Doing things right

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New Toronto Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has been effectively rebuilding the club this off-season

Joseph Grohs
Contributor

The Toronto Blue Jays seem to be the only team out of Toronto doing things right lately.     Realistically, the Jays, Leafs and Raptors are all rebuilding teams, but the Jays seem to be the only one fully committing to it. Whether it is Leafs President/General Manager Brian Burke trading a ton of prospects for Phil Kessel, or Raptors President/GM Bryan Colangelo trading Roy Hibbert for Jermaine O’Neal, both of these GMs have tried speeding up the rebuilding process to no avail.    

Alex Anthopoulos, the young Blue Jays GM, hasn’t been on the job for very long, but already seems to be schooling his fellow Toronto GMs. Let’s take a look at the report card for Anthopoulos so far this off-season.

Vernon Wells trade for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera – A

This was like Mission Impossible 5 for Alex Anthopoulos (yes, there is a fourth one coming out soon), as he pulled off a deal that two years ago would have seemed like a pipe dream for any GM.

The Jays received catcher/first baseman Napoli and outfielder Rivera in exhange for Wells. The Blue Jays could have received a monkey in return for Wells and the organization would have been pleased. The biggest factor in this trade is money. The Jays shed the remaining $86-million they owed Wells over the next four years and received two very solid players in return. While it is sad to see Vernon leave since he was the face of the franchise and a great member of the community, no Blue Jays fan is sad to see that much money come back on the table for Anthopoulos.

Shaun Marcum trade for Brett Lawrie – A

This trade is the epitome of what Anthopoulos is trying to accomplish in Toronto.

While I realize that this deal was hard to swallow for many fans, the Blue Jays did acquire a very good prospect from the Milwaukee Brewers in Brett Lawrie.

At first, this would seem like a lopsided deal, since Marcum is 29 years of age and is close to peaking in potential, not to mention the fact that he had a very solid campaign last year with a 3.64 ERA. This deal makes perfect sense for the Jays though, since Lawrie is the one of the best second base prospects in all the major leagues.

The Jays have a few years ahead of them before they want to compete anyway, which would make Marcum an aging star on a below average team. This trade makes perfect sense as part of the rebuilding process.

Mike Napoli trade for Frank Francisco – B+

This was a good minor trade by Anthopoulos, bringing in a solid bullpen presence.

The Jays sent catcher Napoli to Texas, making it a very short lived Blue Jay career for him. Francisco is a veteran pitcher who is very reliable and highly underrated. His presence will be more than welcome in the bullpen, joining the recently signed Jon Rauch and Octavio Dotel.

The Blue Jays really needed this deal since their bullpen will not be as strong as last year, following the departure of a few pitchers including Scott Downs. Napoli, on the other hand, was seen as expendable by Anthopoulos, since they want to go with a J.P. Arencibia/Jose Molina catching tandem and have Adam Lind play first base.

There was really no place for Napoli next year. 

Edwin Encarnacion signing – B-

This deal was very confusing for Blue Jays fans this off-season. But there is an explanation.

After last season, Toronto put Encarnacion on waivers and he was claimed by the Athletics. The A’s ultimately decided not to offer Encarnacion a contract, making him a free agent. Anthopoulos then signed Encarnacion (the same man he let go a month earlier) to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. Confusing, right?

Yes, this deal was a very odd, yet after everything, the Jays did get Encarnacion back for cheaper than the season prior. The problem with Encarnacion is that he has a very erratic arm, which makes him a huge liability at third base. When he signed a contract, though, Anthopoulos made very clear that he was going to be the team’s DH. This isn’t very appealing to fans either, since he only hit .244 last season. At least Encarnacion is young and his bat only has room to improve.

Prospects trade for Rajai Davis – C

I really don’t know what to think about this deal that transpired last November between the Oakland Athletics and the Jays. The Jays received Davis, a 30-year-old outfielder who has spectacular speed and an ability to play all three outfield positions.

The down side about Davis is that he is lacking a consistent bat and is nothing special defensively. The real disturbing thing about this trade has nothing to do with Davis, but the prospects sent to Oakland in return for him. Toronto sent away a pair of 23-year-old pitchers from their affiliate Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats: Trystan Magnuson (2.58 ERA) and Daniel Farquhar (3.52 ERA). 

I don’t understand why you would trade away two solid bullpen prospects for an aged outfielder who would be considered a “fourth outfielder” on most MLB teams.

Looking forward

As good as these moves sound, the upcoming season is no doubt going to be a long one for Toronto.

The Jays are going to put out a very young team for the 2011 campaign, with limited experience in certain positions. The fact that they lost three very good defensive veterans in Wells, Lyle Overbay, and John Buck, will make it that much harder to get victories.

The fans know what they can expect out of their ball club this season, at least, and can always look forward to the upcoming seasons when the Jays will hopefully be gunning for a division title.

 

The new acquisitions

Mike Napoli

Position: Catcher/first baseman
Last Season: 108 H, 26 HR, 68 RBI,

Juan Rivera
Position: Outfielder
Last Season: 105 H, 15 HR, 52 RBI

Frank Francisco
Position: Pitcher
Last Year: 6-4, 3.76 ERA, 60 SO

Rajai Davis

Position: Centrefielder
Last Season: 149 H, 5 HR, 52 RBI

Edwin Encarnacion
Position: Third baseman
Last Year: 81 H, 21 HR, 51 RBI

Brett Lawrie
Position: Second/third baseman
Last Season (In AA): 158 H, 8 HR, 63 RBI

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