Alex Anthopoulos opened the trading season this afternoon with a bang, by completing a deal with the Atlanta Braves which you all know the details of by now. Let me give you my take on it, because I know you are just dying to know, am I right?
Alex Gonzalez: Of course we know he's a really good defender, albeit past his prime, but he's 33, he will get hot for a little stretch of 2 or 3 weeks and then disappear for 5 or 6 weeks. He's very streaky on a team with no offensive margin for error and he's hitting the very best he ever will (over the course of the whole season so far). If he had stayed here it was a virtual certainty he'd have dropped off tremendously with the bat over the rest of the season. Most of all, he was never going to be part of the Contending Team of the Future (CTF) and thus, as I've written before here and in the book, he's the very definition of a guy you can move.
Yunel Escobar: (whom I hearby dub "Y-Es") is, of course, the prize for the Jays.
First, he's six years younger than Gonzo.
Second, he has three more years of control after this year.
Third, coming into this season he was considered one of the most valuable guys who might conceivably be available.
Fourth, he is emotional, cocky, flamboyant - a lot of the things this "plain" teams needs.
Fifth, guys with "underachieving" labels often go to the next level after a trade (see Rios, Alex)
Sixth, AA reminds us that they said a lot of the same things about Jose Bautista in Pittsburgh as was said about Escobar in Atlanta.
Seventh, he has demonstrated defensive excellence and a history of quite good hitting particularly in the realm of OBP - he could lead off (despite not being a speed burner) and he could certainly hit second. He HAS been awful at making contact this year, but so have Aaron Hill and Adam Lind and none of us entertain much illusion that they suddenly lost their talent.
Eighth, Cito, for all his faults, does have something of a reputation for unlocking the star potential inside a difficult player (the eventual bailing on Rios notwithstanding).
Ninth, there are a ton of mitigating factors concerning the personality issues around him. Every clubhouse has a "culture" that starts with the manager and if you don't fit you don't fit. AA implies in an interview on the Fan590 that Bautista may well act as a mentor to Escobar which is something he didn't have in Atlanta. The complaints about him do not, in my view, say "head case" or "space cadet" so much as a guy who was simply caught up in a culture clash.
All in all, there are plenty of reasons to like the risk of switching from Gonzo to Esco. All that said, if you listen to Keith Law on the Fan, he's not really impressed with Esco at all. I don't mean to try to say I know better than Law, but he did say his bat was "all batting average" which is objectively not true (his OBP argues against that claim) so I'll take law with a grain of salt on this.
Jo-Jo Reyes: Big lefty, 25 years old, so-so control, had good K rates until 2009. He's gone backwards and unless they think they could turn him into a quality reliever, he'll likely not be much of a factor.
Tim Collins: We all know what we love about Collins. we're almost all convinced he's gonna make it to the majors and be at least ok. But, as with the League deal - if you can improve your team and the cost is giving up a reliever, even a good reliever, you do it.
Tyler Pastornicky: A lot of Jays fans love Pastornicky even to the point of calling him potentially our best SS prospect. He's NOT. He's a bigger, though not necessarily more talented, David Eckstien. At best. Keith Law said what you'd really like to have is TP's passion and baseball smarts and Esco's physical tools in one guy and you'd have a really good player. But he doesn't have that physical talent. That said, if he has a future it's almost certainly in the NL. For me, he's a Ryan Freel type, though with an Orlando Hudson ceiling. Given the fact that our farm system still has Hechaverria, Jackson, Goins, Pierre and Thon in the system at SS, he was entirely expendable.
So the sum total is you trade a rental player a reliever and a likely future utility infielder (and that probably 4 years from now) for a guy who MIGHT be one of the better shortstops in the majors. that's a deal you have to make.
Also during the law interview, fill-in host Jeff Blair asked about the Jays international free agent signings and the overall effort to restock the system (and law brings up the draft strategy as well). There's a ton of meaty stuff there.
- He called Adonis Cardonas an upper first round potential guy;
- Repeated his reporting that Dicky Joe Thon will sign and also said talented lefty Griffin Murphy will sign at the deadline. He also said Aaron Sanchez was a first round talent.
- He never got around to commenting on the other international signing.
Looking out at the next few weeks, expect several more deals. there's a lot of buzz around the available relievers and pretty much everyone assumes the Jays HAVE to find a way to get JPA into the major league line-up.
Oh . . . and buy the book!
EDIT: Click here for a great read about Adeiny Hechavarria and his best friend by Morgan Campbell. it's what baseball journalism is all about.