Originally posted on The Southpaw  |  Last updated 11/14/12
By now you are all familiar with the biggest trade in Blue Jays history that went down last night. The blogosphere as a whole are pretty excited about this deal. However, I'm gonna go out on a big limb right now and actually chalk this one up as a loss for the Blue Jays. I think the major victory, and the source for most of the excitement, is really just about the fact that Rogers finally has allowed the payroll to increase so significantly. But when you actually consider whether or not the Jays got good value on their money and their prospects from a baseball perspective, I'm worried the answer might be no.To sum things up, the Jays took on almost $45M in payroll from the Marlins for 2013, and significantly more after that, and also sent over an established above average MLB shortstop in Yunel Escobar, 3 out of their top 10 prospects and Henderson Alvarez who has potential to become a mid-rotation guy if he can learn how to throw a breaking ball. In return they get one of the best shortstops in the game, a potential ace in Josh Johnson, a solid back of the rotation guy in Buehrle, a good controllable cheap utility guy in Bonifacio, and John Buck.I have a lot of points to make about this deal, and I do tend to sometimes get wordy when writing in paragraph form, so I think I'm gonna go for numbered lists here. Just easier for everyone that way. Let's start with the positives:1) Rogers spent money. Yay!2) The Jays established themselves as being serious about winning now and as a team in the top 1/3rd of payrolls3) The Jays get 5 years of an all-star SS in Reyes. A significant improvement over Escobar and one of the best leadoff hitters in the game.4) The Jays fill their pitching holes emphatically, with a top of the rotation guy in Johnson, and a mid-to-bottom guy in Buehrle. A rotation of Morrow, JJ, Romero, Buehrle and Happ looks pretty darn good.5) The top of the order of Reyes, Lawrie, Bautista, EE (and Rasmus?) looks pretty formidable also.6) With an offense better than last year's which was already pretty good, and now a well above average rotation, the Jays will contend in 2013 and beyond.7) The Jays still kept enough prospects to have a very good farm system.8) The Jays still have a surplus at Catcher and CF, which they could use to make improvements elsewhere.9) The players we gave up are not as significant as they sound. All had big question marks surrounding them.10) Although the Jays took on $165M in total payroll (owed to Reyes, Johnson and Buehrle combined) over the next several years, that's still less than the $175M that Josh Hamilton is asking for, and that's only for one player.But the negatives:1) After taking on $45M for 2012, the Jays' payroll projects to already be at the $120M mark, which I think might be its upper limit, because that is the number Beaston gave for the eventual payroll in the past.2) This means that there probably isn't much money left to be spent this winter.3) The Jays still have holes at LF and DH, and their starting 2B situation is a bit underwhelming.4) The Jays 6, 7, 8, 9 hitters project to be Lind, Rajai, JPA/Buck, Izturis. All are pretty close to replacement level offensively.5) Johnson is not the ace he was in 2010. His 2012 ERA and advanced stats will tell you that much. He's still a more than capable #2 guy, which is just fine, but don't view this deal as if he's one of the best pitchers in baseball anymore5a) We only got 1 year of Johnson6) Reyes has a long history of injuries, and relies a lot on his speed for success. These two factors usually don't bode well for aging players.7) There are only two pitchers we have who I can say with confidence will have ERAs below 3.90, and both are significant injury risks.8) While they're much better than 2012, the 2013 Blue Jays still have major holes offensively. They're good offensively, but not quite the Yankees or Rangers. Pitching-wise, they're improved even more significantly, but still aren't the Rays, Giants, Phillies, Braves or Nats, and maybe not even the Yankees.9) The Jays will contend, but they still are probably not as good as the Yankees overall, and aren't guaranteed by any means to make the playoffs.10) There might not be any money left to make more improvements, since they're already at $120M11) Reyes and Buehrle get a lot more expensive in 2014, and by 2015 the Jays will spend $41M on just those two players. And by then they won't even be as good as they are now, and neither will Bautista, for that matter.12) In 2014 and 2015 the Jays don't have much money coming off the books and will owe a lot more to Reyes and Buehrle. In 2014 they lose Johnson, and in 2015 they lose Happ. If they want to acquire 2 more pitchers, will they have the money for that? Only if their payroll can approach $150M...13) AA has always said that when you sign a free agent, it's assumed that player now has very minimal trade value, because clearly no other team was willing to pay them as much money as you just did, because otherwise they wouldn't have signed with you. Buehrle and Reyes are coming with the deals they signed as free agents last winter. Since the Jays are taking on their full salaries, their combined trade value is really not nearly as high as you would think it is just based on who they are as players.14) It seems like the Jays gave up a lot to get 1 year of Johnson, and then Reyes and Buehrle with much less trade value than you think.15) Many people have argued that it's amazing the Jays could get this much talent without giving up their best 4 prospects. While that is true in a sense, I think it's more a testament to how good their farm system is than how good this trade is. In other words, just because we had enough great prospects that our future still looks bright even after this deal doesn't mean we can ignore the amount of value that the prospects and players we gave away had.The cons outweigh the pros, in my opinion. With all of this being said, I think this deal is a great step in the right direction if payroll can really climb up to $130M this year, and $150M by 2015. We got some great players that we control for many years, we got a potential ace for 2013 who we could hopefully try to extend, and we did so without mortgaging the future. We still have D'Arnaud, Gose and 2 of the big 3 plus Osuna. And yet, with all of that, the way our team stands now it might still not be enough to make the playoffs. And if we were going to give away all of those prospects and also get payroll up to $120M, I can't help but wonder whether it would have been better to just pay Anibal Sanchez the $90M over 6 years he wants, sign Shaun Marcum and trade for Choo. Even after all that we'd still have prospects left over, and a lot more payroll flexibility for the future to make additions as needed.As it stands now, the Jays are only good enough to really strongly contend if Reyes and Johnson stay healthy and if Rasmus and Lawrie can bounce back. If you want more assurance of contention you probably still need to go out and get someone better for LF at least, and ideally even DH and 2B. I'm just worried that the resources to go out and sign a guy like Melky have all been drained, and that we might be spiraling back to the 2006-2008 days of high payrolls and teams that were very good but not quite good enough.But to end on a positive note, there is still a lot of offseason left to be had. The Jays will almost certainly trade a catcher which will hopefully bring back a good asset to fill one of the remaining holes. Maybe this is only the beginning and there really is still enough money left to sign Melky Cabrera. There are also still several cheap-ish options out there at 2B and DH with plenty of upside to them. These will have to be subjects for future posts.So in summary, if this trade is the end and the Jays have reached their payroll cap, then I have to consider this trade a loss for the franchise. If, however, it's just a sign of things to come from Rogers, then we might have a really fun winter on our hands, and although I wonder if the Jays got the best bang for their buck in this deal, if there's more buck out there for them to use anyways, then that's not really as important. Contention is here.I know many are jumping for joy at this trade, so let me have it in the comments!-Martin
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