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Holy Smoak! The Blue Jays Are Busy

When Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos gave his annual, end of the season, state of the franchise presser  he seemed genuinely excited about the winter to come, guaranteeing some roster turnover. I was intrigued to see what the ninja could get done.  It also gave me a brilliant (in my own mind) idea.  Why not start a post and update it with transaction analysis every time something was consummated.  Off-season content!

Yaaaaaaaa, about that.  Seems both Anthopoulos and myself have been rather busy.  For AA, it’s been re-shaping the Blue Jays roster while also injecting new voices into a clubhouse that may have gotten somewhat stale.  For me, it’s been looking after two kids.  Not as much fun.

No matter which side of the fence you fall on in regards to the moves (and I think I’ve made it pretty clear where I stand) you have to be impressed at what AA has been able to accomplish in a short amount of time. Funnily enough though that hasn’t been the reaction I’ve been getting from some fellow Jays fans.  After I made my very favourable opinion of the J.A. Happ for Michael Saunders deal known to a regular correspondent I was hit with this reply:

“Sad that there won’t be a Melky but more money for a 2nd basemen and a reliever.  We still need a couple of right-handed relievers, 2nd basemen and a closer.”

Really??! That’s what you’re thinking about it??!  Before we even tackle the Saunders vs. Melky debate, let’s just take a very quick look at what has been accomplished so far:

November:

– Pick up Adam Lind‘s $7.5 million option and flip him to Milwaukee for swingman Marco Estrada

– Trade CF’er Anthony Gose to Tigers for 2nd basemen Devon Travis

– Sign Russell Martin, a top 3 catcher and Canadian to boot, to 5 yr deal

– Trade Vancouver Canadian 2014 MVP Franklin Barreto and 3 other guys to Oakland for stud third basemen Josh Donaldson

December:

– Non-tender Andy Dirks, John Mayberry Jr, and Justin Smoak (who they had picked up on waivers in October) before turning around and signing the 1st baseman to a 1 yr/1m$ deal, saving themselves about two million bucks in process

– Flip back end starter J.A. Happ and his 6.7-million dollar contract to the Mariners for two years of Michael Saunders, the first of which will only cost around 2.9 million.

Sooooo, that’s five to six pretty significant (depending on how you feel about Smoak) deals in just over a month.  Pitchers and catchers report in about three months and the winter meetings are next week.  How could anyone truly believe that AA is anywhere near finished??!

Despite my slower than expected writing pace, I did managed to break down the Donaldson trade and Martin signing while there are plenty of pieces out there on the other deals, including Andrew Stoeten’s excellent analysis of the most recent transaction.  Effectively saying that even if the Victoria, B.C. native Saunders doesn’t outperform the Melk-Man as prediction systems such as Steamer and ZIPS suggest he might, you need to take into account the difference between what Happ is going to make as opposed to the Jays new left-fielder as well as what Cabrera will command on the open market when totting up the deal.

Add in the fact that a rotation spot has now been opened up for Aaron Sanchez and it’s a no brainer.

I know most people’s attention will now shift to the bullpen but reading the below tweet:

And the most recent KLaw Chat:

Bret (Toronto): The Jays are having a pretty good month, aren’t they? What else do they need to do besides finding some good relief pitching?

KLaw: A starter. If they really have $20 million to play with, they should throw that at one top-end starting pitcher.

I could see another starter coming on board.  I love the potential of Stroman, Sanchez, Hutchison and Norris provide but banking on Stroman replicating his 2014 success, Hutchison continuing to improve after his TJ and two rookies with less than 40 MLB IPs between them (out of the bullpen no less) seems a bit risky.

If they don’t manage to pick up another body for the rotation (please let it be a front of staff kinda guy!) it does put the Lind deal in a bit of perspective.  Admittedly, I questioned it at the time, but nobody (including possibly AA himself) knew he was going to trade away three pitchers who occupied positions in the five through 10 range of the depth chart.

With those guys gone, Estrada could turn out to be a very important piece.

Going back to the end of season press conference the benefit of hindsight makes some of the statements quite amusing:

‘He insists that Lawrie is the club’s third baseman. But, if something comes up via trade or free agency, they will not close the door to moving Brett to 2nd.’

‘When asked if he was happy with the amount of apparent depth at starting pitcher to the point where he could afford to lose some of it via trade, AA seemed very cautious. He expects to be asked about his starters, but he doesn’t feel they have depth enough to start trading it all away. He cites the examples of previous years when the club had to use upwards of 13 different starters. He does not want to repeat the lack of depth exposed by injuries. He says that he’d like to hoard pitching because it is the hardest thing to get mid season. But, he does not rule out using the depth if the right deal comes along. He later states that having guys who have options is a nice thing to have so they can hide them away in AAA. There is no need to force them onto the roster.’

Alex Anthopoulos is very good at throwing up smokescreens.

He’s also good at what he does.  So far he has improved the team’s defence with the acquisition of Martin and Saunders while effectively handing the CF job to Dalton Pompey.

The addition of Josh Donaldson means the Jays now boast three of the best power hitting right-handers in the game.  A commodity that is becoming increasingly rare.

While dealing Happ allows both Sanchez and Norris to potentially lock down rotation spots. Making the staff both younger and potentially better.

The winter meetings should prove very interesting.

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