I was not expecting that.
Already loaded with the best offense in the game, the Toronto Blue Jays went into stealth mode last night and added perennial-MVP candidate Troy Tulowitzki from the Colorado Rockies along with LaTroy Hawkins, in exchange for Jose Reyes, Miguel Castro, Jeff Hoffman, and Jesus Tinoco.
As always seems to be the case with Alex Anthopoulos, the deal came out of nowhere. While Tulowitzki’s name had been in the rumour mill for years, the Blue Jays were never mentioned as a potential landing spot, especially with Reyes already entrenched at short. Surprise surprise!
But sadly, as is always the case with Toronto sports fans, the trade is already being slammed by many. “Castro can throw 100 MPH!” “Hoffman was an amazing prospect!” “Tulo’s numbers are down!”
And, of course the big one: “But we needed a pitcher!!!!”
Here are seven reasons why you can ignore those rants and feel good that this trade was a good one.
1. Read this article on Fangraphs. It explains in good detail why upgrading the offense might actually be more beneficial than upgrading the pitching, even on a slugging team like the Jays.
2. The Blue Jays haven’t reached the playoffs in 22 years. They are built to win now. It has already been proven that Castro cannot help this year’s club, and Hoffman is still in AA, so at best he might reach the majors in 2016. That doesn’t help now.
3. By any defensive measure (errors, fielding percentage, DRS, UZR, the old-fashioned eye test), Tulowitzki is much, much, much better than Reyes. This in itself will improve the pitching by turning more balls in play into outs.
4. Even if things don’t work out this year, Tulowitzki is signed until 2020. Even though Hoffman and Castro are gone, the Jays still have a projected top-4 of Stroman, Norris, Sanchez, and Hutchison, who should each continue to get better while Tulo is still here.
5. There are still over three full days until the trade deadline. There are more moves to come. Never judge an unfinished product.
6. Yes the Jays still need pitching, but don’t forget that they acquired pitching in this deal. Just because Hawkins is 42-years old doesn’t mean he’s dead and finished. He has a 3.63 ERA and 1.16 WHIP this year, better numbers than half of the Jays bullpen. In addition, dating back to mid-June Hawkins has a 0.68 ERA and 0.60 WHIP in 13.1 IP, with 11 strikeouts and only 1 walk. In other words, he still has a lot to offer and improves the ‘pen.
7. The teams and stories aren’t 100% comparable, but they are very similar so let’s go back in time. In 1993 the Toronto Blue Jays were the defending World Series champions, and brought back a very powerful lineup. The top of the order was the best in baseball (WAMCO – White, Alomar, Molitor, Carter, and Olerud), Ed Sprague was making a name for himself as a solid hitting 3B, and the Jays brought back a rejuvenated Tony Fernandez in mid-June. They were stacked.
Unfortunately, they weren’t stacked on the mound. Despite signing veteran Dave Stewart to pitch alongside returning 20-game winner Jack Morris, and three promising youngsters in Guzman, Hentgen, and Stottlemyre, Toronto’s rotation was awful. Seriously bad. By July 31, six pitchers had made at least 10 starts, and only Pat Hentgen had an ERA below 4.00:
Jack Morris and Al Leiter were awful, and Dave Stewart was struggling badly. To put those numbers in context, at the end of July 1993, the American League average ERA was 4.58 and average WHIP was 1.42, meaning only Hentgen was pitching at an above average clip.
On July 31 the Toronto Blue Jays had the fourth best run differential in the AL (+50) mainly thanks to the third best offense (546 runs scored). The 496 runs allowed was 6th worst in the league. The Jays were still very good – at 60-45 they were tied with the Yankees for first – but with serious pitching issues, their staying power at the top was questionable. Remember, this was before the Wild Card existed, so a team had to win its division to make October. The Yankees had a rotation anchored by three above average pitchers (Jimmy Key, Jim Abbott, and Scott Kamieniecki) and the Red Sox were lurking just 1.5 games back with Roger Clemens, Danny Darwin, Frank Viola, and Aaron Sele all posting better than average ERA’s.
In short, the Jays had a stacked offense and terrible pitching, and at the trade deadline needed to make a move for a pitcher. Sounds a lot like 2015, right?
So with fans and critics alike screaming at him to pull the trigger on a high powered starter, what did Pat Gillick do? He picked up Rickey Henderson, one of the greatest offensive threats in baseball! He upgraded an already dynamite offense, and although Henderson didn’t perform at his usual superstar level, the move ignited the Jays to a 35-22 finish and a second straight championship.
Alex Anthopoulos has seemingly followed the exact same blueprint as Gillick with the acquisition of Tulowitzki. He made an already amazing lineup better, and the seeds are planted for the franchise’s first playoff birth since that ’93 team.
Is there a chance that a pitcher is added before Friday? Sure. But the Jays have won in the past with a terrible rotation, so there is certainly a chance that they can do it again.
Things are getting real.