This Rollercoaster Goes Right Off A Cliff
The Blue Jays currently stand at 57-65, 4th in the American League East. That's not terribly surprising, particularly in view of Tampa's ascendance last season.
But there are a lot of ways to get to 57-65, and the one the Jays have chosen has to be the most painful possible, as the team has Jekyll and Hyded its way to mediocrity.
Just imagine travelling back in time 5 months and telling expectant Jays fans the following:The Good:
Roy Halladay will compete for the Cy Young Award.The Bad:
Every other pitcher you've heard of will get hurt.The Good:
B.J. Ryan is now two years removed from Tommy John surgeryThe Bad:
He's also 8 MPH removed from his best fastball and we'll be eating the last $15 million or so of his contract.The Good:
Scott Rolen will stay healthy, hit .320 and play eye-popping defense.The Bad:
He'll then ask for a trade.The Good:
Aaron Hill will not only return from a near career-ending concussion, he'll blossom into a 30+ home run hitter. Oh yeah, so will Adam Lind, giving the Jays two inexpensive, productive young hitters.The Bad:
That won't be quite enough to offset the offensive abortions perpetrated by Vernon Wells and Alex Rios, for the bargain basement price of $27 million - or about $1 million per homer.The Good:
#1 pick Ricky Romero will justify the organization's faith in him and contend for Rookie of the Year.The Bad:
#1 pick David Purcey will walk the population of Nevada, and then be sent there in exile for the forseeable future.The Good:
For the first time in recent memory, the Jays will actually stomp the weak sisters of the AL and wrack up an impressive 27-14 record out of the gate.The Bad:
For the first time in recent memory, the Jays will be blown out of the water by the Red Sox and Yankees, negating their good work against everyone else.The Good
: Travis Snider will hit tape measure home runs from the #9 spot...The Bad:
...until about the 3rd week of April, when he goes all Carlos Delgado circa 1994 and is dispatched to Las Vegas.The Good:
Marco Scutaro will solve the shortstop dilemna and become one of the top leadoff men in the league.The Bad:
He'll drive in more runs than a healthy Vernon Wells.The Good:
Roy Halladay, most beloved baseball player in these parts since the glory years will start the All-Star Game.The Bad:
He'll be so mired in trade rumours by that time that it will be next-to-impossible to enjoy the moment.The Good:
The team will find nearly $60 million in salary relief.The Bad:
They'll do it by letting Alex Rios, an all-star just two years ago, be claimed on waivers for nothing.The Good:
$60 million can buy lots of neat stuff for a baseball team looking to compete.The Bad:
Not if it goes into the pockets of owners looking to sell the team.
Stack up all the "Goods" in isolation and the Jays are cruising to a playoff spot. Stack up all the "Bads" and we could at least take solace in having the top pick in next year's draft. Since all of these things have come to pass, it's been quite a bipolar year for the Jays and their fans.
And it doesn't stand to get any better in the near future. If this were a team being held together by veterans having good years, it would easy to trade them for prospects and blow things up. But the core of the team - Hill, Lind, and to a lesser extent Snider and Romero - is certainly young enough to build around.
To that end, it's the final point that's most relevant. Who exactly is driving the bus? If Rogers is committed to the team and reinvesting saved money in that team, then the Jays might compete sooner rather than later. If they're cutting costs to make the team easier to sell, then fans could be on a path to watch the Florida Marlins North. And who knows what new ownership might look like?
For now the team remains in a kind of limbo, a team for which a plausible argument could be made for anywhere between 60 and 100 wins next season. If it's going to be closer to 60, all Jays fans can ask is that the team just tank out of the gate and not bother with raising hopes prematurely.
The Scott Rolen Trade in 8 Points
1. "Trading Scott Rolen but not Roy Halladay means the Jays are an organization in total disarray." - This was the popular topic being tossed around on the Fan Radio's Prime Time Sports the other day. Actually, it just represents that Rolen wanted a trade, and that J.P. Ricciardi didn't get the swag he needed to part with Halladay.
2. Rolen had done this before. Both in Philadelphia and St. Louis, Rolen had greased the skids for his own departure, after feuding with Phillies management and badly wanting to get away from Tony LaRussa. Rolen's request for a trade is more telling about the player than the organization.
3. The Jays save a bunch of payroll for this season and next because they are now off the hook for the last season and a half of Rolen's 8-year/$90 million contract.
4. "Edwin Encarnacion is a bum" - Bob McCowan's terse dismissal of the Jays' new third baseman, based on Sun Media's Bob Elliott statement that scouts agree that Encarnacion "isn't a third baseman." He's certainly not in Rolen's league as a defender, but he's only 26 and has a career OPS of .791. He also launched 26 home runs last season. Simply put, if the Philadelphia Phillies can win a championship with Pedro Feliz at third base, it's possible to win with Edwin Encarnacion.
5. The rest of the swag. Early reports of Rolen for top prospect Yonder Alonso were indeed too good to be true, but Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart aren't bad. Both are strikeout-an-inning relievers, and Roenicke was closing games in AAA. Coming up with a few cheap years of closer-like relief ought to prevent another B.J. Ryan debacle.
6. Curse of The Hot Corner? Encarnacion better hope that the Jays don't trade him. Witness the last few third basemen the Jays have dealt:Shea Hillenbrand:
hitting .310 when traded, out of baseball within two years.Corey Koskie:
suffered a career-ending concussion with the Brewers.Troy Glaus:
decent first season with St. Louis, has yet to take the field in 2009 due to injury.Scott Rolen:
beaned in his second game with the Reds and has been out of the lineup since.
7. Sadly, the trade will cost Rolen his eighth Gold Glove, as players who switch leagues mid-season almost never receive award consideration. Too bad, too, because with incumbent Adrian Beltre on the shelf for most of the year, it was Rolen's to lose.
8. Does this trade make any sense from the Reds point of view? Let's see, we're tied for last, 15 games under .500. Our nominal #1 starter is out for a year with Tommy John surgery... time to deal some young pitchers to add that 34-year-old making $11 million! This seems like the antithesis of the trades the Reds ought to be making if they intend to rebuild.
To sum up, the Jays shed payroll and add a couple of promising, unproven arms in exchange for a player who wanted out. Not a bad haul for J.P. Ricciardi, though not nearly enough to stem the media choir that is wailing for his head, his genius license long having been revoked since the Jays' 27-14 start.