With Spring Training starting, the Blue Jays are more than unlikely to make another significant move, having already made a few under-the-radar moves and traded the face of the franchise. I will analyze all the players that have left the team and all the significant players that have arrived to play for Canada’s largest city.
Coming To Toronto
Alex Gonzalez, signed one year, $2.75 million deal
This deal was to replace Marco Scutaro, who was destined to leave as a Free Agent, as after his breakout season would demand more money. This was fine for the Jays, who were happy with the draft picks they would receive (Scutaro was a Type A FA) in return, but it left them without a capable lead-off batter this season (Jose Bautista anyone?).
Alex Gonzalez has your average bat for a shortstop, certainly better than light-hitting John McDonald, but I think his brutal defense will put him in Cito and Alex Anthopoulos’ doghouse, leading them to play McDonald more than they should. I would have much preferred moving Aaron Hill back to SS and then signing Felipe Lopez (who’s still unsigned!) to a cheap deal, this would be an upgrade on defense and Lopez has about the same bat as Gonzalez. Plus, Lopez would have been fine with signing with Toronto (other FAs get caught up in switching countries) as he was drafted by the club in 1998.
Joey Gathright, signed to minor-league deal
Gathright won’t start many games at all, but he’s part of the defense and speed focus that Anthopoulos is trying to install into the club. He’ll pick up tons of pitch-runner opportunities, as John McDonald did last year when Rod Barajas got on base in the later innings. I think it’s a great signing for Toronto, it used up hardly any money and got a total speedster that may even convince other players to run a bit more as well.
Kyle Drabek, Brett Wallace and Travis D’Arnaud, acquired in Roy Halladay blockbuster
A deal involving Halladay was inevitable for the Blue Jays this off-season, as while they had a slight chance of contending in 2010 with him, it was time we woke up and decided to get full value for him when we can. I think we got a great deal for him, Drabek and Wallace are top-rate almost ready prospects, while D’Arnaud is great, but still a project.
Kyle Drabek should contend for a rotational position in 2011 and has been the top prospect in the Phillies organization for years. He has already had Tommy John surgery and has scouts questioning whether or not his stuff is good enough to be an ace, but he figures to be a decent piece of the puzzle when the Jays are ready to make a run for a title.
Brett Wallace is said to have a major-league ready bat, he just needs to get converted over to first base, as the Jays don’t want a defensive liability at third base. He’s got great power potential, but the big thing is his plate discipline. He gets on base at a good clip and doesn’t chase balls very often. Expect maybe a September call-up this year and for him to start the 2011 season succeeded the job of Lyle Overbay. A good acquisition, I’d rather have him than Michael Taylor.
D’Arnaud is now our top catching prospect and is a pretty good batter as well. His talents are certainly more raw than Wallace and Drabek, but he’s a first-rate prospect nonetheless and should contend for a position in 2012.
John Buck, signed to one year, $2 million deal
John Buck comes to Toronto to join a long list of temporary catchers the Jays have employed the last few years while they wait for their prospects to develop. I would have rather had Rod Barajas, but like Scutaro, he was looking for a bigger deal than the Jays wanted to give to an aging player that wasn’t going to be part of their future.
Buck is an above-average defender, so he was partly brought in to instill the defensive focus that Anthopoulos wants to bring to the club. He puts up power numbers similar to Barajas with a bad average, but whatever, he fit the description the Jays were looking for, a good signing in that part.
Brandon Morrow, acquired in trade for Brandon League and Johermyn Chavez
This is a great trade for the Blue Jays in my opinion, I never liked Brandon League at all, he put up decent middle relief stats, but it seemed whenever he pitched in a pressure situation, he fell apart. I think Morrow is a great player for the Jays to acquire, he has potential and they could get him cheap since Seattle never figured out how to use him.
Morrow will either play this year as the 4th starter, or play as Brian Tallet did last year: as the long relief guy that gets 12-15 starts. I think the Jays coaching staff will be great with him and he should produce well as a Blue Jay. A great acquisition in my opinion.
Kevin Gregg, signed to one year, $2.75 million deal
People have criticized the Blue Jays management for making this signing, but it’s not for much money and should put pressure on Jason Frasor and Scott Downs, the main closer contenders before Gregg was signed. He’ll probably just play as either the set-up man or as a middle-reliever and put up a 3.75 ERA, which is about an average figure for a player at his position.
Jose Molina, signed to a one year, $400 thousand deal
This trade gives the Jays more catching depth, a good think since they now have John Buck as their #1. They’ll probably start Molina in 40-50 games, making this a significant season despite the low money. He developed a great rapport with A.J. Burnett last season, leading to hope that such a thing happens with one of the Jays young starters, furthering their development.
Leaving from Toronto
Marco Scutaro, signed by Boston
Scutaro had a great season last year for the Blue Jays, leading the AL in walks for most of the season and putting up an acceptable OBP for a lead-off batter. It’s bad that he’s leaving, but the two picks we got for him were good compensation, and he’s not part of our future (he’s 34). We couldn’t have done much to pry him away from joining Boston, so I’m fine with management’s decision.
Roy Halladay, traded to Philadelphia
Halladay has been the face of the Blue Jays franchise since he was an out away from a no-hitter in his second career start in September of 1998. Winning 148 games, he destroyed the Yankees, going a blistering 18-6 against them in his career, one of the reasons the Phillies wanted him as they might have to face the Yanks in the World Series again.
The trade was a good one for the Blue Jays however, it gave them prime prospects better than the two compensatory draft picks they would have received for him if he left in Free Agency. Halladay will almost certainly be retired onto the Jays Level of Excellence in the Rogers Centre and will go down as perhaps the best Blue Jay in history. We’ll miss you Roy!
Brandon League, traded to Seattle
As I expressed earlier, I have never been comfortable when League is pitching, he seems to be terrible in pressure situations, and with all the pitching depth they acquired and prospects that might start at relief pitching, I feel better about out relievers after the off-season than before.
Rod Barajas, signed by New York Mets
I don’t get it. Barajas had a good year for the Jays last year and they let him walk despite him only signing a one-year $1 million deal, hardly anything considering they signed John Buck to twice as much. I’d rather have Barajas and we could easily have signed him, he was out of a job until mid-February, not exactly w
hat happened to Scutaro.
Kevin Millar, signed by Chicago Cubs
This loss hardly mattered, Millar was simply a role player last year: He had a few starts and pitch-hits and performed as a clubhouse entertainer. While they will miss his presence, I’m not losing any sleep over the Jays not retaining him, as he was only signed to a minor-league deal by the Cubs, meaning the Jays management isn’t worried about it either.
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