Alex Anthopoulos emerged from the darkness, struck briefly, and slinked back into the shadows, pulling the trigger on a ten-player trade with the Houston Astros (the player to be named later coming from the Blue Jays could well wind up being cash in the end).
The Jays, with their pitching staff in complete and utter disarray for the better part of a month, picked up hurlers J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter in exchange for two much-maligned big leaguers – Francisco Cordero and Ben Francisco – four guys in the low minors (pitchers Asher Wojciechowski, Jacob Musgrove and David Rollins and catcher Carlos Perez) and that potential player to be named.
If you want in-depth, detailed analysis of the trade, check out the appearance I made on The Jeff Blair Show Friday morning or listen to Friday’s edition of Baseball Central At Noon, which I hosted with Dirk Hayhurst. Both are available in podcast form on iTunes and here on the website.
The quick and dirty version is this – the Jays picked up a couple of pitchers who can help the big-league team right away, and a third who might be a nice piece in the middle of the bullpen both now and later in exchange for two big-leaguers for whom they no longer had any use (did they ever really have a use for Ben Francisco?) and four lottery tickets in A-ball or rookie ball.
They used their depth in pitching and catching prospects to deal guys who are far away and potentially very redundant in their system to tie a tourniquet around a wound that was hemorrhaging badly. As Alex Anthopoulos told us on Baseball Central, it’s more a depth deal than anything else.
I want to focus more on something else that happened before Friday’s game – not as a direct result of this deal, but a move that was made along with it – and that’s Travis Snider’s long-awaited call from Las Vegas and his installation as the regular starter in left field.
Moving Ben Francisco sort of opened up a spot on the roster for Snider to be recalled, but it’s not Francisco’s job he’s taking, it’s Rajai Davis’.
With Davis slumping badly at the plate (only three hits in his last 37 at-bats) and missing cut-off men on a regular basis and with Snider thriving in Vegas (12 for his last 22, four of those hits leaving the yard) added to the absences of power bats Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie for the time being, Davis heads back to the bench where he can be a powerful late-game weapon and Snider gets another shot as a starter.
Moreso than the potential of Snider’s bat, which is sky-high as it has always been (and he went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk in his season debut), it’s his glove that’s going to be a difference-maker along with that of the 21 year-old who was his teammate in the desert when the week began, Anthony Gose.
The Blue Jays’ pitching staff is going to look a whole lot better over the coming weeks because the team is currently fielding the best defensive outfield in franchise history with Snider in left, Colby Rasmus in centre and Gose in right. There really isn’t an apparent flaw in the defensive game of any of the three – all have great speed, vast range and strong throwing arms, with Gose’s being the best of the bunch.
I won’t go so far as to say that the Jays now have three above-average centrefielders in their outfield, though I do believe Snider could hold his own in centre in the big leagues, but they certainly have two in Rasmus and Gose and an above-average left-fielder in Snider. All of them, it should be noted, are also very, very good at making throws that can be cut off, which will pay off in trailing runners not being able to advance with any kind of regularity.
In their first game as a trio, we saw some of the effect this defence will have, with Gose and Snider both making terrific running catches on line drives towards their respective foul lines and Snider playing a carom beautifully off the Green Monster to hold Red Sox catcher Kelly Shoppach to a single.
We’re not talking about an outfield the calibre of Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos and Torii Hunter in Anaheim, but this could very well be the next best thing. Despite the well-deserved love that the old-time trio of George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield get from Blue Jays fans, those three couldn’t carry the jocks of Snider, Rasmus and Gose defensively. Barfield was a very good right fielder with an incredible arm, but Bell was a train wreck with the glove and Moseby was an average centrefielder on his best day.
With all due respect to the great Devon White, the closest group of outfielders the Blue Jays have ever had – defensively – to the Friday Night Trio was probably Reed Johnson, Vernon Wells and Alex Rios. Yes, White is the best the Jays have ever had up the middle (though Gose could very well give him a run for his money by the time he’s done), but he never had the running mates.
The Blue Jays pitching got some help from the Astros Friday morning, definitely, with the additions of Happ and Lyon (Carpenter will report to Las Vegas, where he’ll likely be joined by Drew Carpenter, since a roster move has to be made to open up a spot for the new guys), but they got a lot more with the installation of Snider in left to join Rasmus and Gose.
The Blue Jays’ outfield, more than it has ever been before, is now a place where fly balls go to die.
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