Daily Archives: November 16, 2012

Blue Jays’ acquisitions ensure hope, not division title for 2013

Once again we have found the “winners” of the Hot Stove season, this time in 2012 being the Toronto Blue Jays of all teams. Barring a veto made by Commissioner Selig for a baseball-related reason he is having trouble finding, the Miami Marlins are dealing their entire franchise up north, aside from Giancarlo Stanton.

Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio, and John Buck will all be ditching the hideous rainbow costumes in Florida for some classy throwback Jays jerseys in Canada.

Everyone loves to give their opinions and debate over huge deals like this during the winter, but mostly everyone is on the same page in saying the Blue Jays are now “instant contenders” in the A.L. East.

Forget about that atrocious excuse of an owner Jeffrey Loria for a second. Should the trade happen, it’s a bright new beginning for baseball’s only Canadian team, after the Montreal Expos left to become the Nationals in 2005.

Not to discredit what the Jays have done though in the 21st century – they’ve actually won at least 80 games in 9 of the 13 seasons since 2000 and in 5 of the last 7 since 2006. So they rarely have a definitive bad team, and normally they are competitive throughout the year. That’s what draws people to the conclusion that this trade finally gets Toronto over the hump to become a playoff contender for next season and beyond.

It’s a very strong point, and the Blue Jays may very well make the playoffs in 2013. But if we have learned anything in the past three seasons, it’s that no one wins a World Series on paper.

And since 1993, not on Astroturf either.

I understand each team is unique and different, and you can’t compare acquisitions fairly. But there’s now been four teams in the past two seasons that were picked to win their division, a couple to win the pennant, and of course one to capture the World Series.

What happened? All of them missed the playoffs.

The 2011 Red Sox, the 2012 Angels, the 2012 Dodgers, and [as this all has happened because of them] the 2012 Marlins are those clubs. From Adrian Gonzalez (for Boston and L.A.) to Albert Pujols and to Jose Reyes, all of these teams have made significantly huge trades and signings that seemingly put them over the top prior to season’s start.

To me it’s incredibly shocking people are once again jumping on the bandwagon of the team that has spent or acquired the most talent. This Toronto team still lost 89 games last year and has a lot to prove before they can convince me to pick them for even a Wild Card spot. 

I’m not going to go in-depth with analyzing the team, as it would be a waste of time this early in the offseason.

Don’t get me wrong, the other teams in the division are by no means head and shoulders above Toronto, but they aren’t worse either. All of them still have holes and many questions about how to improve, yet it almost feels coy of baseball analysts to be ignoring the Yankees and Orioles’ intense race this past September, the Rays ability to always hang around, and the Red Sox being destined to improve.

There’s a remote possibility that Toronto could even move down into last place in 2013. Not necessarily due to bad performance, but all of the teams are tough opponents and the division could be separated by less than ten games, from first to last. Ranking this Blue Jays team as better than most or all of their A.L. East foes is childish, and it’s a simple question of “shouldn’t baseball know better?”

No matter what, this team will be sugar-coated and hyped up through the winter and into spring by the new guys coming in, much like all the recent clubs that spent loads of money and lost out big time. Though in reality, there’s a reason this team lost 89 games in 2012. And the majority of the players are coming back, and though they are young and certainly may become a strong team soon enough, no one should be picking them [unless you’re a bias Toronto fan] to suddenly explode and over-take the Yankees, O’s, and Rays to win the A.L. East.

We saw in 2012 that anything can happen in baseball, and that’s my thinking. Anything can happen next year and it’s still only November. There’s over two months left for the rest of the A.L. East to “catch up”, and it’s doubtful Toronto’s apparent inferior opponents will be the same as they stand now come Opening Day.

Overall, there is no doubt that this is a tremendous trade for the Blue Jays, and I’m happy for them from a non-bias standpoint. But not everything works out the way it’s supposed to, and it really hasn’t for most of the “winners” of the offseason for the past decade now. Toronto has the potential to change that pattern, but until they do I will have many doubts and continue thinking realistically while people guess away for the Jays to win 95 games and take the A.L. East crown.

Just ask the past couple of year’s World Series favorites. They’ll tell ya baseball isn’t played in the winter on paper. It’s played in the summer on the diamond, and there’s nothing to point to about next season when snow is covering the ground.

I guess that’s the “beauty” of baseball – it brings out the idiot in all of us during the season, debating what we thought back when it was 30 degrees outside and all we had closest to baseball was the MLB: The Show video game is simply guessing and nothing more.

There is one thing that is for certain however – the A.L. East just got a whole lot more exciting.

Cashman, Yankees miss out on another firesale

The Yanks missed out on Jose Reyes like they did with Miquel Cabrera, Beckett & Mike Lowell earlier. They need to position themselves to be ready to pounce when Miami is ready to dump Giancarlo Stanton.

The Yankees have used their financial might to help them field the most successful team in MLB from 1995-2012.  They routinely have the highest payroll in baseball and have seen their annual payroll more than double from the late 90s to today.  For years they were able to retain any of their own players they chose and to go after the best Free Agents every year.  However, one area where they haven’t been successful in taking advantage of their financial muscle is in the trade market.  There have been many fire-sales over the last decade but the Yankees haven’t really participated.

The latest such example is the massive dump going on in Miami.  Toronto received 3 valuable pieces in this deal, commodities that are not easy to find when building a MLB team.  In Jose Reyes they got a switch-hitting SS and lead-off hitter in his prime who is signed for the next 5 years.  Reyes is perhaps the best SS in MLB and one of the game’s most exciting players.  In Josh Johnson, they get a 28-yr old starter with Ace pedigree & potential.  He is only signed for 1 year but it gives Toronto a chance to see if he can return to his pre-injury form when he was 29-12 with a 2.64 era & 1.11 whip from 2009-2011.  The 3rd piece of the deal is a consistent, inning-eating lefty starter in Mark Buehrle who has 12 straight seasons of 200 ip.  He’s a proven winner in the A.L. and still going strong at 33 yrs old.

Any and all of these players would be valuable to the current Yankees but they are handcuffed by their self-imposed new budget that doesn’t allow them to take on anymore money for 2014 and beyond.  I don’t know if these 3 players can turn a team like Toronto into a playoff team but they would have been a great addition to a contending team like the Yankees.  Two of Florida’s previous fire-sales netted serious gains for their trade partners.

Marlin Fire-Sales in 2005 & 2007 shifted power in A.L.

In 2005, the Red Sox gave up a promising young prospect in Hanley Ramirez but got 25-yr-old Josh Beckett and the perceived to be bad contract of Mike Lowell.  Both Beckett and Lowell became stars and brought a championship to Boston in 2007.  Even before that deal, Boston bought Curt Schilling from Arizona for the bargain price of Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon and minor-lg pitcher Jorge de la Rosa. Schilling won 2 WS rings in 4 yrs in Boston while the Yanks tried to play catch-up by trading for 39-yr-old Kevin Brown and 40-yr-old Randy Johnson.

The Marlins fire-sale of 2007 has had far-reaching repercussions on the Yankees that will last for a decade and the team is only half way through its sentence.  During the off-season of 2007, Alex Rodriguez opted-out of his contract with the Yanks and became a Free Agent. After a week or so with no offers from any team, ARod came crawling back to the Yanks and struck the 10-yr deal with Hank Steinbrenner that has been better known as The Albatross. Just a couple of weeks later, Florida put their 25-yr-old slugging 3B Miquel Cabrera on the market and Detroit pounced all over him. Detroit also took on the bad contract of Dontrelle Willis and gave the Marlins 2 Top 10 Minor Lg prospects in Cameron Maybin & Adam Miller. Neither has lived up to their potential and the trade has been an overwhelming success for Detroit.  Cabrera is an MVP who has helped make Detroit a perennial contender.  Imagine how things might be different had the Yankees traded for Cabrera instead of re-signing ARod that Winter.  The Yanks had the young pieces to deal for him too.  Both Hughes & Joba were rated just as high as Adam Miller and Ian Kennedy was also on the team then.  They had 22-yr-old CF Melky Cabrera coming off a strong rookie season and 20-yr-old CF Austin Jackson coming off a breakout season in the minors(rated #41 by B.A. in 2007) as comparable players to Cameron Maybin.  One of Hughes/Joba and one of Melky/Jackson would have been enough to headline a package for Cabrera.

Gaining Flexibility

So while the Yankees always have the highest payroll, they have not always had financial flexibility. Lack of flexibility has been the Yankees biggest drawback year to year.  Too many multi-year contracts for big money have left the team with few options to improve.  They have traded away their young assets in questionable deals for players either too old or just simply not good enough.  The one memorable trade that was somewhat of a money deal was the Texas trade for ARod and that was succesful (up until the new contract).  However, the Yanks gave up a very good player in Alfonso Soriano and Texas kicked in a lot of money to leave the Yanks only responsible for about $16M per year for Alex. Cashman was able to make that move because he had an opening at 3B, he had money to spend and he had assets to trade (Soriano).

Right now the Yanks don’t have the money and they don’t have great assets.  They have some openings but still there are too many positions tied up.  The new budget is limiting the ability to improve the team but hopefully it will also have the secondary effect of allowing the team to build some young assets and to gain much-needed financial flexibility as some contracts begin to expire.  That way the Yankees will be in position to capitalize the next time a team like Miami decides to give away its stars.  One such star the Yanks need to keep their eye on is Giancarlo Stanton.  He’ll eventually be the next Miami Marlin to be sold in the next 2 years.  Stanton is only 23 but already one of MLB’s best players.  He’s already stated publicly that he is pissed off at the team for the recent purge and although he’s not a FA til 2017, I’d expect Miami to move him well before then to get maximum return.  Cashman needs to call Miami every day until they finally agree to deal him even if it’s not until 2015.

Morning Bits: Cano Yankees MVP, Cone mentions Jays team to beat & more…

Hooray for Friday.   Enjoy the weekend.  Now for some links….

Andrew Marchand of ESPN NY writes that Cano was the MVP of the Yankees this past year.

David Cone mentions that the Blue Jays are the team to beat.

The New York Times reports that a play about the New York Yankees will hit Broadway next year.