec 17/12 – Noah Syndergaard, Wuilmer Becerra, John Buck, and Travis d’Arnaud to NY Mets for R.A. Dickey, Mike Nickeas, and Josh Thole
These two trades will tell the final story of Alex Anthopoulos. He gambled big, literally betting the farm, and so far has nothing to show for it. d’Arnaud looked overwhelmed in his brief big league appearance, but still looked better at the plate than JPA, and Hechavarria, Marisnick, and Alvarez all looked pretty good in Miami. On top of that, Nicolino dominated A ball and Syndergaard was outstanding in AA for the Mets.
But I give AA a mulligan here – for now. Just about everything that could have gone wrong last year did: Reyes got hurt, Johnson was terrible, Thole was worse, and Dickey regressed. 2014 will provide the final story. If these players continue to struggle, AA may find himself out of a job – the ultimate proof that the trades backfired. But if Reyes, Buehrle, Dickey, Johnson, and maybe Thole all prove that 2013 was a fluke, then things are much different. I think all fans would trade several All-Star years from d’Arnaud, Syndergaard, and Marisnick, for a few World Series rings.
Final Verdict: 15 trades: 5 good, 5 bad, 5 neither. As it stands now, I’d give Anthopoulos a passing grade, not bad but not great either. He put his job, his reputation, and his legacy on the line last winter, and unless that pays off in 2014 and 2015, he will be looked upon as a disappointment.
Time will tell.
Next Week: The final installment – we take a look at the MLB draft, and how good – or bad – AA has fared.