Buster Olney lays down some knowledge on Twitter, presumably via the fucking sieve that is the Red Sox’ front office:
Blue Jays/Red Sox Farrell compensation talks came down to two players: Mike Aviles or Andrew Bailey. Aviles gives TOR flexibility w/Escobar.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 25, 2012
At first it’s kind of surprising– and disappointing that the Jays didn’t take Bailey just so that we could say that the Red Sox, in a roundabout way, ended up trading Josh Reddick for a fucking manager, though I suppose it’s funny enough just knowing it was an option– but ultimately there are reasons why it entirely makes sense.
For starters, you can imagine how the Jays might have puked in their mouths a little bit looking at the medicals of Bailey, who spent most of the year recovering from thumb surgery, strained a lat during his entrance exam in Spring Training, and who in the past has had Tommy John, additional elbow surgery in 2010, a DL stint of over two months in 2011 with a forearm strain, plus microfracture surgery on his knee, and various other ailments.
There’s also the fact that he was brutal when healthy in Boston at the end of the year, and in the first place maybe wasn’t quite as great as his sparkling numbers from his days with the A’s made him seem, as he had quite a dramatic difference in his splits between pitching in Oakland and elsewhere.
By FIP he was a run worse on the road in 2009, and two runs by xFIP. In 2010 there was less than half a run difference by xFIP, but a full run by FIP. And in his last year in Oakland, 2011, he posted a 1.18 FIP and 2.42 xFIP at home, and a staggeringly awful 5.22 FIP and 5.07 xFIP on the road.
Sure, we’re looking at relief splits, so there’s not a tremendous amount of data in any of those individual numbers, but there’s definitely a trend that suggests he was being helped by pitching in Oakland.
Of course, Olney also points out what must have been a key reason for the Jays’ decision: the flexibility Aviles gives them to deal one of their other middle infielders. I especially think I see where this is going, after seeing how the A’s managed last week to deal Cliff Pennington (along with prospect Yordy Cabrera, mind you) in order to acquire an underrated asset in Chris Young.
Pennington and Aviles aren’t entirely dissimilar; they have about the same number of career plate appearances, the exact same fWAR for their careers, and have varied in terms of defensive value– Aviles actually has accumulated more in his career, per UZR, though much of that came from his four-win 2008 season, and he’s also logged about 1500 fewer innings at shortstop, spending that time at second and third base. Aviles has an additional year of service time, but the two are reasonably interchangeable, and the A’s just demonstrated for us that Pennington, thanks largely to the position that he plays, certainly has some kind of value.
And Escobar has even more, by any measure, even when hitting as poorly as he did in 2012.
The Jays therefore, by choosing Aviles, very possibly helped themselves more than I think people realize– and likely more than they would have by taking Bailey, unless he completely returns to Oakland form. Plus, despite the fact that they seemed so enamored with relief arms in their acquisitions this summer, it’s still just a bullpen piece we’re talking about, and an especially volatile one at that. And one that stands to be more expensive than Aviles by about $3-million, which would have limited that much more of the club’s flexibility on the market this winter.
So, y’know, you can probably put the pitchforks down, even though I’ll entirely grant you that it might initially strike one as a surprising choice.