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Blue Jays stay powered by moves they didn’t make

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Much has been made of the Toronto Blue Jays incredible roster turnover from this point one year ago, leaving Alex Anthopoulos a rockstar general manager with a club deep in the ALCS. On the trade market alone, the Blue Jays have added Marco Estrada, Josh Donaldson, Devon Travis, Troy Tulowitzki, David Price and Ben Revere. Impressive. In hindsight, however, some of his greatest moves were saying “no”.

We can stretch this back to the latter half of the 2013 season and Anthopoulos’ ongoing pursuit of right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who was then playing with the Chicago Cubs. At the time, Chicago reportedly asked for both Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman. Sanchez was long ago the “untouchable” name in the Blue Jays system, for better or for worse, but Toronto’s refusal to part with either player in that lopsided proposal has paid dividends, especially considering the season Samardzija just had with the White Sox.

These two would continue to surface in discussions through 2014 and even up until this year’s deadline, where the Jays front office halted trade talks with the Cincinnati Reds involving Johnny Cueto. Already in Stroman, the Blue Jays have a pitcher of comparable talent to Cueto with extensive team control for an absolute fraction of the cost. You can bet that Roberto Osuna‘s name was inquired on frequently in recent seasons, as well, but Anthopoulos to keep Osuna as Toronto’s lottery ticket.

While those were not difficult times to say “no”, Anthopoulos really nailed it when deciding not to proceed with a package involving Kevin Pillar in 2014. The Jays’ GM has alluded to that mysterious potential deal on several occasions now as a cautionary tale for the trade deadline, and one that proves the terms “spare parts” or “throw-ins” to be a risky proposition. Just ask Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion.

Had the Jays moved on from Pillar, the former 32nd round pick who received just a $1,000 signing bonus out of college, where would the current outfield and team defense be? Dalton Pompey would have been left to figure things out along the way, and we may be even more familiar with Ezequiel Carrera. Not to mention, without Pillar, are the Jays close enough in late August to convince team management to go big game hunting?

Value additions such as Chris Colabello and Justin Smoak deserve equal praise, as the per-dollar impact of those moves have gone understandably overshadowed by the headlining names. Anthopoulos pushing his chips all-in at the deadline has helped Toronto to this point, but he doesn’t have that opportunity without saying “check” a few times earlier in the game.

Next: Anthopoulos speaks on Price, Estrada, his own contract

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