Not mentioned in the post once.
Bylines, people. They’re right underneath the titles of posts on this site, and they tell you who wrote what you’re reading.
In the case of the one about this morning’s trade, you’ll notice that it was Drew, not I, who wrote it, and therefore to whom your scorn should be directed– which isn’t to say that I disagree with what he was saying, but simply to point out that t’wasn’t me.
Now, if it had been Parkes writing, that may have been a different story. Though… OK, he kept his damning of the Jays on this deal to a minimum in his post at Getting Blanked, before he went uncorking the champagne for Jeff Luhnow and company in Houston on today’s podcast.
True, the Astros had no use for JA Happ because he’ll hit free agency long before they’re ready to be competitive again, and his real value is as a swingman, a depth starter, or maybe at the very back of a rotation on a decent team. And perhaps the price shouldn’t have been so high, as the Jays could have waited until the off-season and picked up a player to fill that kind of role for nothing more than a little bit of cash.
The prospects they gave up were the price of doing business now, though, yet perhaps Parkes is also right that it’s foolish to acquire a player like Happ now in exchange for players with any kind of promise, given the position the 2012 Jays find themselves in.
But it’s not like they have a lot of ready-made fall-back starters in case they have trouble finding pitching this winter or that Happ– unsexy as he is– isn’t better than the Aaron Laffeys of the world who’ll be available for nothing; it’s not like they’ll have Luis Perez to step into the lefty specialist role that may be vacated by the terrific Darren Oliver, should he be dealt or choose to retire (as rumoured); and it’s not like they’re not going to need a guy like Happ at some point over the next season-and-a-half.
While he may not be called upon often enough to accumulate a tonne of value, when he’ll be asked to provide it could prove crucial. I mean, it’s easy to forget that teams value these back-rotation depth roles enough to use first round picks on guys like Chad Jenkins and Deck McGuire to fill them, or that sometimes it’s hard to measure depth in terms of straight-up in-a-vacuum WAR.
David Carpenter isn’t nothing, either, as his age (26) belies the fact that he’s a converted catcher, and has only been pitching for six seasons, with a good fastball and slider combination that he’s yet to quite figure out how to locate.
And it’s not like they gave up anything of terrible significance here, anything that isn’t already falling down the organizational depth chart, or anything that is so close to the Majors that anybody is all that likely to miss them a few years and a few additional draft classes down the line.
This is where Parkes and I would disagree– even if we’re mostly splitting hairs. Marc Hulet of FanGraphs is on his side, writing that in this deal Houston has out-ninja’d the ninja, particularly for the inclusion of Joe Musgrove, the 19-year-old first supplemental round pick from 2011, who, “if his secondary pitches improve to the point where he has a second plus pitch he could develop into a No. 2 starter.”
But Hulet notes that Musgrove’s “velocity was down in early 2012, causing minor concern among the Jays’ coaching staff,” while Alex Anthopoulos told reporters today that the young pitcher is suffering shoulder troubles, which the Astros are aware of.
At ESPN.com (Insider Only), Keith Law piles on, noting his “high-effort, short-arm action and a tendency to fly open after release, all of which probably points to a reliever future.
Law later opines that the Jays dealt away “fringe prospects who might have been squeezed out of 40-man spots by better players in the next few years and were one bad half-season away from losing any trade value they had.”
John Sickels of Minor League Ball disagrees with Law’s assessment, saying that Musgrove “has a low-effort delivery and a body that looks like that of a workhorse starter.”
At Baseball Prospectus, a piece by RJ Anderson and Kevin Goldstein takes Musgrove’s draft status down a peg, calling him “a budget-minded supplemental first-round pick in the 2011 draft.” It also throws a bit of cold water on Hulet’s hopes for the development of secondary stuff, explaining that “he has some feel for a slider, but can also get around on the pitch, causing it to sweep across the plate without much bite, and his changeup is still very much a work in progress. He has the most upside of any player sent to Houston in the deal, but he’s a long, long way from the big leagues.”
BP’s work doesn’t do a whole lot for my case, though, lauding the Jays’ probably-temporary decision to stash Happ in the bullpen, and suggesting that his arbitration eligibility may make him a non-tender candidate this winter– an occurrence that would easily throw this trade into the win column for Houston.
Matt Eddy and Nathan Rode of Baseball America note that Musgrove “returned to the Appy League this season and paired with lefthander Daniel Norris as part of a piggyback system, but he made just two starts and had not pitched since June 24.” Rode quotes BJ’s (note: heh) pitching coach Antonio Caceres in a piece from two weeks ago, saying that Musgrove was “one guy, we were worried about his velocity a little bit, but he got up to 94 the other night.”
So… there are obviously some red flags there, but a lot of talent too; meaning, it’s not a deal that’s completely without risk for the Jays. And Parkes isn’t wrong that it’s a deal that probably wouldn’t have happened without the injuries to so many of the Jays’ pitchers this year, or– as KLaw suggests– the backwards development of Deck McGuire and Chad Jenkins, it’s just… that’s life. And still, both teams, rather smartly, seem to have identified areas of their organizations where depth was lacking, and areas where they had either an abundance of talent or talent that was otherwise of no use to them, and made a deal that ultimately strengthens each team more in the overall.
Ultimately, I think that most importantly, though they’re assuming risk here, given that it’s a small amount of risk on outcomes way down the line– mostly in the area of pitching prospects, who have a massive attrition rate as it is– I’m actually really pleased.
In a small way– because let’s not overstate the importance of the deal– the Jays are acting like they believe this year and next actually matter. Beyond that, Anthopoulos appears to be starting to get his feet wet in terms of turning the mountain of prospect capital he’s built up over the last three years into actual, unsexy, nuts-and-bolts serviceable contributors at the Major League level.
It’s a good thing.
Image via Harry How/Getty.