Alex Anthopolous and the rest of the Blue Jays organization shocked the baseball world yesterday by making a huge deal with the Miami Marlins, taking on a whole lot of salary in the process. The most notable additions for Toronto were Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Josh Johnson. Of course, these are three very good baseball players who will surely have an impact on the pecking order in the AL East in 2013. However, they should have no impact on the Red Sox’s plans for the coming offseason.
In my mind, this trade affected every team in the AL East except for the Red Sox, at least as far as next season is concerned. Boston should still be on a plan where competing for a wild-card in 2013 is very much within reach, while still being able to prepare for being true contenders for 2014 and beyond. Some people may clamor for the front office to try and match the Blue Jays acquisitions by signing a guy like Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke. However, a move like this would be a poor decision. Not only would that go against all the preachings of discipline from Ben Cherington after the Punto trade, but I’m also not convinced they need a deal like that to compete for a wild-card birth next year.
As I said above, there is no denying the Blue Jays look a whole lot better on paper this year. The biggest upgrade they’ve made is at shortstop. They rid themselves of mediocre player and supposed malcontent Yunel Escobar, and replaced him with one of the best shortstops in the league in Reyes. Last year’s 4.5-win season (via Fangraphs) for the former Marlin probably represents a typical year for him, which gives the Jays a rock in their middle infield that they’ve been missing for years. However, Reyes has had some major injury history. Last season, he was able to appear in 160 games, but it was his first time with more than 133 games since 2008. There is a pretty decent chance of him missing a significant chunk of time in 2013, which would diminish the single-season returns of this trade.
In addition to Reyes, the Jays also seemed to have strengthened their rotation. Their new ace, Josh Johnson, is a classic example of high-risk, high-reward. When he’s healthy and pitching like he can, he’s one of the elite pitchers in the game. He has the potential to give them the front-of-the-rotation arm that they’ve been looking for since Roy Halladay left. However, remaining healthy is a big question mark for Johnson. Also, when he was able to pitch in 2012, he did not look like his former self, as he racked up a 3.81 ERA and 3.40 FIP. Still good numbers, but not the elite-Josh Johnson we’ve expected.
The other big addition was Mark Buehrle, who gives them the stability the two guys above can’t, but not the same talent level. He has never thrown under 200 innings since becoming a major-league starter, which is a huge plus for a team that suffered the rotation injuries that Toronto did in 2012. However, he’s also going to be 34 next season, and is clearly on the decline. Jumping over to the AL East, in a homer-friendly park like Toronto’s, probably won’t do him any favors. Regardless of that, though, a league-average pitcher with his durability is a valuable commodity.
This isn’t to say the Blue Jays didn’t make themselves much scarier. They clearly did. However, nothing about their new additions is a sure-thing. While it’s unlikely for all of the things I listed above to go wrong at once, it’s a hell of a lot more likely that at least one or two of those scenarios do play out. It’s because of this that the Red Sox need to stay the course.
There will be temptations to try to keep pace with the typically-quiet Blue Jays, both by giving out large, long-term contracts, and/or trading their elite prospects for risky players. Doing either of these things would be a mistake for Boston. They should still be preparing for a run in 2014, and should go forward with the same mindset they had when Tuesday started. In doing this, they shouldn’t have to go full-on bridge year, either. Toronto did improve, but baseball is a fickle game, and they’re no guarantee. If any fan-base would understand this, it would be Boston’s. I mean, 2011 wasn’t all that long ago.