Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The Aftermath

Such is the stature of Roy Halladay in Toronto that his departure demands eloquent dirges about the grief that arises from his loss. One feels almost ashamed to publish anything one is actually capable of writing lest one fail to write anything worthy of the subject at hand.

That being the case, it is all the more remarkable that there are several fine tributes already at large on the web, including particularly fine work from Will Hill and the Ack.

I hesitate to attempt to add to that body of work and yet such a profound event MUST be remarked upon.

I have said before that Doc was our Brett, our Yount or Ripken or Gwynn - and I believe that to be true. Such was the enormity of the failures of the last three years that it creates a situation where the unthinkable becomes reality. This is not just a trade of the face of the franchise, this is a trade of the soul of the franchise.

To be crystal clear, I mean no disrespect at all to the young players acquired or the skill with which this deal was consummated - more on both subjects later - but this was more than just a question of one set of numbers for another set, this was the loss of a player who, more than any in the history of the Blue Jays and more than all but a few in the history of the game, was such a force of nature within the franchise and the city as to make this a turning point for us all that defies the power of the language to express.

I realize fans in Atlanta, or Chicago or wherever - even in Philadelphia - might roll there eyes and consider such comments melodramatic and wildly overstated. To them I can only say, you do not know what Jays fans know. This is something we will not, as a team or a fanbase, "get over." Everything is different now. I do not presume to speak for others but for me, a little piece - no a significant piece of what makes me a baseball fan just died. These sorts of things ought not happen. I don't suggest that I know what the solution is, or how it could have been avoided. but it's just not right.

To Phillies fans I will only say this, you don't have a clue yet, just how blessed you have been in the past 24 hours. Don't believe the ignorant who say "the Phillies got a slight upgrade." No sir. Trust me, the Phillies have been transformed. A giant walks among you now. Bask while you can.

To the Phillies organization, please, put some rings on that man's hand. If you don't, it sure as heck won't be his fault.

To Roy Halladay, no player I've ever seen play the game as been your better, on and off the field, in my opinion. May you earn five rings in the next five years, and may you hopefully find your way back to Toronto to finish your career in the city that loves you. In any case, thank you - it was a helluva ride.

Now....deep breath....to other matters.

First, let me say something no one else is saying: the Jays did NOT in fact take less because they didn't do the deal in July. When compared to the Lee deal, which is a fair representation of what they could have gotten then, Drabek is better than Carrasco, d'Arnoud is at least as good and likely better than Marson, and Wallace is way better than Donald and Knapp isn't enough to make up the difference.
Furthermore, they got at least one and likely two guys that the Phillies didn't want to part with then and that goes directly, I think, to the skill of the new GM. Whether or not you think this was enough for Doc (what could possibly have been enough, after all?) it was, by the general consensus, the best package possible and it's an excellent sign for the evaluation of what kind of GM we have now.

As for the players we received, there's so much info out there that it's extraneous for me to even comment but the consensus is that Drabek is a top 20 prospect in all the majors and Lisa Winston reports that the Phillies people thought that when he came back from the injury he'd taken a quantum leap forward towards being a guy who could front a rotation, in terms of all those unmeasurable things that you look for in an ace. A lot of the talk still is that he's probably a #2 but with the good coaching available in the Jays system, I'm going to be optimistic and say he's going to be our #1 in a couple of years.

The debate rages on about whether the Jays should have kept Michael Taylor or dealt for Brett Wallace. There are skeptics among Jays fans and there are fans of the move, notably Kieth Law. For me, its a sideways move as far as I can tell but it becomes a premium move if in fact Brian Butterfield can upgrade Wallace's defense to the point he can stick at 3B for several years.

Conversely, if Taylor turned out to be an above average RF (as opposed to having to play LF) then that's an argument in his favor. The problem the Jays have (and it's identical to the one the A's foresaw) was the crowding of similar players. IF in fact Taylor was destined for left, and the Jays are not sold on Snider in RF, then things begin to jam up. The same is similarly true if Wallace ends up at 1B. With Lind not being the best left fielder and Snider potentially moving to left permanently, there is the potential of crowding.

I'll dismiss Overbay at this point because he's going to be dealt, I'm sure, before the season. If not, he only has one more year and would be a July trade candidate too so the worst case would have Wallace spending one more season in AAA which won't hurt him. I'll also dismiss Ruiz as a stopgap not blocking anyone. Now, if it is true that Wallace will just go right on over to 1B immediately, how do things shake out?

Here are the possibilities:

1B - Wallace, DH - Lind, LF - Snider, RF - acquisition (or Bautista/acquisition)
1B - Wallace, DH - Dopirak (eventually), LF - Lind, RF - Snider
1B - Lind, DH - Wallace, LF - Snider

The upshot is that if Wallace doesn't stick at 3B the guy who loses is pretty much Dopirak (and Cooper if he pulls it together) who a lot of observers are still skeptical about. It DOES still leave the necessity of finding a long term right fielder with defense but if we'd kept Taylor we'd have had the problem of a long term 3B with defense so the thinking might be that gambling on Wallace at 3B was a worthy risk because an impact outfielder would be easier to find. Plus, there's a lot more hope for Seirra to be here in a couple of years than for any of our other 3b, and on top of that is the reality apparent to everyone but the Jays that Wells is going to have to move over to RF at some point.

So I, for one, am not that worried about the Taylor/Wallace swap. If we have a GM who's calling card is player evaluation and scouting, I might as well relax and see how that plays out before I presume to know better than he (the defense of Wells in CF notwithstanding).

The third player is Travis d'Arnaud who is a highly regarded catcher who, some would suggest, is a better prospect than JP Arencibia (I won't go that far just yet but I can see the argument). Law suggests he'll be challenging for the Jays starting job as early as 2013. He's said to have solid defensive tools which simply need good coaching (an area in which the Jays system is strong) and a very projectable bat.

So I suppose the obvious question is how do I revise my rankings in light of three new prospects in the system?

Well, I did it like this:

1. Drabek
2. Wallace
3. Alverez
4. Stewart
5. Jenkins
6. Seirra
7. Arencibia
8. d'Arnoud
9. Mills
10. Jackosn

That's a preliminary revision, though. Yes, that's a slight modification regarding Jackson and Cooper but I have a perhaps irrational insistence on keeping Jackson in the top 10 and the acquisition of Wallace potentially hurts Cooper's chances.

For comparison (and so I can comment on it) here's the Baseball America top 10 that came out today:

1. Zach Stewart

2. JP Arencibia

3. Chad Jenkins

4. David Cooper

5. Henderson Alvarez

6. Jake Marisnick

7. Josh Roenicke

8. Brad Mills

9. Justin Jackson

10. Carlos Perez

My thoughts: Pleasantly surprised to see JPA ranked so high after was was ostensibly a regression; Thoroughly puzzled to see Cooper that high; Very pleased to see my faith in Marisnick was justified; Had no idea Roenicke still qualified for prospect lists; Glad they still like Jackson as much as I do; Pleased to see that out Carlos Perez fixation among bloggers isn't unjustified.

I expect that I'll hold off until after John Sickels posts his rankings but at some point I will revise and repost my Top 40 list and there will probably be more changes than just adding the new guys. also, it'll pay me to hold out and see if there are any more newcomers when Overbay and possibly others are yet dealt.

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