You wanted a splash and you got it.
In fact, it’s hard to conceive of a move splashier than this: Twelve players – Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck in one direction; Yunel Escobar, Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jeff Mathis, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, and Anthony Desclafani heading in the other – along with tens of millions of dollars in salary shifting north.
Not to mention the deep impact on the psyches of the two fan bases.
Big names, a much bigger payroll. It’s precisely that for which so many of you – fans and media alike – have clamoured for the past few years. It’s a demonstration of might, a show of strength. And as such, I hesitate to dampen the expectations or somehow speak ill of this pending mega-deal.
And yet, here I stand with a bucket of cold water weighing heavily in my hands, the weight of which is dominating my thoughts at the moment.
OK, let’s take a step back. Let me splash a bit of that bucket’s contents on my own face to snap myself out of this odd funk, and to accentuate the positives of this proposed deal.
The Blue Jays come out of this with a pitcher who can pitch like a legitimate staff ace, and another who has traditionally been reliable for more than 30 starts and 200 innings per season. There’s also an all-star offensive talent at a premium position who has put up WARs around 6.0 in multiple seasons.
And they get a versatile switch-hitting utility player and a veteran catcher who returns to the fold, the latter still a pretty good catch-and-throw guy.
If that’s where the Blue Jays stacked up at the end of the off-season, you would have probably been pretty satisfied that they had lived up to the promise of adding big-league players to the 2013 roster.
And maybe more importantly, you would have been happy to see the payroll “parameters” – collect yourselves, it’s gonna be OK – broadened somewhere closer to the $120 million mark.
If seeing “proven veterans” added to the 25-man roster and a substantial amount to the payroll is your thing, you’re understandably over the moon today. I can’t blame you, either. The notion that the club has more resources going forward expands my notion of what will be possible in the coming years, and that maybe, the Blue Jays will settle into life as a Top-10 payroll team.
This is all good, and the sort of thing you can dream on.
Now, here comes the bucket.
Let’s not mistake this trade for a long-term solution to the Jays’ woes. Because the Jays are trading for a single season of Josh Johnson (or his pursuant value) this trade is completely oriented towards success in 2013.
The Blue Jays needed two starters to plug into their rotation while they wait on the development of the next generation and the convalescing masses, and in order to get that, they needed to take two bad contracts – Buehrle and Buck – and one very expensive-if-defensible contract in Reyes.
The Jays also moved five players under the age of 24 to Miami, and while the ceilings of Alvarez and Hechavarria appear to be something less than all-star calibre, their careers are still in the ascendance stage.
The Jays’ system doesn’t seem to have been overly culled in sending Nicolino (perhaps the most movable of the Lansing 3) and Marisnick (who struggled in a year in which he was pushed through two levels), but there’s still plenty going in the other direction.
All this has been wagered on Josh Johnson being healthy and having a good season in 2013. That’s the bottom line.
Certainly, the notion of José Reyes as a fixture in Toronto is an attractive one, even at that price point, but by this time next year, people will be judging this trade on two levels: Did the Blue Jays make the playoffs and/or did they retain Johnson beyond 2013?
Otherwise, you’re staring down the $39 million left on Buehrle’s deal and hoping that it is offset by Reyes’ performance, minus the $82 million he’ll be owed from 2013 through 2017.
And don’t forget that the mere presence of these players by no means guarantees a good outcome. As much as the Marlins were pushed to the forefront at the beginning of last season, let’s take a moment and recognize that the same players we’re gleefully taking in are the ones who were heralded as missing pieces that would put Miami over the top in the NL East last year.
Our splash? It’s last year’s splash in Miami.
There’s plenty of downside to this deal, but if I’m going to be optimistic about it, I’ll recognize that a bigger payroll permits the Jays to make some mistakes and sit on them if they need to.
If Buehrle’s contract turns into Barry Zito’s in two years’ time, it’s possible that this newly flush front office can swallow it and go about their business.
Again, let me be clear: It’s really fun to envision all of these players wearing blue next year. Also, this move is probably a much better one than overpaying for one or two starting pitchers.
Would I trade this package for Zach Greinke and Anibal Sanchez or Edwin Jackson? Probably not, especially when you consider the years and annual salary they’d have commanded if they even deigned to come to Toronto.
Ultimately, the team is better today than they were at lunchtime yesterday.
If I feel somehow as though I have to begrudge the mechanism that got them to that place, then let me at least acknowledge that there’s a reason to be excited about the team on the field.
And that should be all that matters.
But if this goes completely pear-shaped, keep in mind that this is the game that many of you implored the Jays to play.
You want this? You got it.