The working title for this article had been changed from "That's just the Reyes it is, things will never be the same". After tonight's performance Tulo Time seemed more appropriate.
So many things to touch on in this post, so lets get right into the trade that was, and the trade that I hope will be.
There are some old sayings that get kicked around in business that are clichéd, a little embarrassing every time someone mentions one of them, but that do hold some amount of truth. For example, the saying “”You are either buying or selling” holds true in many situations. Either you are trying to convince someone that your services will be of value to them, or they are trying to do the same thing to you. Knowing whether you are a buyer or a seller is paramount to success. The people who are really good at selling are the ones that are able to complete a deal while the guy on the other end also believes that they are the one closing the sale.
As the trade deadline looms large Alex Anthopoulos has already made a significant transaction. I have been trying to figure out if he is a buyer or a seller, if it matters, and to whom he is selling.
Two nights ago I was awaken by my phone buzzing at me as my brother simply texted me “Reyes!!!. I immediately knew we had made a significant trade, but as I fired up twitter to figure out what was going on, the only thing that was readily known was that we had upgraded our short stop. The price we paid wasn’t going to be made clear until the official terms were released in the morning. As daylight broke and it became clear we took back an active arm in Hawkins to give up Hoffman (a top 10 pick), Castro and a third prospect in edition to Reyes, the debate began as to whether or not this was a move to bolster the current team, or a move to build for the future. If you read or listen to the articles and talk radio chatter today, there is a clear line drawn in the sand that it couldn’t be a move to accomplish both of those things.
There were plenty of jokes to be made about Alex Anthopoulos adding the best short stop in baseball to an already monstrous lineup (“I didn’t know Tulowitzki pitched!” was a common one) while largely failing to address the true need of the ball club that has existed for the better part of two seasons, the starting rotation. As I speculated in an earlier post, it might simply be that the market for starting pitchers is too expensive for a team that is 7 games back in its division to want to take on. It could be that Anthopolous is waiting to go all in on a pitcher in the next day or two and put a charge in the club for the last 62 games of the year.
The first thing to touch on in this deal is that it clearly was partially a move to the future. Alex was able to acquire Tulowitzki until 2020 (with further options) who although he is certainly having his most disappointing season of his career, has displayed nothing like the downward arch Jose Reyes has during his time with the Blue Jays. Reyes’ combination of declining range, inaccurate arm, fragile body and enormous salary always made the back years of his contract unattractive. Being able to move a player with those characteristics for a legitimate chip is absolutely a strong move for the Blue Jays. While I am disappointed that Castro was part of the deal, this move ensures that a Blue Jays infield of Martin, Donaldson, Tulowitzki, Travis, and Edwin (or whoever fits in on first) will be devastating for years to come.
So, was Anthopoulos the buyer or the seller in this deal? I actually think (like most good trades) it is beneficial to both of the teams. I understand Colorado’s willingness to swap shortstops with large salaries given the state of their current team in order to pick up 3 quality prospects. I understand the move to the future for the Jays in terms of significantly improving a key position from both an offensive and defensive perspective for similar capital. Getting a veteran bullpen arm to stabilize things also helps out a bit today. So who is left holding the bag in this situation?
The people who are potentially being swindled in this transaction is unequivocally the fans of the Toronto Blue Jays. Anthopoulos is attempting the old magic trick of keeping your audience focused on what you want, and putting less concentration on the areas that maybe a competitor of yours performs better than you in, where you really can’t compete. Keep your target focused on the positive, and its possible they might just lose a little focus on what is really happening right before their eyes.
The Toronto Blue Jays just added an improved batter (and to be fair, defender) to the best lineup in baseball in order to score even more runs, even though this all time performing run generating machine has only been able to carry the team to a .500 record through 100 games. I’m going to say this again…. The Blue Jays added another All-Star level bat, to the 2nd highest scoring team in Major League Baseball as an attempt to push the team to its first playoff birth in 20 years. Remember my post about Meatball baseball? It appears that Anthopoulos has fully embraced this version of the Blue Jays and instead of addressing his chicken legs (pitching staff in this analogy) he just keeps working on his bicep curls and bench press.
Instead of facing the area of the team that is dragging behind the rest of the MLB, Anthopolous has made a significant move that ultimately doesn’t change the projected outcome of this club over the next 62 days nearly as much as it will in years to come.
So what does this do for Anthopoulos?
This move significantly reduces the pressure on Anthopoulos to make the playoffs, as it gives him a bit of an out clause. If he does nothing at the dead line and the team misses the playoffs, he takes heat for not making a move. Making a big move significantly reduces his personal risk, even if that move doesn’t really change any of the projections for the club. If the Jays miss the playoffs, he can hang his hat on the fact that he did everything he could to bolster the club this year, and it simply wasn’t good enough. The reality is, he has done some tremendous things to improve this club and put together one of the best lineups in baseball. However, he continues to use up prospective trade chips on acquiring more and more hitting when the real concern is the pitching staff. Even if the Blue Jays decide to empty out the cupboard in the next day or two and bring in a quality pitcher to either the rotation or the bullpen, Anthopoulos will be receiving no passes from me if this club fails to make it to October.
Bottom line on the trade: This was a good trade for the Blue Jays because they significantly upgraded at a key position, and received an arm that can hopefully help stabilize the bullpen for the next two months. It was not a move that builds confidence that this team is going to substantially improve on its record for the remainder of this season, based on the trade alone.
Hey Jose, what do you think?
Jose Bautista wasn’t shy in commenting on what he thought of the trade for Troy Tulowitzki that saw his good friend Jose Reyes shipped off. His comments can be found here, but I will paraphrase for you right now:
“ You might think this trade makes us better, but it doesn’t really, its not what we need. We need pitching help, not to get the best short stop in baseball”.
"Also, I miss my friend".
Welcome to Toronto Troy. Nothing welcomes in a player quiet like having one of the core members of the team suggest that he isn’t needed. Bautista played defense a bit today tweeting a photo of him and Troy at the All-Star break a couple of years back, and clarifying his comments (sort of) but his initial response caused quiet a reaction.
So, its time for one of the best recurring events of the blogosphere… I am going to comment on someone else’s comments on something that happened!!
I was not thrilled with what Bautista had to say for a couple of reasons. Specifically, last year he ripped Anthopoulos for not doing anything and now he is saying what Alex did isn’t needed. He can’t have it both ways. Either you want activity or you don’t. As a player you don’t get the luxury of publically critiquing every move your General Manager does or does not make. Bautista knows this, so I am not sure what he was trying to accomplish with that comment. His vocal support for another trade will do nothing to influence or help Anthopoulos get a deal done, so this comment again seems to only serve to shift the responsibility of the remainder of the season onto someone else.
The other reason why I don’t like the comments are for the way they may be received by Tulowitzki. Veteran All-star players usually don’t take very kindly to hearing that they aren’t welcomed on a team by one of its most popular and successful players. If Jose is unhappy with the team’s direction I very much support his ability to voice those feelings in private with management. By taking the public path, all that he has done is open himself, Tulowitzki and Anthopoulos up to more questions and criticism that deflects from the real matters at hand which just so happens to be the point Bautista was trying to make in the first place; the team still needs another arm.
Now, with that being noted, what Bautista said is essentially just a shorter version of everything I wrote above about the trade. He is right, we need pitching help if this team is going to make the playoffs and this move isn’t a significant upgrade for the rest of the season, even if Anthopoulos chooses to spin it that way.
Not all Doom and Gloom
I never thought getting rid of one of the most frustrating Blue Jays and bringing in an All-Star level replacement would leave the franchise in such turmoil! Its not all bad on the horizon mind you. There are signs that maybe some areas of the pitching staff are set for improvement, mainly the bullpen that has added two key arms in the last 7 days.
LaTroy Hawkins made his Blue Jays debut last night and proceeded to get three easy outs before leaving the game. Aaron Sanchez has returned and is finally being utilized in the bullpen, something that this blog and almost every Blue Jay’s fan have speculated about for months. Sanchez instantly provides another live arm that can work out of jams, and predominantly throw his best pitch to every batter he faces. As he continues to work to develop his other pitches, putting him in positions to rely on his fastball makes sense for both his development, as well as the team’s performance. Osuna continues to have a fantastic first season with the club as well, likely one of the reasons Anthopoulos was so willing to part was with Castro.
Imagine a primary bullpen rotation of Hawkins, Sanchez and Osuna with Hendricks and Tepera backing them up. That gives the Jays 4 pitchers who can throw mid nineties, as well as a crafty veteran. Gibby would still have Loup and Cecil for situational matchups, and overall that could round into an above average group that could settle into their roles over the next month. If a legitimate closer were adding to the team in the next few days bumping Sanchez and Osuna down an inning would be even better, given the issues that the Blue Jays starters have had consistently making it 6+ innings.
Bullpen or Starter?
Although the quality of starting pitching has been the single largest issue the Blue Jays have faced this year (from a league average baseline test, the bullpen has been far better than the starters even though there have been some painful blown games along the way that as a fan make it feel differently) if I could pick one area of the team for Anthopoulos to improve over the next 3 days it would actually be adding a big time closer to the team. There are two key reasons for this:
Price Tag – Although bullpen guys still don’t come cheaply, the price tag that a Samardzija will take to be a rental player for 2 months is likely to be astronomical. A pitcher like Cole Hamels will be even higher. I don’t want to see the team burn through all of its prospects for anything short of acquiring a pitcher that the team will have locked up for a minimum of 3 years. If there is a starting pitcher out there that fits this mold I would welcome that addition, but I don’t see that as likely. That being said, a deal for one of the previously mentioned starters would absolutely fire things up for the next 8 weeks but I think the team stands to benefit more from a closer, for the reason outlined in point 2.
We need help every single day – Right now the Blue Jays have the potential to score 8 runs on everyone, good pitchers, bad pitchers, and league average pitchers. Or put another way, we could score 8 runs against Buehrle, Doubront, and Dickey if they pitched for other teams. The opportunity to try and shave a single run or two off of the every day final score could do wonders for this club. When you score as many runs on a day to day basis as the Jays do, reducing the opponents average run rate by even half a run could have a significant impact over the final 62 games. While a quality start can singlehandedly lead to a win, an elite closer to stabilize the back end might actually result in a more beneficial outcome down the stretch. When I look at the number of close games that have been lost this season, it screams out the need for a top level closer. When you lose 75% of the one run games you play (including 6 in July alone), you are leaving wins on the table that could be “easily” addressed.
This model isn’t without precedent. While the New York Yankees certainly have had better pitching from their rotation than the Blue Jays, they are the classic front running team right now. With the play of their bullpen, they know that when they are in tight games from the 7th inning on, they are likely only a run or at most two away from victory. When the Yankees score early they put immense pressure on the other team to generate runs before the 7th inning. Given the Blue Jays ability to score runs, the pressure they could put on opponents by having a lock down back end would be even more extreme. I believe that Sanchez and Osuna can be two thirds of that group.
With the potency of the Jays lineup, the edition of one more quality arm could put this group over the top.
Quick Hitters from the Week:
Kevin Pillar is making too many base running mistakes. The bizarre triple play that largely contributed to the Jay’s loss on Sunday wasn’t entirely his fault, but he definitely was a key contributor to the absurdity that happened at third base. His poor running earlier in the year in New York contributed to the outcome of the game as much as a single base running mistake ever can. With Reyes off the team, my expectation is that we improve on the base paths, and that needs to start with Pillar.
The officiating of Blue Jay games in the past month has been an absolute joke. You may have noticed that I am not someone who is often picking on the Umpires on this blog, because for the most part I believe they do a good job. The last month they have not done a good job. There have been 3 clear instances where the umpires have overstepped their boundaries or simply made egregious errors that have significantly altered games:
Jose Bautista thrown out mid bat – Bautista certainly was chirping with Jerry Meals about balls and strikes, but he followed all of the rules of the trade when doing it. He never looked directly at the Ump, he got in the batter box in a reasonable amount of time, he even turned away from the camera at one point. The fact he was throw out of a tight game in the 8th inning in such a brash manner was ridiculous. I don’t care how offensive whatever he said to the Umpire was, he was booted because the Ump felt like his ego was being walked on and he didn’t like it.
Russell Martin strike out –Joe West loves to find his way into confrontations with batters, and Martin was no exception coming up in a key spot in Seattle. Down a run with a runner in scoring position and two outs, Russell ate a ball a fair amount off the plate away for strike one. He voiced his displeasure to the Umpire, only to have that exact same pitch (but a little lower) called for strike two. If Mr. West had been calling this pitch consistently a strike, there is no way that Martin would have complained about it. The problem was it hadn’t been called all game, and Martin would know. Martin proceeded to then strike out on a breaking pitch away as he was forced to try and defend a 30 inch strike zone.
Ryan Howard foul ball hit – While you might be able to argue that both Bautista and Martin were wrong in their approaches to arguing with the Umpire, there is really no ambiguity in what happened during Ryan Howard’s at bat last night. Howard clearly fouled a ball down his leg before it rolled down the first base line and he was called safe at first. Martin jumped up and called it instantly, as did Donaldson and Doubront. Why are all three of those players important in this instance? Because they all have essentially the exact same vantage point as the home plate, third base and second base Umpires. None of the Umpires picked up on this fact. Further compounding it, MLB has taken a page out of the NFL’s book and decided that some plays that could lead to objective clear-cut rulings are not reviewable, such as this play. This Howard hit started the game-altering inning that ultimately lost the game for the Jays. Terrible job Umps.
Seeing the number of Jay’s fans in attendance during the Seattle series was fantastic. It is so nice to see games thousands of miles away from Toronto being attended by Canadian fans. It really emphasizes the strong decision the team made a few years ago to add the Maple Leaf back into their logo and embrace being Canada’s team.
Devon Travis re-aggravating his shoulder injury last night is very concerning. He needs to go get some platelet spinning down and be good as new.
On a Five Hundreds note, I have received plenty of feedback that you the reader would like a comment section at the bottom of the blog to share your thoughts and feedback. I would love to have this feature available today, but as of yet don’t know how to create it. It is something that I hope to have up this week.
If the Jays make another move this week we will make sure to cover it promptly. Otherwise a weekly installment of the Five Hundreds will be following the long weekend.