Opinion: Jays’ deals add up to a wash

The Toronto Blue Jays made a slew of moves to shake up their roster during the last offseason, but not all of them panned out.

As much as sophmore general manager Alex Anthopoulos is commended for his perceived shrewdness in acquiring talented ballplayers, he has made his fair share of mistakes at the helm of Canada’s only team.

Here are the six trades Anthopoulos made before the season began.

Nov. 4, 2010: Jays trade cash or a player to be named later to the Colorado Rockies for Miguel Olivo.

Olivo didn’t stick with the Jays, but when he inked a deal with the Seattle Mariners, the Jays received a compensatory sandwich pick for losing a guy they had on the roster for barely a month.

The Jays selected high-school outfielder Dwight Smith, Jr. with the pick, and later signed him. Olivo had a decent year for the Mariners, but with J.P. Arencibia behind the plate, the Jays didn’t need him anyway. A solid move.

Nov. 17, 2010: Jays trade Danny Farquhar and Trystan Magnuson to the Oakland Athletics for Rajai Davis.

Coming off a season in which he stole 50 bases for the A’s, Davis was seen by Anthopoulos as a speed demon that could play centre-field and bat leadoff. The problem is, Davis has had a hard time getting on base during his career, and 2011 was no exception.

After posting a .320 on-base percentage (OBP) in 2010 with Oakland, it was hard to see Davis getting worse in that category. But he did, posting a lousy .273 OBP to go along with an even lousier batting average of .237 with Toronto. Safe to say, not exactly what the Jays envisioned from their leadoff hitter.

Although Davis did steal 34 bases, he was often injured and played poorly defensively. By midway through the season, he was batting in the lower end of the batting order. On the bright side, the prospects the Jays gave up weren’t studs. Still, a poor trade. 

Dec. 3, 2010: Jays trade a player to be named later to the Milwaukee Brewers for Carlos Villanueva.

Villanueva was invaluable to the Jays as he was solid out of the bullpen and started a bunch of games when injuries decimated the rotation. That is, until Villanueva himself went down with injury.

Still, he was a reliable pitcher when he was healthy, and for the small price of a player to be named later, this was a good trade.

Dec. 6,  2010: Jays trade Shaun Marcum to the Milwaukee Brewers for Brett Lawrie.

Anthopoulos admitted this was a tough trade to make, and for good reason. Marcum was a horse for the Jays last year and even better for the Brewers this season, going 13-7 with a 3.31 earned-run average while pitching nearly 200 innings for the second consecutive year and leading Milwaukee  to the verge of a pennant.

But in return for Marcum, the Jays picked up Lawrie, who, once he was finally called up from Triple-A, was nothing short of a revelation.

Before ending his season this week with a finger injury, Lawrie hit nine home runs with a .953 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in only 171 plate appearances. Had he played a full year, he may have been the rookie of the year.

Although Marcum would have been great to trot out on the mound every five days, the trade allowed for Ricky Romero to step up and become the staff ace while also picking up the team’s third baseman of the future.

This was one of those rare trades both teams won. A solid trade overall.

Jan. 21, 2011: Jays trade Vernon Wells to the Anaheim Angels for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera.  

A lot of people were shocked when Anthopoulos made this trade, because it was hard to believe the Jays’ GM could find a taker for Wells and the four-years, US $86-million left on his contract. But he found a sucker in the Angels.

Wells was awful for Anaheim this year, posting a mind-boggling low OBP of .256 to go along with a putrid .225 batting average. Even though he hit 24 home runs, this wasn’t the kind of production the Angels expected for the $23-million Wells earned.

Rivera didn’t do anything for the Jays, and Napoli was later moved (see below), but just to get rid of that albatross of a contract, Anthopoulos must be commended.

Jan. 25, 2011: Jays trade Mike Napoli to the Texas Rangers for Frank Francisco.

Anthopoulos did well to acquire the underrated Napoli in the Wells deal, but he made a fatal error when he traded him to Texas for the erratic Francisco.

Francisco was supposed to be the Jays’ answer at closer but responded by being nothing short of awful. He blew a bunch of saves, lashed out at the media, and then lost his job to Jon Rauch, who was arguably even worse as a closer.

It’s no wonder the Jays were one of the worst teams in baseball in terms of converting saves in 2011.

Napoli, on the other hand, was one of the best hitters in baseball this year.

Splitting time between catcher, first base, and DH, Napoli hit 26 home runs, 68 RBIs, a batting average of .311, and an OPS of 1.033 in only 410 at-bats, while also leading Texas to another division title.

That OPS, by the way, would rank second to only Jose Bautista in the majors had Napoli received enough plate appearances to qualify.

Wouldn’t he have looked good spelling Arencibia at catcher, Adam Lind at first base, and playing the occasional DH in place of Edwin Encarnacion?

This was by far the worst trade Anthopoulos had made in his tenure and one of the worst by any general manager in the past year.

Overall, Anthopoulos made some good trades, but he made some doozies too, and they have to be balanced against one another.

Anthopoulos is one of the brightest GMs in the game, but even the best ones make mistakes and he’s no exception.

2 comments:

  1. I disagree the deals were a wash for AA and the Jays. All of the trades were about controlling costs and moving the team toward younger, controllable high ceiling players. The Wells trade was not about acquisitions, it was a contract dump. In that trade, the writer laments that Napoli, quickly flipped to Texas in the deal, has gone on to a stellar year there. But he forgets that Napoli (who turns 30 in October) would have expected to catch in Toronto. Rising star JP Arencibia went on to set the Jays record for HRs by a catcher and has vastly improved his defensive skills because of his time behind the plate. The Wells deal was about saving money, getting younger and developing that younger talent. You say that overall AA should be ‘commended’ for the deal but that’s faint praise. Any GM able to pull off the Vernon Wells trade and dump his monster contract is simply brilliant. The Francisco deal is called awful, but FF has been one of the best closers in the league since the All Star Game. The Davis, Farquhar, Magnuson deal is called poor. But it’s not mentioned that Farqhar was re-acquired by the Jays. Sorry, I can’t look at any of these trades and call any one of a them ‘doozy’ mistake. AA has been magnificent and virtually all GMs and knowledgeable baseball writers seem to agree on that point. AA’s deals don’t amount to a wash, by any stretch of the imagination.

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