Alex Anthopoulos has heard it all during his brief tenure as the general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. He has been praised for his undying loyalty to rebuilding the team’s minor league system and been referred to as a “ninja” when it comes to swooping in an making a move out of the blue. However, more recently, Anthopoulos and his cohorts in the front office have had to deal with backlash from a fan base that has been looking for some more immediate results in the present.
Now, that fan base appears to be torn between the prospects that have grown to know and anticipate and their desire to see this team win in 2013. The needle moved over toward the latter after the trade with Miami was completed, bringing Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and Jose Reyes to Toronto. However, it has begun to swing back in the other direction, now that the team is in hot pursuit of reigning National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.
In its last iteration, the deal with the New York Mets had the Blue Jays acquiring Dickey, Josh Thole, and another prospect from the Mets in exchange for Travid d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, John Buck (another player acquired in the Marlins trade), and a lesser prospect.
Fans who were already on the fence with the thought of giving up Anthony Gose and J.P. Arencibia up for a 38-year-old knuckleballer without an ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm were sent into a tizzy over the thoughts of losing the #1 and #3 prospects in the system.
That all said, Anthopoulos can only please one sect of the fervent fan population, and he has opted to play for the present. If this deal goes through, it is obvious that A.A. is building his team by adding wins and that he can see that his stocked farm system is his quickest way to do it. There are only two reasons to build a strong minor-league system; they either continuously feed the major league team (see Tampa Bay) or they serve as trade fodder to better build the major league roster.
From a straight WINS perspective, this deal makes sense for the here and now. Regardless of how much we as fans or the Blue Jays as an organization value d’Arnaud and Syndergaard, they are worth zero wins to the major league club in 2013. If they stay put, the 20-year-old Syndergaard is likely to begin 2013 in Dunedin, while d’Arnaud will start next season in Buffalo, with only TdA likely contributing to the big league team at a later point in the season.
However, by making the trade, the Blue Jays finalize a revamping of the rotation that will mark a significant upgrade. As I said in the title, these moves are all about adding wins in 2013. Let’s compare the 2012 squad, using any pitcher who made 10 or more starts, with the project five after the Dickey trade goes through. For this comparison, we’ll use bWAR (Baseball-Reference).
2012 Starters with +/-10 Starts
The 2012 squad was decimated by injuries and Romero regressed horribly. However, for seven different starters to tally just 3.2 wins about replacement (which Brandon Morrow essentially carried on his own), there could not be any louder cry for help to be sounded.
2013 Projected Starters
R.A. Dickey – 5.6
Josh Johnson – 3.1
Mark Buehrle – 3.2
Brandon Morrow – 3.2
Ricky Romero – -1.7
Total – 13.4
Even if Dickey regresses back to 2010 or 2011 forms, his 3.25 average WAR for those seasons is enough of a reason to bring him aboard, maybe not at the price the Jays are going to have to pay for him, but worthwhile nonetheless. Given an expected rebound from Romero (he cannot be that bad again can he?), this group will be a remarkably better group that can rank up there with the groups in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
We may not like having to give up the farm to make things work, but we have to weigh whether we like be also-rans more, just sitting back and waiting for the future. You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. Trust me, this fan base is hungry for something a little more substantial than hopes and promises.