Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Reminising on Offseason Trade Rumors

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During the 2010/2011 offseason Alex Anthopolous was said to have been extremely active on the offseason trade market. According to rumors the Jays tried to acquire Dan Uggla, Justin Upton, and Zack Greinke among others. All three were prime trade targets with many teams looking to acquire each of of them and in the case of Justin Upton half the league was getting involved. So it is no surprise to hear that Alex Anthopolous was right there with the other GM's in trying to acquire these "star" players. Although none of the three players were traded to the Blue Jays it is nice to hear that the Jays are getting involved. Alex Anthopolous checked all the possibilities and with that said we can now look back at what may have been.

Dan Uggla
Dan Uggla was the one of these three guys that the Jays were probably closest to acquiring, at least according to the rumors. Some of the big names being thrown around as players to be sent to the Marlins were along the likes of Travis d'Arnaud plus a pitcher such as Brett Cecil or Mark Rzepczynski and then some filler prospects. At the time it seemed like it was a little much for Uggla, but he was coming off the best season of his career, a season in which he produced 5.0 WAR. But nonetheless it takes talent to get talent and in the prior seasons Dan Uggla had been an all-star second basemen with the year in and year out consitency of a 30 home run season, which from second base or even the proposed switch to third base would have been a welcome addition to the Blue Jays.

As for this season Uggla hasn't been quite as stellar as in years past. On the whole Uggla has a 106 wRC+ putting him in the category of slightly above average, but prior to July when his hitting streak started Uggla was hitting to a lack-luster 59 wRC+ which is far below average. He was having one of the worst statistical seasons of his career until July when he suddenly started a hitting streak that went on for 33 games before Cubs second basemen Darwin Barney made a diving play to rob Uggla of a hit.

During his hitting streak Dan Uggla was a completely different person than the man who had been hitting to a 59 wRC+. In that 33 game span Uggla brought his batting average up above the mendoza line and hit a whopping 15 homers. After seeing how Uggla performed at the beginning of the season and how he has performed since the beginning of July it is really a tale of two seasons. Though if you look at the numbers that Uggla has put up in the past you have to believe the talent level lies closer to the latter half of the season. Even with Uggla's disappointing first half he still has a 2.3 lead in the FanGraphs version of WAR over the recently departed Aaron Hill (Uggla 1.8 WAR, Hill -0.5 WAR).

If the trade was to go through with the proposed d'Arnaud, Cecil/Rzep plus filler that would seem to be a little much. Having seen the breakout season from d'Arnaud as well as how Rzep was kind of the main part in the Rasmus trade I'm thinking that it wouldn't have been a great trade for the Jays. As well had the trade been made then it would block Adeiny Hechavarria who has enjoyed a very nice batting line since joining the 51's. It is already known that he has major league defense and in AAA it looks like he has made some genuine changes to his swing as to push at the Jays for a promotion. He may not be ready yet, but if he can put it together his combination of stellar defense, good speed, okay hitting and the fact that he would make far less money than Uggla he could turn out to be a much better option. All of this is just pluses to the fall-through of a what was a possible Dan Uggla trade. 

Justin Upton
Justin Upton was probably the single most sought after player in the offseason trade market and he never even ended up being traded. Despite that the Jays were always rumored to be one of the top teams in the running for Upton before Kevin Towers decided that no prospect package he had been offered was good enough for the younger Upton. The major rumored trade offer that was heard from the Jays was Travis Snider, Kyle Drabek, Carlos Perez, plus another pitcher in the lower ranks of the farm system (Chad Jenkins, Drew Hutchison) for Justin Upton.

Originally this package looked like a lot to give up for Upton, even if he was a 23 year old phenom. But now looking in hindsight it would have been a steal for the Jays. Three of the proposed trade chips haven't really impressed this year Snider has been sent up and down, Drabek started the year with the Jays and then got sent down, and Perez looks to have taken major steps back in both his offensive and defensive play. Sure Drabek and Snider can be considered top prospects, but in my eyes Snider at least kind of seems like a lost cause he may only be 23, but he has plenty of major league at bats and he can't seem to figure it out. He has shown flashes of multiple tools, but all in different seasons, he can't seem to figure it out and put it all together for one final season. Then with Drabek it seems like a mental issue where he has kind of dominated every level of the minors, but with him skipping AAA it seemed like the majors were a little too much for him.

Looking on Jays forums with the topic of that package for Justin Upton the almost consensus thought was that the Jays shouldn't give up that package for Upton, who at the time had a 4 WAR and 3 WAR season behind him, with scouts only predicting for him to improve. This year he has definitely done that because with still a month to go Justin Upton leads the league with a 6.2 WAR and is looking like he may become the NL MVP. 

Where as you look at the stats of Snider and Drabek in the majors and they are a little lacking. During his two tenures with the Jays this season Travis Snider has a .225/.269/.348 slash line with a 69 wRC+. That 69 wRC+ would rank 11th last in the league if Travis was qualified. Also between his post all-star call-up and his recent demotion Travis Snider took a whopping total of one walk. Walking used to be a skill that Travis had, but now for whatever reason he seems to have forgotten how to utilize it. Because of this lack luster play in the majors the Jays send him down to AAA and there he plays how we expected him to play in the . Granted it is the PCL which is very hitter friendly, but could Travis be that AAAA guy. He's still young and has time to change things, but as of right now things aren't looking good. He isn't getting major league at bats and he has a flurry of outfield prospects looking to pass him in the ranks. 

As for Drabek well he definitely hasn't been much better. When he was in the majors he had an ERA of 5.70 with a FIP that suggests it shouldn't have been much better. This was due in part to the fact that Drabek wasn't missing bats (5.94 K/9) and in part because his control was no where to be seen (6.44 B/9). This led him to a last in the league 0.92 K/BB ratio. He was supposed to be some super prospect and he just simply couldn't do it in the majors. I personally attribute some of that to him skipping AAA. I know that the PCL is extremely hitter friendly and that it can be a nightmare for pitchers, but if he got the experience there and dealt with struggles at AAA it may have prepared him better for struggles in the majors. 

With Carlos Perez there isn't much to say. He was a highly attributed catching prospect for the Jays despite him playing in the lower ranks of the farm system. This year he has definitely regressed at both his defense and offense as he was known for being an contact hitter and his average has regressed more than 30 points down to .269. As for his defense well his CS% has dropped from 49% in 2009 to 36% in 2010 to %30 in 2011, thats not a great trend there.

Finally with the add on prospect which was speculated to be a pitcher it wouldn't have been a big deal. Even if it were a higher end prospect such as Chad Jenkins or Drew Hutchison it wouldn't have been a big deal because the Jays just have so much pitching talent in even the rookie leagues now. Players such as Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Sanchez, Arodis Cardona, and Justin Nicolino are all poised to take any spot that would have been opened with the Justin Upton trade. 

On the whole unlike with the first trade rumor it is looking like the Jays should have jumped on this. Even if both Snider and Drabek turn out to be serviceable major leaguers, they still aren't worth a guy who is an MVP candidate at 24 and one who is signed through until 2015 at a now team friendly contract. Despite this I can understand how at the time AA wouldn't have made this trade. Prior to this season Snider looked like he still had plenty of potential and Drabek looked like he may become a #2 starter in the long run. Who knows maybe in a year or two Justin Upton will wear out his welcome in Arizona and the Silent Assassin will come in for the kill.

Zack Greinke
Last but certainly not least was Zack Greinke. Greinke was kind of a difficult trade candidate because he was the AL Cy Young winner in 2009, but then in 2010 it appeared as if he appeared to have completely tanked as he put up a 4.17 ERA and produced a 10-14 win loss record. Despite the basic numbers his peripherals still looked pretty good as he had a 3.34 FIP and a 3.60 xFIP for the year. The only thing that was a little concerning was the dip in Greinke's strikeout rate which went from a career high 9.5 K/9 in 2009 to a 7.4 K/9 in 2010. Greinke would have seemed like a classic buy low AA pickup.

The reported asking price for what at the time seemed like the only Top 25 pitcher on the trade market  was apparently Travis Snider and Kyle Drabek, which seemed like an absurd overvalue. They were asking for two players who were going to be the centerpieces for a deal for a 23 year old signed to a team friendly contract for 5 years to be the centerpieces to a 27 year old coming off a bad season signed to a less team friendly contract for two years . I think that right there was the problem and once the Royals reportedly wanted that and nothing less the trade talks with the Jays seemed to dwindle.

When you look at the surface stats by Zack Greinke this year with his 4.22 ERA and 12-5 win loss record it looks like the Jays were right in keeping their young, but recently disappointing prospects. Though when you look further you see that Zack Greinke actually has been much better than his 4.21 ERA indicates as he holds a 3.01 FIP as well as a 2.42 xFIP. Much of the difference between the ERA and these advanced stats can be attributed to the absolutely horrid defense that the Brewers have put out on the field this year, but what can also be held somewhat accountable is his career low 64.3 LOB%. As well as having better peripheral ERA stats Greinke also has a 10.90 K/9 and a 5.17 K/BB, two numbers that rank as the highest in the young hurlers career and among the leagues elite. 

All of this sums up to a trade that may have worked and may not have. On one hand Greinke has been doing great this year (although the basic numbers don't show it) where as Snider and Drabek have been lacking, but on the other hand Greinke is only signed until 2012 and there is no guarantee that he would sign with us past that mark. The real time when the Blue Jays would need a guy like Greinke is when they know that they are competeing, kind of like the Brewers this season. The Jays very well may compete next season if there is the added wildcard spot, but it is still not a sure thing. I would say that if Greinke was signed until 2013 a year when the Jays are definitley more likely to compete for a playoff spot then maybe the trade makes sense, but it is still a little iffy due to the still very apparent potential of Drabek and Snider. But with where the Jays are and where they will be next year, it seems like it was a good decision to let the deal fall through.

Final Thoughts
This past offseason was definitely filled with many Blue Jays trade rumors, much of which can be attributed to the man who never sleeps Alex Anthopolous. These rumors showed that the Jays aren't afraid to agressively pursue three fairly high profile players, even if in the end they don't acquire any of them. But nonetheless they tried and in this set of rumors there was a trade that they didn't make and shouldn't have made, a trade that they should have made, but couldn't have made and a trade that could be considered a toss up. Of course all of these opinions are with hindsight so its always nice to say the Blue Jays should have done this or they should have done that, but in the end the Jays acquired none of the three high profile players and they may just be better because of it in the future. That is the thing with these kind of high profile trades you just never know until years down the road. 

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