Over the last decade, over each progressive year, the media always finds a way to declare the Blue Jays a breakout team. Then the breakout never happens. Though they haven’t finished in last place since 2004, 1993 was their last season in the playoffs. Toronto entered 2012 with similar exuberant expectations, only to finish with a 73-89 record. With Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, and Brandon Morrow headlining the team, along with a number of high upside young talent, the Blue Jays fell flat with injuries this season.
Last night’s blockbuster deal with the Marlins fulfills many of Toronto’s inefficiencies. For the small cost that they paid, which included the non-tender candidate Yunel Escobar, the Blue Jays can now fill two of their starting pitcher spots with Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, replace the troublesome Escobar with perennial All Star Jose Reyes, and then add even more speed with the versatile Emilio Bonifacio. They also received John Buck, who I don’t see fitting into an organization that already has J.P. Arencibia and Travis d’Arnaud.
As good as this new Blue Jays team sounds, it’s cost much more than a couple of mid-grade prospects to complete the trade. Within just one night, GM Alex Anthopolous doubled the 2013 payroll. If we assume that Bonafacio receives $3 million in arbitration, $58.8 million is owed to this lot of players, and the team is now looking at a payroll that’s likely well north of $130 million. We always knew that Rogers, owner of the Blue Jays, could afford a top payroll, and it’s no surprise that they’ve finally done so. The questions is whether the $60m they’ve shelled out is worth the money.
In 2012, Johnson, Buehrle, Reyes, Buck, and Bonifacio produced a total of 12.3 fWAR. Despite the fact that the majority of this group is very injury prone and they’ll be a year older, let’s assume that this holds up for 2013. With the $4 million the Marlins are sending to Toronto, this means that Toronto will pay $4.46 million per win above replacement. But this is an optimistic projection that assumes no injuries, and an easy AL East transition for Mark Buehrle. At $4.5m, this is a pretty standard price to pay for wins on the free agent market.
Will 12 extra wins be enough for the Blue Jays? Although the team won 73 games in 2012, there were a number of key injuries to guys like Jose Bautista and Brandon Morrow that cost Toronto wins. If we take another ridiculously optimistic stand point and guess that they lost 10 wins from injuries, this means they’ll gain an additional 22 wins on top of their 73 from this season. A 95 win projection is solid, but this assumes everything goes perfectly. It’s a projection that disregards injury and the player production leaving through free agency and trades.
Toronto is no doubt a better team, but a lot of things have to break right to stay competitive. The good news for the Yankees, is that I highly doubt that the Blue Jays will be in on any big contract free agents this offseason. Their payroll has already been doubled over the last 24 hours, and there isn’t much room in their for upgrades. With quite a few high-upside players, the Yankees should still keep an eye on their competition, but I think the impact of this trade has been overblown.
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