Saturday, 29 November 2014
By now you know what happened and have gotten fairly acquainted with the basic details. I waited a day to post on the subject in order to ear all the comments from AA and the players come out to get the whole context. I've also, of course, heard a lot of commentary from folks who get paid to do that sort of thing and those who don't. Therefore, let me distill all that noise into those facts which seem to me to be most salient.
First, let's notice what Oakland gets:
Brett Lawrie - Honestly, I had MASSIVE expectations for him. In my mind, he'd spend 15-20 years in a Jays uniform and would be our George Brett/Cal Ripkin type cornerstone. Probably no Blue Jays fan had a higher view of him than me. But due to injuries and some lingering issues with swing mechanics, he's not that guy yet. Of course, he may never be though, and that's the sole reason he was expendable. In essence, the A's got a guy who may end up better than Donaldson or may always be a great glove with a frustrating offensive game. The Jays paid the other guys to the A's in order to shift that bit of risk in exchange for more certainty.
And the thing is, he's only three years from free agency so there's every possibility he'll be dealt again in a couple of years. Maybe we could get him back to play 2B?
Franklin Barreto - He is, to use one of Wilner's favorite terms, a lottery ticket. But in this case the prize if you win is rich indeed. He currently plays SS to mixed reviews - LaCava says the jays were very impressed with his improvement over the course of the season - but whether he ends up there, or 2B, or CF, that bat plays. He's likely to be a consensus top 100 prospect this off-season and if he continues that sort of hitting he'll shoot up that list. No one is calling him a replacement for Addison Russel yet, but there's a decent chance the will in a year or two.
Sean Nolin - the most under the radar guy in the deal and...
Kendell Gravemen - considered together...
Here are the Blue Jays starting pitchers already ahead of these two:
These are other Jays SP prospects with higher ceilings:
arguably Smoral, Labourt, Tirado, and Borucki
Other SP prospects similar to, but further away, than those two:
Then there are swing guys who can spot start:
So while they are both good pitchers they are, in the long term, unlikely to be part of the starting five (even eliminating the veterans, they are no higher on the list than 7 and 8) and in the near term, they have 7 good options and five emergency options - and Ricky Romero, technically. Nolin was on track to be another Brett Cecil (because of the depth, not his talent level) and Graveman could have been a reliable middle reliever getting tons of ground ball outs, in a role similar to what Redmond had this year. That has value but not as muc as they do to Oakland.
For the A's, these are guys who have a legit shot at winning rotation spots for the A's - and preforming well. Particularly Nolin who has constantly been in the shadow of sexier prospects in our system. BA slots them in as Top 10 prospects in their system and the two BEST pitcher prospects.
On my ongoing (as yet unpublished) list, I had Barreto at #4, Nolin at #13 (7th pitcher) and Graveman at #23 (11th among pitchers) which is lower than most have him.
The Blue Jays get, in return, the certainty Lawrie could not (yet?) provide. Seen in the context of the overall off-season, this is widely described as a complete culture change. To some it might look like AA is constantly changing direction but it seems to me to be a perfectly straight-forward program, adjusted for circumstances that didn't work out.
First, acquire a ton of minor league talent via a well thought out acquisition plan taking advantage of "exploits" in the system. When those were patched, use that talent to acquire veteran talent while modifying the acquisition process. Realize the first year might have been a "gelling" issue but after the second year, identify problems and re-mediate them. The trope afield online is that many of the exiting players were either complacent, or somewhat immature and it's hard for the fans to be certain what to believe.
BUT we do know that Martin is considered the king of clubhouse leadership and Donaldson has also got a very strong "winning atmosphere" reputation. Expect that pursuit to continue. Oh, and by the way, Donaldson will cost ~$3m more than Lawrie this year, and significantly more over the following three years of control - but the revenue from playoff baseball helps with that kind of investment, no?
One other point-
Wilner commented on the Blue Jays This Week podcast that with two big subtractions (actually 3 if you count Rasmus) and two big additions they are short of last years offense, however...what does the WAR projection (via Steamer) say now about the Jays in 2015 vs. those who've left?
CA: Martin: 3.9
1B: Encarnacion: 3.7
2B: Izturus/Tollison: 0.6
3B: Donaldson: 5.6
SS: Reyes: 3.0
LF: Pillar: 1.4
CF: Pompey: 0.4
RF: Bautista: 5.4
DH: Dirks: 1.5
(Pompey, Dirks and 2B pro-rated to full season)\
Cabrera (LF) - 1.7
Lawrie (3B) - 4.0
Lind (DH) - 1.6
Gose or Rasmus (CF) 1.4 (Both have same projection)
Kawasaki (2B) - 0.0
Navarro (C, presumably gone) - 0.6
So comaring those cone to those replacing them, the total is 9.3 gone and 12.8 in and it's safe to say Dirks won't be the everyday DH. Not that projects like this are a guarantee, but at least they are objective.
Less objectively but not completely homerish:
Martin is pretty clearly the best catcher in the AL as it stands (w/respect to potential McCann rebound)
Encarnacion is no less than top 3 in the league
Reyes is the best SS in the AL (even with shaky D)
Donaldson in no worse than top 2, depending on how much you like Beltre
Bautista is clearly the best RF
And of the players who could contest these claims, no two of them play on the same team.
Looking ahead: The winter meetings begin a week from tomorrow and the Jays are not yet complete (even though they are arguably as good as any team in baseball already) - so I'm not going to invest the time in a prospect list until after the dust settles.