Though the rest of the baseball world may not have been paying too much attention, to say that these last couple of days have been a whirlwind of emotions for Toronto Blue Jays fans would be an understatement.
After all, how else would the team’s fan base be expected to respond to rumors of Jose Bautista, one of the faces of the franchise, being shipped off to the Philadelphia Philllies for a package centered by Domonic Brown? Combined with a hoax tweet about J.P. Arencibia (who is reportedly garnering interest from multiple teams) being the guy that’s actually being discussed, and the bluebirds have had their fair share of trade speculation drama in a relatively short time.
While it’s all probably more smoke than reality at this point, that Bautista’s name should come up in rumors really ought not to be too surprising.
It’s been pretty well established by GM Alex Anthopoulos that essentially no one on the team is untouchable at this point, and while it might seen counter-intuitive for Toronto to ship off one of its best assets when they’re trying to bring some in to help them compete, the fact that they’re backed up against the wall might give end up giving them relatively little choice.
Impact free agents are incredibly pricey, perhaps especially more so in the starting pitching class this season due to the general lack of quality. Unfortunately for the team, one of the things they need most is a pair of good arms, something that their reported payroll boost is unlikely to afford. On the other hand, let’s say they’ve got $20 million or so to spend, would it really be wise to do it on players who are question marks?
To really compete with the big teams in the FA market, Rogers would have to open up their wallets considerably so the team can add at least a couple of big pieces. Unfortunately, that money isn’t coming any time soon.
So, in large part due to the miscalculations he’s made prior to the 2013 season, Anthopoulos will be pushed to maneuver between the trade market and the FA pool, trying to find a balance between the two that would give him sufficient wiggle room to improve the roster without going over payroll parameters or tapping out the farm.
For a team that’s constructed to be all-in during the short term, I suppose you could call it limbo.
A move of Bautista, on the other hand, could potentially snap this. Aside from freeing up valuable money, the 33-year old’s stellar track record over the last few seasons (seventh ranked 21.5 fWAR from 2010-2013) also means that he should be able to net the Blue Jays a package of strong, MLB-ready talent that can help the team — at least in theory anyway.
Whether that’s Domonic Brown or not is another question, and even though the team almost certainly wouldn’t get back the type of production a healthy Bautista would provide in one spot, it’s not inconceivable that it could at least be adequately replaced overall across multiple places in the lineup.
It’d be quite a gambit for the chemistry of the team and might not be looked well upon by folks like Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes, but it could work in theory, especially if the extra money saved up nets them a couple of impact players instead of overpaid, mediocre ones. Or, the money and prospects returned in such a deal could also set the Blue Jays up to make a package for a star themselves … there are a number of possibilities, really.
You’d probably be right to argue that it’s not really ideal and that it’s a lateral move, but with the team having very little room to begin with, maybe it’s just what the Blue Jays need to do to move forward.