Reviewing The 10 Player Swap Between the Blue Jays and Astros

July 18, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Brandon Lyon (37) pitches against the San Diego Padres during the sixth inning at PETCO Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

On first glance, I have to admit that the Jays are sending a whole lot of talent over to the Astros in return for a pitching upgrade. It’s far more prudent, however, to look through the entire package before jumping to conclusions. For this year, I absolutely love this deal. It gives the Jays a #4 caliber pitcher who can chew up a lot of innings and support the current staff. The Jays also improve the pen a great deal by simply dealing Francisco Cordero, but get even better since they can replace him with Brandon Lyon. Finally, the Jays improve a great deal on the bench and in the OF with the replacement of Ben Francisco with Travis Snider. As I proposed yesterday, all of this makes the Jays younger, and much better for the remainder of 2012.

For this season, it’s no contest, the Jays flat out win this deal. But what about the ever after?

Before we touch on anything else, we need to know the age, cost, and controllability of each player.

To the Toronto Blue Jays:

  • James Anthony (JA) Happ, 29 years old, $2.35m in ’12, Arbitration eligible for 2nd time in ’13.
  • Brandon Lyon, 32 years old (5 years younger than Cordero), $5.5m in ’12, FA in ’13.
  • David Carpenter, 27 years old, $435,000, will be Arbitration eligible (earliest) ’15.

To the Houston Astros:

Alright, so now we have the basic skeleton of the deal. As you look at the pieces involved here, you can see that only the Jays get any guarantees in this deal. When the most developed minor league player you trade for is 23 years old and in HiA, you’re taking a lot of risk. However, as with any risk you take in trades, it can also come with great rewards. The Astros, in this case, decided to hedge their bets by taking a wide range of pitching prospects, as well as one highly notable catching prospect in this deal. Realistically, both Ben Francisco and Francisco Cordero were merely cannon fodder and included in the deal to allow for a balancing of salaries.

It will be interesting to see if the player to be named later is of note in this deal. I certainly hope not, but it is curious that the Jays absolutely had to add to the decent package they were already sending to Houston.

I always like to start a trade analysis by looking at the best player in the deal. In this case, it’s obviously JA Happ.

Happ was mentioned continuously during the Roy Halladay trade talks between the Jays and the Phillies, therefore we can already note that they have done some serious homework on his repertoire and skill set. Being only 29 years old and still holding a minimum of 2 more years of control over him had to be enticing to the Jays in this case. Also, the fact that he’s a LHP had to be enticing for the Jays who have an abundance of up-and-coming RHP in their system and already locked up at the major league level, including Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek, Henderson Alvarez, Dustin McGowan, Carlos Villanueva.

He’s a big and slim guy at 6’6″ 195 lbs, hails from Illinois, and made his MLB debut in 2007 at age 24. Since then, he has accomplished the following:

  • A high of 166 innings pitched in one season (2009)
  • An ERA of 4.16 over 106 games pitched, or 549.2 IP.
  • Has a .492 winning percentage, but that’s most due to Houston. With PHI, he won 20 games and lost only 9 games.
  • His highest WAR rating was 4.0 in 2009, but has hovered at lower than 1 in all other seasons.

You can check out the rest of his stats online, but it’s hard to come to any certain conclusion. The way I see it, pitching for a losing cause over 3 plus years seems to have taken its toll on his progression. He’s still getting a ton of Ks (close to one per inning), doesn’t walk an overwhelmingly large amount of hitters, and should do fairly well in Toronto if the staff can get him going in the right direction.

One note that I wanted to make simultaneously, however, is that simply because the Jays acquired Happ, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to keep him. For all we know, the Cubs or another club could have serious interest in a package that includes him, and the Jays were simply getting the pieces to make another deal. They did the same thing when they acquired Anthony Gose for Brett Wallace, ironically enough, from the Houston Astros!

If he does slide into the Jays rotation, the Jays will presumable slide Aaron Laffey either back to the pen or to AAA, leaving them with a much improved rotation. Since the Astros didn’t get a comparable pitcher in the deal, the Jays win this portion of the deal outright. Any time you acquire an arm without having to give one up off of your active roster, you get the edge. We just never know how well pitchers will develop.

So, next up is Brandon Lyon for Francisco Cordero. This portion is also clear cut, as the Jays definitely win outright in this portion of the deal. Not only is Lyon 5 years younger than Cordero, but he’s also a lot more effective of late. Lyon broke in with the Jays in 2001, as a starter, and started 26 games for the Jays over 2 seasons before heading to Boston where he was converted into a reliever. His 3.25 ERA and 1.333 whip this season are much better looking than Cordero’s 5.77 ERA and 1.806 whip!

Lyon already has a lot of American League experience, as recently as 2009 when he pitched 27 games for the Detroit Tigers and did extremely well, finishing with a 2.86 ERA and 1.106 whip! Any way you cut, slice, or dice it, the Jays pen just got a whole lot better for the remainder of 2012.

Perhaps the most under rated piece the Jays are receiving in this deal, David Carpenter is a RH reliever that has been in that role since he was drafted by the Cardinals in the 12th round of the 2006 draft. He has 52 saves to his credit over his time in the minors, and has accumulated 196 Ks and 71 walks over 184.2 IP. The more impressive part of his repertoire is the fact that over the last 2 seasons, when pitching in AAA, he has only allowed 22 hits and only 6 walks over 27 IP while getting 27 Ks. Those stats also translated to a good performance for the Astros in 2011 (29 Ks in 27 IP and a 2.93 ERA), but his whip was a little ugly at 1.482.

In no way would I say that Carpenter will develop into a closer or a set up guy for the Jays, but he could replicate what Jason Frasor has done for the Jays over the years if the Jays can get the best out of him. There’s no clear comparable between Carpenter and what the Jays sent the Astros, but if we presume that one of Rollins, Wojciechowski, and Musgrove can become an effective pen pitcher, the deal is fairly even aside from the fact that what the Astros get is a whole lot younger than Carpenter.

That covers what the Jays got in this deal, so the remainder of the pieces received by the Astros can be directly compared to their value as compared to Happ’s. For ease of comparison, I’ll assume that Rollins evolves into a reliever comparable to Carpenter, and that Wojciechowski and Musgrove, along with Perez and the PTBNL are to be compared in value with Happ. I realize it’s a big leap to make, but to me, it’s the only way to assess fair value.

If you’d like to get a thorough look at what each of the Jays pieces sent to Houston have to offer, here are the links you need to read through from our archives:

Just looking at the list above, you already know what I’m going to say. While Musgrove may have the highest floor and will likely work out to become a back end starter for the Astros or another club, Wojciechowski and Perez have the highest ceilings of all pieces in this deal. The risk is high, particularly due to their struggles to advance to a new level this season. Neither has done particularly great in returning to the same level, bringing to mind some questions about what the Jays really thought each player could develop into.

I have to admit that dealing all 4 prospects for Happ seems like a lot to give up on the surface. However, when we see what the Reds and Nationals had to give up in order to get their hands on Matt Latos and Gio Gonzalez, we begin to see why the Jays were more enticed by this deal. Knowing how much homework they did on Happ over the last 3 years and the fact that he can be a cheap and controllable option for 2 years, I have to feel comfortable with the Jays portion of the deal. As for Asher, Joe, and Carlos, I will miss Joe and Carlos most and am curious to see whether Asher will be moved to the pen and dominate at the back of the Astros pen in the future. Still, with what the Jays have in their place (Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino, Adonys Cardona, Roberto Osuna, ect… on the pitching side and Travis d’Arnaud, A.J. Jimenez, and Santiago Nessy behind the plate) I feel that they could afford to deal what they dealt.

Don’t get me wrong, it still depletes the Jays system substantially. When you’re talking about 2 prospects we had ranked in the top 10 Jays prospects and 3 of which were ranked in the top 30 this pre-season by Baseball America, you know you’ve dealt a lot of talent. BA had Wojciechowski ranked 10th, Perez ranked 14th, and Musgrove ranked 20th in the Jays system. Meanwhile, BA had Carpenter ranked 25th in the Astros system in their 2011 rankings.

Will the additions of J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon, David Carpenter, and ultimately Travis Snider (called up to replace Ben Francisco) be enough to get the Jays into a playoff spot? I’m a little pessimistic at this point to tell you the truth. However, I do feel better about the Jays chances than I did before the deal occurred, and I don’t believe for 1 second that Alex Anthopoulos is done dealing.

Overall, and mostly because I believe Happ will pitch like a #3/4 pitcher with the Jays and Lyon is such a better option than Cordero, I believe the Jays got the best of the short-term end of this deal. With the possibility of the potential development of Carpenter into a steady RHP in the pen, I don’t believe the Jays gave up an overwhelmingly large portion of the long-term future in comparison, either. Yes, some of the pieces the Astros received may develop into good MLB players, but it’s unlikely any of them will be stars.

To sum it all up, the Jays got better for the remainder of 2012 without giving up anything on their roster of significant value. To me, that has to be labelled as a win. Jose Bautista can now know the organization is serious about winning as soon as 2012, and the mindset of the team as a whole should now be to chase down that wild card spot.

I can’t blame the Astros at all for making this move and thin they did exceptionally well in this case because they leveraged their trade over many prospects. If you’re not going to get a top prospect for a pitcher, you might as well get a big package and hope you struck gold with 1 or 2 of them. In this case, the Astros did exactly that.

One last consideration I’d like to make in reference to this deal is that the Jays will likely be promoting pitchers to replace the 3 dealt in this trade. There could be notable promotions, including some of the highest rated Jays prospects, so we’ll keep an eye out on those for you throughout the next few days.

Here are some links with thoughts on the deal:

Who do you believe got the better end of this deal?

Who got the better end of the 10-player swap between the Astros and Jays?

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Topics: Asher Wojciechowski, Ben Francisco, Brandon Lyon, Carlos Perez, David Carpenter, David Rollins, J.A. Happ, Joseph Musgrove, Travis Snider

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  • mike

    i don’t think the compensation system exist anymore. with the new collective bargaining system the jays has to make a 10mil offer to lyon to get a comp pick or am i wrong?

    • Kyle Franzoni

      You are correct Mike, I had to re-read the rules under the new CBA to make sure I understand them. The big clause is that you don’t get compensation if the player hasn’t been on your team all season long, and there are also some salary restrictions. Talk about making things complicated!

  • Handsome Jack

    Matt, Jays cannot get a compensation pick for Lyons, first of all he now makes $5.5M and a qualifying offer would have to be between $12M-$13M, which noone would ever offer to him, and secondly, under new CBA rental player, player traded during the season in their last year of contract, are not eligible for compensation.
    Love reading your stuff…are you on Twitter?

    • Kyle Franzoni

      Not yet, only as Jays Journal. I guess I should create a personal account, shouldn’t I? Just never got around to it! I’ll create one and will let you know the handle! Glad you like the articles!

  • astrosince1975

    Good article Mat.
    The only thing I would have to call you out on is mentioning Happ in the same sentence with Mat Latos & Gio Gonzalez. Happ had possibly the worst year of any N.L. starter in 2011. He has bounced back somewhat this year by reducing his very high walk rate and increasing his K rate. But Happ is a fly ball pitcher who likes to pitch up in the zone and simply doesn’t have the stuff or the command to get away with it.
    If any of the prospects work out for the Astros, and I’d like to think at least one of them will, Houston will have gotten the better end of the deal. Trust me when I say every Astros fan is happy to see Happ gone. Probably the same can be said about Jays fans and Cordero.

    • Kyle Franzoni

      I know Happ hasn’t done well in Houston, but I can name off a couple dozen pitchers would inexplicably do better in one stadium or another, or as part of one team or another. What I do know is that the Jays know exactly what they’re acquiring in Happ, and it wasn’t long ago that he was mentioned as a major part of offers in the Roy Halladay deal, so I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet.

      Like I said in the article, I truly believe a chance of scenery could be just what he needs to sharpen his stuff and get back to his 2009 form.

      As for the Latos/Gonzalez mentions, I was merely showing how expensive pitching has gotten these days. To get ANY starter without giving up one player worth mentioning above AA is tremendous in this marketplace.

      I’m sure you’re right about one working out, and my bet is on Asher being a dominant pen arm for the Astros, but if the Jays can get into a playoff run by making this trade, and be a little more competitive in 2012, it’ll likely be worth it.

      Thanks for the comment!

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