If you’re anything like me, you love to examine trades. From the moment the rumour hits the net, to every at bat you see that ex-Blue Jay take, the pros and cons are weighed and debated.
Despite all of the early attention trades generate, it generally takes many months or even years to fully determine the winners and losers. Trades are made for a variety of reasons, such as shedding salary, picking up prospects for future success, or adding pieces for the present. It is therefore possible, in theory for each team involved in a trade to come out a “winner.” This is how I view the Brett Wallace for Anthony Gose trade.
I decided to write this article after reading a piece on fangraphs: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/learning-from-brett-wallaces-fast-start/#more-49430. The article there discusses the exceptional start to the season that Brett Wallace is having, and cautions readers as to the likelihood of his torrid play continuing. My knee jerk reaction to seeing Wallace’s phenomenal numbers was to wish he was playing for the Blue Jays. They certainly could use his hot bat in the middle of their line up (.402 wOBA). However, I was also reminded of the rationale that Alex Anthopolous has used when explaining his player acquisition model.
That is, that in order to win in the American League east, you need great players, not good players. The reason for this is obvious (Yankee 2011 payroll: 207 million, Red Sox 2011 payroll: 164 million). Anthopolous (and I), have espoused the belief that the key to sustainable success for the Blue Jays, is to stockpile high-ceiling talent. Anthony Gose is that very kind of player.
Anthony Gose has plus (plus) speed. He has a plus glove, and a plus arm. These are tools which should allow Gose to provide Major League value, even with an average bat. The question is, will Gose have an average Major League bat?
Last season at age 19, Gose hit 262/332/ in High A ball. Now 20, Gose is hitting 232/317/304 in AA. These numbers are not promising, and they speak to the risk involved in this deal. There is no guarantee that Gose will develop into a Major League caliber hitter, but if he does, he will be an extraordinary talent based upon his other skills.
Brett Wallace on the other hand, has always had a highly touted bat. Wallace was a first round pick in 2008, who has hit at every level of pro ball (with the exception of the MLB in 2010). He will most likely be a pretty good Major League hitter. 2011 stats: 349/415/491.
What Wallace lacks however is the potential to be what Alex Anthopolous terms a “great player.” He has a “bad baseball body,” and is limited defensively at first base. His value is thus almost entirely tied to his bat. While his batting ability may eventually be above average, it is not particularly good for a first baseman. This is because first base is a position which demands less mobility/speed than other spots on the diamond. Therefore, bigger, stronger (and often fatter) players, who display plus power can be used at first. The available player pool is much deeper at first than at say, shortstop.
Centre field is a much harder position to fill than first base. This makes the value of a good centre fielder much higher than that of a good first baseman. Therefore, the risk AA took in swapping Wallace for Gose could pay off in a big way down the line, despite the value lost in the short term.
It seems as though Anthopolous is determined to build a contender for 2012 and beyond (not for 2011). This is when a number of well regarded prospects should be Major League ready, and when other young players currently in the big’s will have experience. It is within this context that the Gose trade should be viewed as a positive move for the Jays- Wallace’s phenomenal performance so far this season notwithstanding.
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