Tag Archives: Josh Johnson

The Plan Comes to Fruition – AA Adds the Finishing Touch

The Plan:

Phase 1: Blow It Up

Well this is the moment Jays fans have all been waiting for… The Plan has come to fruition.

Ever since taking over the reins of the Toronto Blue Jays, Alex Anthopoulos has been building his team towards a period of sustainable contention that would see the team contend year after year in the AL East. At first, he needed to dismantle the team in order to replenish the team’s prospects and build a core of young, controllable and talented players around which to build the team. Anthopoulos traded resident Ace Roy Halladay to the Phillies for Travis d’Arnaud, Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor (who magically became Anthony Gose in a series of prospect deals). A year later, Shaun Marcum was traded to the Brewers for young infielder Brett Lawrie. Vernon Wells was moved in a miraculous turn of fate because of the foolishness of AA’s counterpart but the deal was an incredible boost to the team’s rebuild.

Phase 2: Build a Strong Foundation

At the same time that he was trading the team’s marketable MLB pieces, Anthopoulos was stockpiling talent in the minors by taking advantage of draft pick compensation for free agents. However, there would never be enough room on the Major League roster for all of the high-ceiling talent in the system if they reached their potential and the assumption was always that the team could/would move their wealth of prospects when the time was right to supplement the core that AA was building.

Sped along by the unexpected emergence of both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, the Jays possessed a core that also included Brett Lawrie, Brandon Morrow and, until recent failures called their future role with the team into question, Ricky Romero and Colby Rasmus. AA was in a difficult position. Bautista and Encarnacion were both old enough that they would likely be well into their decline when the team’s best pitching prospects, the Lansing 3, reached the Majors. They were still at least 2 years from debuting for the Jays.

Phase 3: Build the Palace

With a solid core in place signed to extensions or otherwise under team control for the next 3+ years, the team was positioned to make a splash with more expensive players through free agency/trade. However, the team had been hard-pressed to attract impact players in the past via free agency to a team viewed as an outside shot at contention in the stacked AL East. Though the division had gotten weaker with Boston’s dismantling, the Jays were come off a disappointing season which had raised a lot of question marks. AA needed to make a bold trade that would alter the image of the team and signal to the baseball world that the team had arrived.

The Marlins trade was the master stroke needed that moved expendable pieces from the MLB roster and prospects from positions of plenty to acquire premium/elite talent capable of performing at a high level immediately and for the foreseeable future. Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle gave the Jays a top 4 that was easily one of the best in the AL certainly with the potential to be the best if Romero bounced back, Morrow stayed healthy and the incoming ex-Marlins adjusted well to life in the AL East. Acquiring elite SS Jose Reyes for Yunel Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria signaled the team’s shift away from the team’s focus on stockpiling young, controllable talent towards the acquisition of the elite performers getting paid market value.

The Marlins trade put baseball on notice that the Blue Jays were ready to compete seriously for their division and the World Series. It allowed the team to pick up All-Star MVP and PED-influenced Melky Cabrera for what a consensus believes to be a very team friendly 2 year deal worth $16M.

At this point, the team had expanded its payroll by $~30M since the end of the season far exceeding a level expected by people around baseball including Josh Johnson‘s agent who believed some of the salary could be flipped in separate deals. However, the people most surprised by these moves were people who had not been watching the Jays closely for the last 3+ years and hanging off of every hidden hint of future spending by Beeston/AA.

Dedicated observers were typically not surprised by the fact that the Jays had completed a monstrous franchise-altering trade, but more by the players they’d be acquiring and the team that was moving them. Nobody expected the Jays to be able to acquire a legitimate #2 starter, a durable inning-eating mid-rotation starter and an All-Star SS in one fell swoop. Acquiring one of the best free agent outfielders for peanuts was a product of the Miami deal and almost certainly would never have happened had the Jays stood pat.

With the Miami trade and the Cabrera signing, AA had positioned the Jays to compete for the AL East if enough of the team’s question marks (bounce back from Romero, injury concerns for Morrow/Johnson/Bautista/everyone on the team come to think of it) were answered positively. Barring a historic season of injuries/underperformance, the Jays were also positioned to compete for one of the Wild Card spots with the Angels/Rangers/Yankees/Rays/A’s of the world.

However, as the Angels/Dodgers made splashes with the biggest names, the Jays’ rivals seemed to be treading water. Boston signing expensive, aging players in Ryan Dempster, Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli. They cannot be projected as anything but a last place team as the roster stands. The Yankees re-signed old veterans Andy Pettitte, Ichiro Suzuki and Hiroki Kuroda and picked up Boston re-tread Kevin Youkilis, but lost their starting catcher in Russell Martin and learned they would be without Alex Rodriguez until after the All-Star break. The Rays traded their second-best pitcher and a perennial 200+ innings and Wade Davis, a valuable bullpen piece, to the Royals in exchange for blue chip prospect Wil Myers and a haul of pitching prizes including Jake Odorizzi. They managed to acquire Yunel Escobar to play SS for them which could be a huge coup if he bounces back to his production of 2011. The Orioles, playoff team of the negative run differential, were rumoured to be active but had come up empty handed.

Though Baltimore certainly has talent on its team, there is nobody projecting them to repeat their success from the 2012 season. While the Rays might have gotten better in the long-term, they certainly took a step back by losing a main cog from their rotation. They have plenty of depth in their pitching staff, but their youth cannot be expected to immediately replace the production provided by James Shields. The Yankees got a year older but not in a good way as they’re team is mostly on the wrong side of 30. Though the Red Sox had cleared a tonne of salary, they were unable to replace the players departed for the Dodgers with exciting, elite players on the free agent market (they wound up in LA as well).

Phase 5: The Finishing Touches

Like no other time in the last 20 years, the Blue Jays were in a position where one or two more pieces could make them the undisputed front runners for the AL East. Incremental improvements made to the team at this point drastically improved the team’s chances to win its first division title since the glory days of the late 80s/early 90s.

What was the point of building a 90-win team and squeaking into a one game Wild Card appearance when the AL East division title was seemingly ripe for the taking? Spending another $10 M per season seems like a lot coming from years of lean budgets, but that was the point of all that wasn’t it? To be in a position where the team would be able to spend in order to make a run at the playoffs and the World Series. Flags Fly Forever.

Replacing the serviceable, but at time hapless J.A. Happ in the rotation with R.A. Dickey, the reigning NL Cy Young-winner coming off a 5.6 rWAR season is a slam dunk. Not only does it give the Jays one of the best rotations in baseball, it also significantly improves the bullpen where J.A. Happ instantly becomes one of the best swingmen in the business and Brett Cecil into one of the best lefty specialists. Chad Jenkins is no longer a looming threat to make an overly large number of appearances.

However, an improvement to the team like this does not come without great cost. Firesales like the ones held recently by Miami and Boston are far from the norm. The Jays cannot expect to continuously acquire elite talents like Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera for below market value. Eventually, they would have to pay the same price that everyone else was paying to acquire a frontline starter.

That cost was two of the team’s Top 4 prospects in nearly MLB-ready catcher Travis d’Arnaud and Lo-A RHP Noah Syndergaard. Having heard that the Mets were asking for Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley from the Red Sox and having witnessed the deal for James Shields, the Jays were well aware of the current market for a frontline starter. Though they very well could wait to try to acquire someone mid-season, the team would only benefit from a partial season of their production and the AL East could drastically improve by 2014.

Though both d’Arnaud and Syndergaard could be future All-Stars, Dickey is an All-Star now that drastically improves the Blue Jays whole pitching staff and instantly makes it one of the very best in baseball and suddenly the best in the AL East. However, d’Arnaud and Syndergaard are not without major question marks. Travis d’Arnaud has played in ~80 games a season for the last 3 years and has just suffered a season-ending knee surgery. He also strikes out a lot. Noah Syndergaard strikes out a lot of batters he faces, but he’s also never thrown a pitch above Lo-A. His secondaries are getting mixed reviews though everyone agrees they are certainly improving. However, he still had the lower physical ceiling between him and fellow Lugnut Aaron Sanchez.

Alex Anthopoulos has been suspected of distorting his perceptions of his prospects prior to moving them. Nestor Molina had his tires pumped by Anthopoulos prior to his trade to the Chicago White Sox for closer-to-be Sergio Santos. Molina has since floundered in the White Sox’ system. Perhaps  Alex Anthopoulos used reported earlier rebuffs of inquiries on d’Arnaud in order to build the perception that he was an Anthopoulos Untouchable in the organization that would only be moved for elite talent. Perhaps the team didn’t believe in the long-term future of Syndergaard’s breaking stuff and decided to sell high. What’s more likely is that AA decided that this was a unique moment in the AL East that was his for the taking and decided to make the final pushes that he’d always planned to make when the time was right. Either way, the team could not expect immediate contributions from either prospect and were more likely going to wait years for above-average production in the MLB, if at all.

Phase 6: Maintenance

Though the prospect cost was high in trades with the Marlins and Mets, it doesn’t actually leave the team short of quality prospects at pitcher, catcher or in centre field.

The team still has Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Roberto Osuna and Daniel Norris at similar stages to in their development to Syndergaard along with more quality arms poised for action in short-season levels including Matthew Smoral, Alberto Tirado, Chase DeJong and Adonys Cardona. There’s even hope for remaining for pitchers in the upper minors like Chad Jenkins, Deck McGuire, John Stilson and Sean Nolin to make a meaningful contribution in the coming years.

With JP Arencibia under team control for the next four years, the team is in no rush to graduate a catcher but the team does have a strong defensive catcher in AJ Jimenez who also performed well offensively in his last full season in the pitcher-friendly FSL. Now coming off Tommy John surgery in 2013, AJ Jimenez could begin the year with either New Hampshire in AA or Buffalo in AAA but could move quickly to the MLB if he returns strong. Behind him, the team has Sean Ochinko is a sleeper pick who was not overmatched when moved up to AA to replace Jimenez. Santiago Nessy who projects to have above average power but lacks the defensive game at this stage in his development is an interesting name to watch after a strong 2012 season.

Though one of the team’s best prospects, Jake Marisnick had a number of question marks including whether he’d be able to stick in centre field. Considering the two years of control remaining of Rasmus, the presence of Gose at AAA and the plethora of up-the-middle prospects in the lower minors, Marisnick was actually quite expendable. There were also concerns about whether he would be able to stick in centre field which would have allowed his bat to play up.

In the end, the Blue Jays still have a farm system stocked with talent at the lower levels that with time could place the team at the top of farm system rankings once more. For now, AA will have to continue gaming the draft system in order to acquire talent more efficiently than their rivals. AA won’t have the flexibility that he had with supplemental picks but neither will most other teams. The team has also shown itself to be proficient in signing some of the best talent available in the international market including under-the-radar guys like Alberto Tirado. There is no reason to believe that AA will not be able to continue adding high-ceiling talent in the years to come.

Conclusion:

Though the moves made this offseason are drastic and unforeseen, the rise of the Blue Jays should not be viewed as wholly unexpected. The flurry of trades and signings were widely expected to be the product of more incremental improvements and the eventual graduation of prospects. Presented with a unique opportunity to acquire a bevy of talent and with a division in flux, AA pounced on the chance to build a clear cut division favourite capable of winning 95+ games. The beauty of prospects lies in their flexibility. This flexibility allowed the Jays to accelerate their timeline by immediately turning them into proven performers.

If Boston had kept their foot on the gas and counted on a bounce back 2013 with some additions, New York had made the previously expected splash and Tampa Bay had decided to not be so frugal all of a sudden, then it’s almost certain that Alex Anthopoulos would have been content to wait patiently for another year to strike when his prospects were all the more valuable or waited even until the homegrown talent was winning championships themselves. But Anthopoulos decided that the best thing for this team was to take advantage of the core in place now and the lull in the division to great effect.

Make no bones about it. The Plan has come to fruition. The Blue Jays have arrived and they don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Josh Johnson’s Agent: JJ is open to an extension

Josh Johnson‘s agent, Matt Sosnick, told Brendan Kennedy that:

On the possibility of an extension:

“It hasn’t come up in any of our conversations,” said Matt Sosnick, who represents the six-foot-seven right-hander, one of the five players the Jays acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins last week.

On whether he had discussed an extension with Alex Anthopoulos:

“(GM Alex Anthopoulos) hasn’t volunteered it and I haven’t asked him about it. It’s probably something that if he wants to talk about it we’ll talk about it down the road… If there is anyone in the game I’d be receptive to talking to about it it’s (Anthopoulos).”

A pending free agent with 6+ WAR upside willing to forego the free market in order to sign an extension with the Blue Jays. Yes. Please. This is likely just Sosnick using the media as leverage in any potential negotiations. If the team does not re-sign Johnson, then it would appear that they were not willing to commit the money even if the demands were exorbitant because the team does not discuss contract negotiations in the media.

I have a feeling that Alex Anthopoulos does not dig Matt Sosnick’s style. But that should not get in the way of an extension if the price is right.

Stoeten: Johnson and Buck Speak!

Andrew Stoeten recapped the radio interviews with newly-acquired Josh Johnson and John Buck at The Score (“Johnson and Buck Speak!“). Josh Johnson joined Miami’s Dan Le Batard Show and Buck joined the Jeff Blair Show to provide their reaction to the big trade. Johnson sounded like was legitimately excited to move on though he did well to suppress the urge to lash out at the Marlins.

Hopefully someone will let Johnson know the difference in the taxes he’ll pay will only really result in a difference of $700,000 which would be less costly than a move to New York or California. Though not having to pay a state tax would be appealing as a multimillionaire, it sounded like Johnson was happy that the Jays would be a fielding a “really good team up there”. It also sounds like he’s getting positive reviews of the city, the organization and the fans which should help ease the transition for him and his family.

Selig: “not happy” w Jays-Marlins swap; now “under review”

In seemingly unrelated news, the sale of pitchforks have seen a dramatic spike in sales in the Toronto-area. Home Depot, Canadian Tire and Wal-Mart have set corporate rivalries aside to coordinate a massive shipment to meet demand.

But in all seriousness, if the Blue Jays trade with the Marlins is disallowed by Bud Selig it would be an unprecedented move. The MLB hasn’t intervened in a baseball trade since the 70s when three stars were traded for cash according to Mike Wilner on twitter. Shi Davidi is probably correct that Selig is just running interference on the taxpayers of Florida but nonetheless this is not welcome news.

If the deal sending Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck and a reported $8M in cash to Toronto in exchange for Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jeff Mathis, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino and Anthony DeSclafani is blocked by the league it would be a first of its kind and the source of great ire for fans of the Toronto Blue Jays for the rest of eternity. The “best interests” of baseball could however be invoked in order to prevent the deal from taking place if Bug Selig decided that the optics of the firesale a season into the life of an expensive publicly-funded stadium were too unsightly to be tolerated like the attempt by Frank McCourt to sell the Dodgers’ TV rights as he dealt with a divorce and bankruptcy proceedings.

Though the optics are poor especially considering this is not the first Loria discount sale, there are many analysts who actually believe this could be a very good baseball move. Buehrle’s declining velocity and advancing age could make his contract a black hole of negative value by 2015. He also may not be looking forward to playing north of the border and could become a distraction for the team if he starts venting his frustration or allowing it to affect his on-field performance. Jose Reyes is advancing into his 30s and relies heavily upon speed to be effective. With his recent history of hamstring problems, his contract that will pay him nearly $20M/season through 2017 could be the Jays’ next Vernon Wells. Josh Johnson is only under contract for one more year and though his value may have been more in a smaller deal, the inclusion of Bonifacio and him in the trade was what helped offset the huge risk involved in taking on Reyes and Buehrle’s backloaded deals.

Though the Marlins will be hard-pressed to stay out of last place in 2013, the deals made in 2012 have positioned the team to field a good, young team `

Josh Johnson’s Agent: Jays’ newly-acquired players could be flipped

In a radio interview on the Jeff Blair Show, Josh Johnson‘s agent Matt Sosnick speculated that the Jays may not be done dealing quite yet as the market for a pitcher like his client could be such that Alex Anthopoulos can’t resist flipping him for top prospects to a team like the Yankees or Texas. Sosnick felt there was a missing element to the trade because the Jays were uncharacteristically ballooning the payroll by ~$30M for 2013 alone basically overnight. If given the opportunity to shed some of that payroll while acquiring young, controllable and talented prospects, Sosnick might be right that Anthopoulos would hedge his bets.

However, considering the years and salary remaining, the Jays would likely prefer to flip the aging Mark Buehrle to a contender for prospects and use the savings towards an extension for Johnson or a pitcher from the current free agent class who is younger or has higher upside. There are legitimate concerns about whether Buehrle’s loss of velocity was masked in 2012 by his move to the NL and an extreme pitcher’s park. It’s unclear whether his stuff will play in the AL East where his 85 mph average fastball could wind up in the seats with the bandboxes in New York and Boston. At $16M AAV salary, Buehrle must produce more than 3 WAR a season to provide fair value (assuming $5M per WAR) which he just reached in Miami in 2012. With the expectation of a .5 WAR decline as he exits his prime, there is a chance his contract could be a real pain in the Blue Jays’ side by the time it ends after the 2015 season.

Breaking: Rogers is cheap no longer

Well he’s finally done it folks. Alex Anthopoulos has made the move that makes the Blue Jays an undeniable contender in the AL East. The young phenom who had won the fans early with shrewd acquisitions of Yunel Escobar, Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie and the difficult but quite necessary departures of Roy Halladay and Vernon Wells had begun to lose favour with the fans of the ‘Rogers is cheap’ mantra. Some of the media elite had begun to question AA’s ability to build a contender because of the team’s step backwards in 2012 (while ignoring the painfully obvious extenuating circumstances that were beyond a GM’s immediate control). This blockbuster deal, more than 3 years in the making and is the culmination of his rein as Jays’ GM, will silence those who believed that AA was all smoke and mirrors.

By acquiring SS Jose Reyes, RHP Josh Johnson, LHP Mark Buehrle, C John Buck, 2B/OF Emilio Bonifacio AND $4M in exchange for SS Yunel Escobar, SS Adeiny Hechavarria, RHP Henderson Alvarez, C Jeff Mathis, CF Jake Marisnick, LHP Justin Nicolino, and RHP Anthony DeSclafani the Jays have immediately put themselves in the conversation for the AL East in 2013 (and beyond) while at the same time increasing their annual budget to ~$110M with more increases to come. The move immediately improves what was a woefully bad starting rotation and a liability into one of the better rotations in baseball and a position of great strength moving forward while at the same time acquiring an All-Star SS who can be an elite leadoff hitter as well as a versatile, speedy player for the infield/outfield.

Josh Johnson, a former Cy Young candidate who pitched well in 2012 considering his return from Tommy John surgery, has been a legitimate No. 1 starter when healthy and will likely contend with Brandon Morrow for the title of staff ace in 2013. If he stays healthy, he could provide 200+ innings for the Blue Jays with elite production. He’s provided 6 bWAR in the last two years despite undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2011 and has earned 5 bWAR for every 30 starts he’s received in career. If he were not a new acquisition, he’d likely be the team’s opening day starter in 2013. Teams are willing to pay an arm and a leg for a year from a guy like Josh Johnson or even a few months and his acquisition alone would have been enough to turn heads. With a salary at less than $14 M, Johnson is actually likely to provide surplus value for the Jays on the final year of his contract and at minimum will net the Jays a compensatory draft pick if he rejects the Jays’ qualifying offer and signs with another team in 2014.

Add to this the acquisition of one of the most consistent and durable pitchers of the last decade in Mark Buehrle and the Blue Jays have suddenly assembled the talent necessary to field one of the better rotations in baseball. Buehrle, who had a decent but slightly disappointing season for Miami, is a classic innings-eater who has pitched at least 200 innings in every year since his rookie season in 2000. Consistency like his does come at a price though and Buehrle will earn an average of $16 M over the course of the next 3 years but would provide the Jays with at least fair value if he can maintain or improve upon his performance from 2012. However, it is certainly possible that Buehrle will be the most disappointing acquisition if his fastball loses any more velocity in 2013. After so many years of logging 200+ innings, the workhorse lefty might always suffer a rapid decline but then again he has never really relied upon overpowering stuff but rather the ability to induce weak contact. Certainly, there is cause for concern when a pitcher’s peripherals decline after a move to the NL but it still seems highly unlikely that Buehrle declines fast enough to make the Jays regret it. Buehrle will more likely provide somewhere between 3-3.5 WAR a year and give the Jays fair value assuming roughly $5M per WAR.

Though Henderson Alvarez showed glimpses of an elite pitcher in his short 2011 debut, his 2012 season seemed to expose his lack of a third pitch and his complete inability to strikeout batters. Despite great groundball numbers, Alvarez gave up an unsightly number of home runs and was largely ineffective in a 187 IP in 2012. It was hoped that acquisitions by the Jays would allow them to return Alvarez to the minors and have him develop his breaking ball into an at least average offering. However, the acquisition of two quality starters make the loss of Alvarez who would likely have been passed soon on the depth chart by the Jays’ great prospect prospects in the lower minors anyway. He could go on to a productive MLB career especially if he can develop his slider but was not a key piece for the Jays going forward.

Barring another move, the 2013 Jays rotation will likely look like this:

1) Brandon Morrow 2) Josh Johnson 3) Mark Buehrle 4) Ricky Romero 5) JA Happ with Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, Dustin McGowan (he’s pencilled in as a contender for the Blue Jays rotation every year until I see his obituary is published), Chad Jenkins, Deck McGuire, Sean Nolin and John Stilson among those ready to step in should anyone falter.

Considering the number of starts given to the likes of Chad Jenkins, Aaron Laffey, Henderson Alvarez, etc. in 2012, the Blue Jays should expect a vast improvement on the performance of their rotation in 2013 even without a bounceback season from Romero. The instant improvements to the rotation should also have a corresponding effect on the bullpen as it will allow the new manager to utilize their best relievers more often in high-leverage situations.

With the pitching staff vastly improved, this deal managed to also immediately improve the Jays at what was already a position of strength. Despite his non-baseball related issues and off-year offensively, Yunel Escobar was still a near-elite option at SS who provided above-average defence and the promise of a return to elite offensive production for the position all at the bargain basement cost of $5M/season. However, the eyeblack incident and other grumbles about his clubhouse intangibles during the 2012 season made it seem likely that Yunel would be moved out of town. Further, it looked likely that the Jays would be forced to move for significantly less than his market value.

Adeiny Hechavarria looked positioned to take over for Yunel at SS in the event of his departure if he wasn’t moved instead but the Jays caught everyone off guard by packaging both Cuban infielders to Miami in exchange for 2011 NL batting champion, perennial All Star and prototypical leadoff man Jose Reyes. Optimistic fans pined over Reyes in the 2011 offseason but he was always considered a pipe dream because of Toronto’s inability to attract top flight free agents in the past. Fast forward one year and the Jays have now acquired one of the best offensive and defensive shortstops in the game albeit one with an injury history who is signed for the 5 years for nearly $20M/year. Reyes is certainly the most risky acquisition for the Blue Jays but is also the one who could provide the greatest return. He has shown himsel to be capable of MVP-calibre seasons and should provide the Jays with their first truly elite leadoff hitter since Devon White in the early 90s.

While the loss of Hechavarria is certainly not negligible, the questions about his bat being able to keep his glove in the field are enough to forget him by tomorrow. With Reyes, Hechavarria would have been pushed to 2B and his offensive production would have looked worse without the benefit of the positional adjustment for SS. As expensive as the Reyes contract will be for the next 5-6 years, the acquisition of quality starting pitching (the team’s greatest need) more than offsets the loss of surplus value provided by Yunel’s team-friendly option-laden contract and Hechavarria’s remaining years of control.

If the acquisition of Johnson, Buehrle and Reyes weren’t enough of a bounty, the Jays also acquired a potential gem in Emilio Bonifacio who will likely see time at 2B and in the outfield for the Jays in 2013. Although he struggled in 2012 with a thumb injury, Bonifacio is just one year removed from a BABIP-fuelled 3.3 bWAR season in 2011 and is a legitimate threat on the basepaths having stolen 70+ bags in the past two seasons with a good success rate. He has two years of control remaining and could provide plenty of surplus value in that time if he manages to bounce back to anywhere near his production from 2011.

(With the signing of Maicer Izturis, the Jays seemed to be hedging their bets slightly by acquiring someone who could be an everyday 2B if needed but would likely be best utilized off the bench. Had he known that he would acquire Bonifacio, would Anthopoulos have still signed Izturis earlier in the week? There’s certainly room for both on the roster but having 2B open for Bonifacio would leave LF open for an acquisition with a little more power.)

This leaves just the reacquisition of C John Buck who was the Jays’ 2010 starter who surprised everyone by hitting 20 HRs that year and cashing in for a 3 year deal worth $18M. His performance has certainly dipped since his All Star campaign in 2010 which likely wasn’t helped by the move from the AL East’s hitter-friendly parks to the cavernous new stadium in Miami. He’s likely going to provide negative value in 2013 on his $6M salary but almost provided fair value with his defence alone in 2012 according to Baseball-Reference.com. Should his bat recover with a return to the Rogers Centre (I typed SkyDome initially but as part of my newfound duty to show my gratitude will let that grudge go), Buck would likely provide at least fair value and could actually be an easily overlooked positive from the trade.

It’s hard to believe that after a year, Jeff Mathis would be looked back upon fondly given his reputation as a black hole in a lineup card but he did manage to endear himself to fans slightly with some stellar defence behind the plate and some unexpected pop. His inclusion in the deal seems a little surprising given his extension near the end of the year but if the Marlins were intent on shedding salary at the C position in a swap, the Blue Jays were smart in retaining both their incumbent starter JP Arencibia and Travis d’Arnaud, one of which (likely the former) can now be moved for another piece.

As for the prospects going back to Miami in the deal other than the Major League-ready Hechavarria, the biggest loss for the Jays’ system was undoubtedly CF Jake Marisnick who split time between Dunedin and New Hampshire in 2012 at the age of 20. He has the potential to be a 5-tool outfielder but many talent evaluators believe that his complex swing and large frame for CF could prevent him from reaching his ceiling. Marisnick started 2012 slowly before recovering in time for a promotion to AA midseason where he scuffled against much older competition. He was having a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League hitting over .300 with good amount of doubles. However, the presence of Colby Rasmus and Anthony Gose ahead of Marisnick on the depth chart meant that even if his maturing frame allowed him to stay in CF, he would likely be pushed to a corner outfield position anyway and would lose the positional adjustment given to centre fielders. With 2012 1st-Round draft pick DJ Davis, Dalton Pompey and Anthony Alford, the Jays aren’t without more centre field prospects in the system so the loss of a prospect like Marisnick is not nearly as draining to the Jays’ system as it would be to the majority of baseball.

The other names going south, Justin Nicolino and Anthony DeSclafani, are also manageable losses. Nicolino was the better prospect of the two with possibly the best changeup in the organization but he was not projected to be anything more than a #4 starter at the Major League-level. His stuff lagged behind his teammates in 2012 and fellow top prospects Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard though he had a more advanced feel for pitching, pinpoint command and a faster path to the Majors. His greatest positive would have been his ability to contribute sooner than those power arms but with the acquisition of Johnson and Buehrle the need for pitchers that could advance quickly has faded.

Anthony DeSclafani, a college draftee, who enjoyed success in 2012 for Lansing was old for the level and lacked the raw stuff to project as anything more than a fringe MLB player who would likely be destined for the bullpen if he continued to rise. His inclusion provides Miami with some pitching prospect depth but is really just a throw-in that affords Loria the a lottery ticket with the minute hope that he’ll strike it rich in prospects, win aonther World Series and have another fire sale.

Oooops… Almost forgot that the Marlins threw in $4M in salary relief in the deal. Though just a drop in the bucket when seen beside the $160M+ in salary commitments taken on by the Jays but is still surprising considering the wealth of talent headed north of the border.

The deal is an undeniable shift in the landscape of the AL East, the Blue Jays have signaled they’re ready to compete in 2013 though it comes with a certain amount of risk due to the incredible amount of salary committed to Reyes, Buehrle, and Johnson. Regardless of the risks, the Jays seem poised for increases across the board in attendance, ratings and merchandise in 2013 to help offset the costs especially if they are indeed competitive. There seems to be a growing momentum behind the Blue Jays that is spreading across the country, this deal will only get that ball moving faster.

…And with the Jays looking poised to move JP Arencibia as they use John Buck to break in another rookie catcher, the Jays could look to acquire another piece for the rotation or a legitimate 1B/DH/2B to replace the knockoffs that are currently on the roster. It’s a great day to be a Toronto Blue Jays fan. Take it all in.