Over his 37 month reign as general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, Alex Anthopolous has been known as one of the best traders of his ilk, finding ways to get talent in ways that can position him to get better as the years go on.
His most recent trade looks to be his masterpiece.
That trade has brought five legitimate Major Leaguers north of the border from the Miami Marlins: Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio. In return, Anthopolous gave up four Major Leaguers of his own: Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jeff Mathis and Henderson Alvarez, with prospects Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino and Anthony DeSciafani being included as well. The Blue Jays will also receive $4 million since they take on more salary. It looks as if the trade will be official on Wednesday.
The Blue Jays are immediate threats to compete in the American League East because of this deal, something that sees a team get a legitimate leadoff hitter and elite player at shortstop, a pitcher that is top of the rotation-type, a second baseman to replace the departing Kelly Johnson along with recent signee Maicer Izturis, a veteran to shore up the back of the rotation and a catcher that can help along Travis d’Arnaud and J.P. Arencibia.
In return, they gave up four players that have underperformed at the Major League level, two prized prospects at positions that they are already well developed and a thrown in prospect. Suffice to say, this deal is a win for the Blue Jays due to them getting better right away in many areas very quickly.
Josh Johnson was the first person reported as dealt, and when you add him to a promising young rotation that has a lot of younger prospects on the rise, that seems like a good get in a contract year. But then they replaced Escobar with Reyes. And Johnson with Bonifacio. And trade out Mathis for Buck. And add Mark Buerhle in there to eat up innings, too.
You have a lineup that looks a lot better 1-9 (Reyes, Bonifacio, Bautista, Encarnacion, Lawrie, Rasmus, Arencibia, Lind/Lind's replacement, Gose). The bottom of the order fills out nicely, especially if the Blue Jays can get better at first base and left field, which is still not out of the picture this early in the offseason.
The pitching staff adds two legitimate starters to guys like Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero, along with J.A. Happ and the young guns on the way up. Romero can slot back into a #2 or #3 spot with Johnson and Morrow ahead of him, and Buerhle and Happ can round out the back end of the rotation.
The best part about this trade is that it does something Anthopolous has pounded home as part of his plan to bring the Blue Jays to prominence: Get young, cost controlled players and surround them with pieces that when put together at the right time, can make a move in a division that is hyper-competitive. With the Red Sox down, the Yankees getting older and the Rays and Orioles becoming threats, Anthopolous seized the moment to add talent at multiple positions across the board while not giving up much in return to help try and push the Blue Jays over the top. Even if the prospects pan out (and with Marisnick and Nicolino, they most likely will), the team understands that by putting their payroll towards players like Reyes and Johnson right now with the division somewhat up in the air that it’s money well spent.
It’s as smart a decision a general manager can make. He saw the landscape of his division, he understood that his ownership would buy in to a good decision if it was worthwhile and he made sure that he got the best players in the deal. He’s made eight player deals and 10 player deals, but this massive 12 player deal gives the Blue Jays a leg up this offseason with plenty of time to make another move to compliment it. Something that Anthopolous knows all too well.