November 13, 2012
Suddenly, there is real hope for the Blue Jays with Jose Reyes and the Marlins trade
By STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency
TORONTO - When the sorriest summer of Blue Jays baseball came to an end — the worst season Paul Beeston could ever remember — there was no doubt what they had to do.
The doubt was: Could Alex Anthopoulos do it?
Could the young general manager, no longer new to the job, having specialized in small, neat transactions, restocking the farm system and paddling in circles, pull off the big one? And along with that came another question: Would the historically frugal owners, Rogers Communications, open up their wallets and finally become a serious player in the American League East?
Well, with one stroke of the brush and many phone calls and texts, Anthopoulos has painted a new Blue Jays picture, changed the course of the waffling franchise, brought some optimism to this local land of sporting pessimism. And he did it with the largest trade in Blue Jays history — historically not the most significant, because it would have to produce two World Series to better the Pat Gillick gem of acquiring Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter — and the acquisition of the player many still consider to be the best in baseball.
This is not a steal. This was about now for later. The Blue Jays buy a whole lot of today for a lot of unknown for tomorrow. The Jays get all the bad contracts in the deal and trade away none, but that was the price necessary to play the blockbuster game. That was the play Anthopoulos needed for himself, for this city, for the Jays, for the immediate future.
No doubt, Anthopoulos began on this quest with the Miami Marlins in search of starting pitching, the need he identified publicly at the end of the season. He wanted starting pitching. He wanted a veteran presence on his staff. He wanted guys who could throw 200 innings and produce some kind of dependable results.
And he never said a word about coming out of this with two starting pitchers of quality and frankly, one of the few players in baseball you can’t take your eyes off of. The Blue Jays wound up with the Pavel Bure of shortstops, Jose Reyes, who has been called the best player in baseball by no less authorities than Carlos Beltran and Alex Rodriguez, who in his career has been a rookie of the year, a batting champion, a multi-time triples leader, a stolen base leader, an MVP candidate, and instantly the Jays have their shortstop and their leadoff hitter.
So long Yunel Escobar and don’t let the eye black hit you on the way out of town, hello Reyes. Can you say huge upgrade?
Or as Jose Bautista, who for a moment or two has been referred to as the best player in baseball in recent years, tweeted in the early evening Tuesday, it’s a good day to be a Blue Jay.
It is that. Reyes scored 28 more runs than did Escobar last season, had 44 more hits, 15 more doubles, walked 28 times more, and changes everything about the Jays offence. Assuming Brett Lawrie can be taught to not run himself out of innings, the Jays should lead off with Reyes, have Lawrie batting second, Bautista third and Edwin Encarnacion fourth and give them an offence of speed, average and power that should challenge anyone in the AL.
But what Anthopoulos really needed was pitching and he paid through by giving up prospects, but more than that Rogers will pay by picking up the contracts of Reyes and the two starters, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. In the past, he would not have been allowed to make this monstrous deal: Rogers would have said no to the salary coming their way, not just now but for the future.
Johnson will be paid more than $13 million for the coming summer. Reyes has $118 million still to come his way and he eats free agency in 2018. There is $48 million left to pay the steady Buehrle, who has won in double figures every year of his 12-year career.
For too long, everyone has been screaming about Rogers’ unwillingness to spend and now the Jays payroll will increase to somewhere around $120 million: The days of hoping are over. The days of performance are here.
The excuses are gone. Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle are here: The rest of the moving parts will make the Jays faster and deeper. It will all make more sense once it becomes official.
It’s not yet December and the baseball pulse is beating. Pitchers and catchers report in less than three months.