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Jed Lowrie is talented, but will he stay on the field enough to matter?
This upcoming season, the Houston Astros will move from the NL Central to the AL West, where they once again expect finish at the bottom of their division after ending 2012 with a league-worst 107 losses. It should do them no favors then, that the Astros now must face 2012 playoff teams, the Oakland Athletics and the Texas Rangers, as well as the restocked Los Angeles Angels, on a regular basis. Monday night saw a trade in which two of these newly-created rivals, the Astros and the Athletics, swapped young talent. In this transaction, Oakland received infield utilityman, Jed Lowrie, and pitcher Fernando Rodriguez, while the Astros acquired a trio of young talents in the form of 1B/noted left-handed masher Chris Carter, right-handed pitcher Brad Peacock, and catcher Max Stassi. Below, Nick has a quick write-up on Jed Lowrie, followed by my (Aidan's) outlook on the new Astros and my first impressions of the trade

By Nick Rabasco:

In 2012, Jed Lowrie played in a career high 97 games.  Games played has been a huge problem for Jed in his 5 year career, with numerous DL stints during that time.  Lowrie has shown flashes of being a solid and productive player.  For example, in 2010 with the Red Sox, he batted .287/.381/.526 with an OPS+ of 139.  However that came in only 55 games and 197 plate appearances.  Last season, Jed was productive as well in 387 plate appearances, batting .244/.331/.438 with 16 home runs and an OPS+ of 108.  Despite his low batting average in 2012, he was still able to walk a lot and get on base.  He walked 11.1% of the time (10.1% in career), which is above the league average by almost 3%. Clearly, it should be no surprise that he was coveted by Billy Beane and the Moneyball A's.  In addition, the A’s are receiving a very versatile player, who has experienced playing time at all infield positions.  For his career, he has saved -4 runs with a fielding percentage of .977.  Lowrie was a 2 win player in 2012 for Houston, but if he is able to put it all together and stay on the field for a full major league season, I believe Lowrie can put up a WAR of around 3. 

By Aidan Flynn:

Unlike the current island of misfit toys donning the Astros uniform in 2013, Houston added a decent amount of talent in this trade. The only big leaguer of this bunch is Chris Carter, who spent time at 1B and DH for the division winning A's. Carter has big time power, evidenced by his 13.6 AB/HR rate, that would have ranked fourth in the American League had he enough plate appearances to qualify. However, as one usually expects with big-time power, Carter does have an excessive strikeout rate. For instance, Carter's K rate of 31.9% ranked 9th highest among those with at least 200 PA's. In spite of this, Carter should still remain an offensive threat because of his aforementioned power potential and well above average walk rate (15%). Additionally, Carter can be better utilized as part of a platoon, just as he was last year in Oakland with lefty Brandon Moss. Carter, a right handed hitter, hit lefties to the tune of a .241/.404/.494, which was actually suppressed by nature of his tough home ballpark. Moving to the more hitter-friendly Minute-Maid Park, Carter should certainly improve his offensive numbers and help solidify an otherwise anemic Houston offense. 

The next piece of this trade is once highly touted right-hander Brad Peacock. Peacock's name may sound familiar, as he was indeed, the very same Peacock sent to Oakland as part of last year's Gio Gonzalez swap. 2012 was certainly a down year for the young righty, as he was killed for a 6.01 ERA in 135 innings for Triple-A Sacremento. To most, a 6.01 ERA in any level for an extended period of time would be the death blow to a shot at the major leagues; however, with Peacock, there are some silver linings in his otherwise dreadful season. For one, Peacock struck hitters at a well above-average rate of 9.3 K/9, flashing a plus curve ball and a fastball that can touch 96. Additionally, Peacock was the unfortunate recipient of bad luck, as he had an absurd .340 BABIP during his 2012 minor league season. Furthermore, Peacock could be a weapon in the bullpen if starting doesn't work out, as he features the plus offerings necessary to succeed in that role. All told, Peacock still has the talent to succeed, even with last year's struggles. 

Of all the players going to Houston, the farthest away from achieving big-league stardom is catcher Max Stassi. Stassi finished up 2012 in High-A Stockton, where hit hit .268/.331/.468 with 18 2Bs and 16 HRs. Stassi still has some work to do on offense, as he strikes out too much and has too liberal of an approach at the plate. Defensively, Stassi has always been advanced beyond his years, with a strong and accurate throwing arm and excellent receiving skills. There is a good chance Stassi will make it to the Majors with his glove alone and any offense contribution whatsoever could make him everyday player.

First Impressions:

Winner: Astros

For an oft-injured man of glass, the Astros made out pretty well in this trade. They infused some youth and skill into a talent-starved major league team. In short, they acquired a strong platoon hitter, a good innings-eater that should at worst be a #4 starter or set-up man, and a glove first catcher. That may not seem like much, but all of these players are close to major league guarantees and should represent major upgrades over the replacement players currently filling out the starting spots. This will not necessarily make the Astros a better team in 2013, but they had no shot at competing, with or without Lowrie. To me, this trade undoubtedly puts them in a better shot at contending in the coming years.

Loser: Athletics

Don't get me wrong; Lowrie is a very talented player and one that is certainly capable of making this a coup for the A's. However, players with his kind of injury history just aren't cured with the wave of a magic wand and I have a hard time seeing him staying healthy enough to make this a win for the A's. I understand the A's didn't trade top 100 prospects or anything but still, the lost value in a strong platoon partner and back-end innings eater still outweighs the gain of Lowrie in my opinion.

 
 
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Justin will be joining his brother in the Atl
By: Aidan Flynn         

Finally! Finally! The general public is finally pardoned from hearing another Justin Upton trade rumor (at least for the near future), as Upton was mercifully traded to the Atlanta Braves on Thursday morning. Upton, 25, will join big brother, B.J. Upton, 28, in an already extremely talented Atlanta outfield in hopes of achieving another playoff berth. In exchange for the services of Upton and third baseman Chris Johnson, the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired 3B/LF Martin Prado, and minor leaguers Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill, Nick Ahmed, and Brandon Drury.

                The obvious headliner in this trade is Upton, an incredibly gifted, yet enigmatic and inconsistent player who is coming off a disappointing 2012 in which he only hit .280/.355/.430 and put up an underwhelming 2.1 WAR. However, Upton has also shown the ability to do great things, and at times, has lived up to the ceiling that made him a number one overall pick in a loaded 2005 draft class. Just one year ago, with the same trade rumors swirling about, Upton was  coming off a career year, in which he finished fourth in the NL MVP and had an excellent .289/.369/.529 line. Keep in mind, Upton produced this career year at 24 years of age; one would rightfully assume that he would only continue to improve as he matured both physically and as a ballplayer. Instead, here we are one year, later, wondering what kind of player he really is and what the Braves are getting.

                Looking at Upton's career numbers, he is owner to some interesting trends. First is his affinity for alternating successful seasons with lackluster seasons sandwiched in between. Just using OPS+ to demonstrate, Upton's full seasons (with his age in parenthesis) look like this:

 2008: 107 OPS+ (20)

2009: 129 OPS+ (21)

2010: 110 OPS+ (22)

2011: 141 OPS+ (23)

2012: 107 OPS+ (24)

                Clearly, Upton has an interesting little trend going on here but honestly seems purely coincidental as I could not find anything explaining this oddity. Nevertheless, it could very well portend good things for Upton this upcoming season. The other interesting quirk with Upton is much more definite and serious than the previous example, as it is one that could very well have an impactful difference on his future performance. That quirk is that Upton has quite noticeable home/road splits, and going from hitter haven Chase Field to more neutral Turner Field certainly shouldn't help his cause. In the desert, Upton has hit a red-hot .307/.389/.548; on the other hand, away from his friendly home park, Upton has hit only .250/.307/.406 and is undoubtedly a below-average hitter. This obviously is a huge cause for concern, and one that should clearly be watched as the season progresses. This is not a definitive declaration that Upton can't hit away from home. In fact, there are a decent number of examples that have transitioned very well after leaving friendly home parks and going to pitcher's parks (Carlos Quentin is a good, recent example). Furthermore, Upton faced a slew of extremely tough pitchers parks while playing in the NL West (see AT&T Park, Petco Park, and Dodger Stadium), all of which probably helped skew his aforementioned poor road performance. Just as things usually aren't as extreme as they first appear to be, I would figure Upton's 2013 performance will fall somewhere between his home/road splits; the law of averages eventually have to give in. One final note with Upton is that he will probably play left field in deference to Gold Glove right fielder Jason Heyward. Upton's defense in right has been slightly above average for his career, always with at least a positive DRS rating but never more than 8 runs saved in a season. Thus, a move to left could result in an even stronger defensive performance considering that left field is an easier position to field.

                As for the return package for Upton, it is quite underwhelming in my opinion. My favorite player going to the desert is utility man Martin Prado, at the heels of a 5+ win season for Fredi Gonzalez's Braves. Prado is an extremely well rounded player, one that can hit for average (career .295 hitter), has excellent gap power (career high 42 2B last year), play solid defense (18 DRS last year), and can even run a bit (17 SBs in 2012). Prado is expected to play third base for the Snakes this upcoming year and is a +23 run defender at the hot corner for his career. One catch with Prado is that he is only under contract for one year. Upton, on the other hand, has another three years of extremely affordable club control (only $38 million due over that time). If the Snakes can't resign Prado, they take an already disappointing haul and make it an even harder pill to swallow. Essentially, if Prado walks, the Snakes are stuck with a back end starter in Randall Delgado and three fringy prospects that have miniscule big league chances. Speaking of the prospects in the trade, the only one of real note is Randall Delgado. Delgado possesses a low 90's fastball and a decent curve, both of which inducing plenty of ground balls (50 % last year). Delgado still faces control issues, as evidenced by below average 4.1 BB/9 rate; if he cleans this up he could be a solid mid-rotation starter; if not, he should fit nicely into the back end of the starting rotation.


First Impressions:

Winner: Braves

Upton clearly has his faults and remains a ways away from reaching his ceiling-less potential. With that said, Upton remains a very good player, one capable of playing on both sides of the ball and is still to reach his physical prime as a player. Even if Upton doesn't maximize his talents, the Braves did not give up much in return. I think at the very least, Upton and Prado cancel each other out and the Braves remain a playoff team while getting younger and more cost efficient in the process. At the very best, Upton matures into a perennial all-star candidate and closes the gap between the Braves and baseball's best team, the Nationals. In addition, one cannot overrule the change of scenery needed by Upton following the continuous trade talks. Overall, barring a complete collapse for Upton, I see this turning out well in Atlanta's favor.

Loser: Diamondbacks

A situation handled poorly from the start, the Diamondbacks finally rid themselves of the perpetual Upton trade rumor headache. Maybe the Diamondbacks had to deal Upton. They severed relations with him so badly it just had to be done. However, from a purely baseball standpoint, I don't think the package received was one worthy of Upton's talents. Although Prado is a very good player, he is only under contract for one year, and the rest of the prospect pieces honestly just are not very impressive. A player with Upton's current ability, future potential, and cost-controlled affordability should bring in a package better than the one received today. Five years from now, maybe Prado resigns and the prospects contribute at the big league level. However, I am highly skeptical of the prospects and wonder what the benefits of acquiring an older player with contractual uncertainty are. To me, the Diamondbacks are a clear loser in this trade.


 
 
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R.A. Dickey's storybook career is over in New York, but is just beginning in Toronto
            The Blue Jays added to their already impressive offseason haul by trading for the reigning National League Cy Young winner, R.A. Dickey. This blockbuster sent Dickey, his personal knuckleball catcher, Josh Thole, and minor leaguer Mike Nickeas for Jay's top prospect Travis d'Arnaud, catcher John Buck, minor league starter Noah Syndergaard, and minor league outfielder Wuilmer Becerra. In addition to his 2013 bargain of a salary ($5 million), Dickey signed a two year, $24 million extension that will keep him in Toronto till 2015, his age 40 season.

            Contrary to popular belief, R.A. Dickey has emerged as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball over the past several seasons. Although 2012 was clearly his best season (career bests in W, ERA, IP, BB/9, K/9, and ERA+), Dickey has consistently been a well above average pitcher during his tenure with the Mets. For nonbelievers, let's play a little game with two sets of numbers compiled over the past three seasons; one belongs to Dickey and the other belongs to an "elite" starting pitcher:

Pitcher 1: 2.95 ERA, 616.2 Innings, 129 ERA+, 2.2 BB/9, 6.8 K/9, 12.1 WAR

Pitcher 2: 2.93 ERA, 644 Innings,  130 ERA+, 2.8 BB/9, 8.5 K/9, 13.2 WAR

Clearly, these pitchers are pretty similar except for  the difference in strikeouts; however, their repertoires could not be any different. One survives with the impulsive and unpredictable nature of the knuckleball and the other dominates with a mid-90's heat and sharp, near untouchable, slider. Pitcher 1 is R.A. Dickey. Pitcher 2 is his American League counterpart for the Cy Young, David Price. Price gains more acclaim due to his first overall pick pedigree and talented fastball, but Dickey has been just as successful over the past three seasons. Dickey is not some one-hit wonder or guy that got lucky for one season. He is a legitimate ace and should be in the discussion for among the top ten pitchers in baseball. Despite Dickey's advanced age, knuckleballers have shown the normal laws of pitching aging do not apply to their limited fraternity. Seen from the likes of Tim Wakefield (pitched till 44), Phil Niekro (48), Hoyt Wilhelm (49, albeit as a reliever), pitching well into your 40's as a knuckleballer is far from uncharted territory. In fact, many of these pitchers had remarkable success in the later stages of their career. Dickey adds a legitimate #1 starter to a team that had a hard time just getting innings from their starters, and in my opinion, puts their potential rotation as the best in the AL East.

            Even though the Mets are losing a 20 game winner, that is not to say the Mets did poorly in this trade.  In fact, they added a serious influx of talent that should vastly improve their team in the upcoming years. The centerpiece of this trade is 23 year old catcher, Travis d'Arnaud (pronounced dar-no), who is coming off a superb season in triple-A. This past season he hit .333/.380/.595 with 16 home runs in hitter-paradise Las Vegas. Although highly regarded for his offensive talents, d'Arnaud also possesses a strong arm and is rapidly improving behind the plate with a chance to be a league average defender. One possible cause for concern, however, was his extreme BABIP in AAA (.374) which could have portrayed his numbers being better than advertised. Additionally, his season was cut short after suffering a torn PCL in his left knee and has faced injury concerns in the past. However, it seems as though d'Arnaud is completely healed with a chance to be the Met's Opening Day catcher. Even with his injury and minor league transition concerns, d'Arnaud's special bat from behind the plate gives him the potential to be an annual all-star talent.

            The other big piece heading to Queens is gifted prep right hander, Noah Syndergaard.  Syndergaard dominated in high-A Lansing with a 2.60 ERA, a 2.7 walks per nine rate, and a sterling 10.6 K/9. Syndergaard possesses a sinking fastball that routinely sits in the mid to upper 90's and features a plus curveball as well. Undoubtedly, Syndergaard is a talented arm, but remains years away from reaching his potential and comes with the inherent risk of being a minor league pitching prospect. If everything clicks, Syndergaard could be a strong number two starter, with occasional flashes of brilliance with his dominant arsenal.

First Impressions:

Winners: Blue Jays, Mets

            The Blue Jays added a starter that further legitimizes their chances as an American League contender. In addition to the overall benefit of adding a CY winner, the Jays are capitalizing on a rare window of opportunity in the AL East, with the aging of the Yankees, the incompetence of the Red Sox, and the questions surrounding both the Rays and Orioles. Also, Dickey is as safe a bet for a 38 year old due to his repertoire that should keep him successful to the end of his contract. The collective improvements to the team this offseason makes the Jays a real contender for the American League pennant. 

            The Mets, although not as far away as some may think, added serious talent to a system devoid of quality position prospects. D'Arnaud is deservedly one of the best catching prospects in the minors, and his complete package is just so rare nowadays behind the plate. Furthermore, Syndergaard represents another potential stud in the rotation (to go along with a potentially scary rotation of Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, and Jon Niese). Despite the fact that it will take some time for him to get there, his talent alone is worth the gamble for a team that would not have had much of a purpose for a 38 year old knuckleballer.

Explanation:   

            One week ago, I criticized the Royals for trading prospects in exchange for an above average starter, all in the name of "going for it." Now, I'm praising the Jays for doing the same thing? Call me a hypocrite if you like, but there are several key differences between this trade and the Shields one. For one, the Jays are just much closer to reaching their goal of the postseason than the Royals. Just look at the rotations, even without any numbers, and see which you would have more confidence in:

Royals: James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Bruce Chen, Ervin Santana, Wade Davis

Blue Jays: R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero

Personally, it is not even close, as I am way in favor of the Jays' rotation. Even the offenses do not compare as seen in last year's numbers alone. Toronto's offense rated at about average while KC's was among the league's worst. Last I checked, the Royals did not do anything to improve in this regard while the Blue Jays added Melky Cabrera, Jose Reyes, and Emilio Bonifacio. That is also without mentioning a healthy Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie. Second, although all prospects carry an inherent risk, to me Myers' unblemished injury history and more legitimate minor league numbers give me more confidence in his future success than d'Arnaud. Mortgaging the future for a mediocre present is not how ballclubs should be run. If the Royals were to pull off a trade to further legitimize their playoff chances, that might change my opinion of the Shields-Myers swap. But for now, that trade was poorly executed, and this trade exemplified how to build a club up from rags to riches. 

BY: AIDAN FLYNN
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Obligatory R.A. Dickey knuckleball
 
 
                There is a reason why Joey Votto collected just 56 runs batted in in 111 games in 2012.  That reason is the guys hitting in front of him and not getting on base.  The Reds had a league worst .254 OBP from their leadoff hitters in 2012.  That problem was quickly solved in a deal that centered around outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.  He was acquired, along with infielder Jason Donald and $3.5 million, from the Cleveland Indians in a trade that involved three teams and nine players overall.  The Indians receive outfielder Drew Stubbs from Cincinnati and pitchers Trevor Bauer, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw from the Diamondbacks.  Arizona gets minor league shortstop Didi Gregorius, lefthander Tony Sipp and first baseman Lars Anderson from Cleveland

                With few weaknesses remaining on the major league club, the Reds have finally found their guy to bat leadoff.  Shin Soo Choo has consistently shown the ability to get on base at a high level throughout his career with a .381 career OBP.  After being injured in 2011, he came back strong in 2012 with a .283/.373/.441 batting line.  Along with getting on base, Choo has good power and speed numbers as well with 43 doubles, 16 long balls, and 21 stolen bases in 2012.  Additionally, he was a 20-home run, 20-stolen base guy in 2009 and 2010.  The one hole in Choo’s overall offensive game is the strike out.  He did that 150 times in 2012, which is not ideal from a leadoff hitter.  However, Choo’s walk rate (10.6%) and ability to get on base is what the Reds are looking for when they traded for him.  However, one major question Choo's acquisition presents  is who will replace Stubbs in center? He was a below average right fielder in 2012, with -12 defensive runs saved and limited experience in center (83 innings). It has been documented that Choo will be the starting center fielder next season, but should continue to be a below average outfielder as he makes this positional transition.  Also, the Reds got utility infielder Jason Donald from the Indians.  Donald has never played more than 88 games in his 3 year career.  Overall in 170 career games, Donald has hit .257/.309/.362 with 7 home runs.  The Reds can use Donald to play multiple positions as he has played shortstop, second base, third base, and even 8 games in the outfield (5 in LF, 3 in CF) in 2012.  Statistically however, it is shown that he is a below average defender with -12 defensive runs saved for his career. 

                Now, for the players the Indians received.  Outfielder Drew Stubbs is a player who has flashed crazy tools, but has never compiled those numbers in a single season.  Stubbs has shown to be a good speed threat with at least 30 stolen bases in his last 3 seasons.  However, the trouble for him is getting on base.  He has also struggled to hit for a consistent batting average with a career stat line of .241/.312/.386.  Stubbs has not been able to walk much either, with just 44 in 544 plate appearances in 2012.  A league-leading 205 strike outs in 2011, Stubbs' propensity to miss will not help his OBP as well.  Throughout his career, he has just one defensive run saved and just two alone from last year, making him about an average defender in center.  The Indians are hoping he can bounce back from a career worst -0.2 WAR in 2012 and add speed to their outfield and offensive game.  Trevor Bauer may end up being the biggest piece of this trade, but he has yet to prove anything at the big league level.  Bauer was drafted third overall in 2011, and was ranked as Arizona’s number one prospect in 2012. He has an extremely deep repertoire with a plus low-mid 90's fastball, elite 12-6 curveball, solid changeup, and his personally created "reverse slider" (as seen below for your viewing pleasure). Yet, he has shown little ability to throw strikes consistently, as evidenced by his below average 4.2 BB/9 rate in the minors.
               Statistically speaking, Bauer struggled in 4 major league starts (6.06 ERA, 7.2 BB/9), but had very effective minor league numbers with AA and AAA.  In 130.1 innings, he compiled a 2.42 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 157 strikeouts.  Bauer will just be 22 years old in 2013 and the Indians are hoping he can live up to hype and be a productive starter for them in the future.  The Indians will also receive bullpen help from Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw.  Albers has struggled throughout his career with a career ERA of 4.68 and ERA+ of 94.  However, still just 29 years old, Albers posted career-highs with the Red Sox and Diamondbacks in 2012.  In 60.1 innings, he had a 2.39 ERA with a 181 ERA+.  A hard thrower, Albers may have benefited from a lower walk rate in 2012.  He walked walked 3.3 batters per 9 innings in 2012, compared to his career mark of 4.1 BB/9 and previous career high of 4.0 BB/9 in 2008 and 2010.  Shaw, 24, is a young reliever with just 2 years of MLB experience.  However he has shown he can be very productive in his 87.2 career innings pitched.  He has an ERA of 3.18 and ERA+ of 129 for his career.  

                As for Arizona, they acquire shortstop Didi Gregorius, lefthander Tony Sipp and first basemen Lars Anderson in this deal.  Gregorius, just 22 years old, has put up average numbers throughout his minor league career.  He has batted .271/.323/.376 in 5 minor league seasons.  Last year with AA and AAA he batted .265/.324/.393 with just 7 home runs and 3 stolen bases.  He has the reputation of being a glove first, bat second, player capable of being a highlight film in the field. Lars Anderson, former Red Sox top prospect, has only played in 30 games in the big leagues and has hit .167/.268/.188.  In the minor leagues he has hit .272/.369/.432 for his career with solid plate selection and a good glove.  He has shown the ability to hit for power, although his home run total dropped to just 9 in 111 games in AAA.  Lefty Tony Sipp has shown the ability to be productive, although very inconsistent during his four year stint in the majors.  His ERA+’s from 2009-2012 have progressively worsened from 146 to 96 to 130 to 89.  This inconsistency is a problem because of his wildness with a walk rate of 4.5 per nine innings.

First Impressions: 

Winners: Reds, Indians: Reds added the leadoff they desperately needed, even if he might not be the best suited to play in center field. By dumping Choo, who had just one year remaining on his deal and would not have resigned with the Tribe, the Indians acquired an extremely talented arm in Bauer and decent outfield option in Stubbs with a combined 9 years of team control remaining. 

Loser: Diamondbacks: Arizona acquired the young shortstop they so desperately coveted, except that Gregorious profiles most likely as a glove first shortstop. Nothing against defensive first shortstops who are young and have potential, but usually the price does not involve dealing a top pitching prospect, which is the downfall in this deal. If Gregorious can correct his offensive  issues, this trade could work out for the D-Backs, but seems unlikely given his scouting and statistical profile. 

By: Nick Rabasco
 
 
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Wil Myers is part of the haul going to TB
         Late Sunday night, the Rays and Royals agreed on a blockbuster trade that would send RHP James Shields, RHP Wade Davis, and a PTBNL (Player To Be Named Later) to Kansas City in exchange for BTP's 3rd overall prospect, OF Wil Myers, along with RHP Jake Odorizzi, LHP Mike Montgomery, and 3B Patrick Leonard. Every player going to the Royals has a minimum of six years of team control (at or around major league minimum) while Shields is expected to make $21 million for the next two years and Davis is expected to make 32.6 over the next five. For those that saw my continuous discussions with NJIT's own Robbie McClellan , you already know my feelings on this trade. For those that did not observe the aforementioned debate, needless to say I think that the Rays came out as the clear victors.

            In 2012, the Kansas City Royals finished 16 games behind the division leading Tigers with an overall record of 72-90. Collectively, the pitching staff managed to be near the bottom of many statistical categories including walks, hits, and runs allowed. The lowest ERA for a full time member of the rotation belonged to right-hander Luis Mendoza with an unsightly 4.23 ERA. There is no doubt at all that the Royals were in desperate need of pitching. They somewhat alleviated this problem by acquiring Ervin Santana from the Angels and resigning Jeremy Guthrie. I say somewhat because Guthrie and Santana own career ERA+ of 103 and 97, respectively. They basically are league average pitchers and only serve as modest improvements to last year's staff. Now, the Royals are acquiring a very solid pitcher in James Shields. Despite not being a true ace, as some proclaim, Shields still offers a ton of innings (over 200 innings every year since rookie season), strikes batters out (8.4 K/9 last three seasons), and limits free passes (career 2.1 BB/9).
         
           In addition, one would think he is as close to a sure bet to take the mound every fifth day, with his only injury history being a couple of leg contusions from a batted ball. But like prospects, pitchers are no sure thing either. Shields entered 2012 as one of 26 pitchers to have thrown 600 or more innings from 2009-2011. Some pitchers in that group include Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Jon Lester, Dan Haren, Chris Carpenter, and Ricky Romero. One year later, these "innings eaters" have certainly lost some of their luster. Halladay, Haren, and Carpenter all spent time on the DL while Lincecum, Lester, and Romero all suffered the worst seasons of their careers. While Shields is a very good pitcher and should immediately fill the void of a frontline starter, he cannot make up for the ineptitude for the rest of the starting rotation and team. Another quip on Shields is his disconcerting home/road splits. While pitching in pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field, Shields has pitched to the tune of a 4.54 ERA, .91 HR/9, and 1.29 WHIP. Away from the Trop, Shields becomes a much different pitcher. Owning 4.54 ERA, 1.40 HR/9, and 1.29 WHIP on the road, we would be remiss to say that Shields is as a good as his numbers suggest. This is not to discredit Shields as an excellent major league pitcher, but this just further stresses the fact that the Royals overpaid for a guy who really is more good than great.

            The other pitcher heading to America's heartland is Wade Davis. Davis spent all of 2012 as a reliever after spending his whole career as a starter.  As usually expected with starter to reliever transitions, Davis enjoyed his best season to date, with a 157 ERA+, 11.1 K/9 and 2.43 ERA. During his years as a starter, Davis had a 4.22 ERA, 92 ERA+, 5.9 K/9. As a reliever, Davis was more than solid and further cemented in my mind what role he should be fulfilling. Davis going to the rotation for the Royals is just going to stick them with another league average starter to complement their other league average starters.

            As for the Rays haul, I suppose your view on the trade depends on your view of crown jewel prospect, Wil Myers. My opinion of him is pretty favorable, as I had him as the third best prospect in baseball and think his bat has a chance to be pretty special. For those that do not know, Myers was Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year, which has had an extreme amount of success in predicting future big league stardom among position players:

1992: Tim Salmon
1993: Manny Ramirez
1994: Derek Jeter
1995: Andruw Jones
1996: Andruw Jones
1997: Paul Konerko
1998: Eric Chavez
2002: Rocco Baldelli
2003: Joe Mauer
2005: Delmon Young
2006: Alex Gordon
2007: Jay Bruce
2008: Matt Wieters
2009: Jason Heyward
2011: Mike Trout

            Pretty good company, eh? In addition to that, Myers is the first 21 yr old to hit 37 HRs in the high minors (AA and AAA) since 1963. He had a triple slash of .314/.387/.600 while playing against much older competition. Even the odds are on his side, as 61% of top twenty position player prospects succeed in the majors. For now, even just throw out the star potential for Myers and imagine if he was a replacement level player (0.0 WAR). Incumbent right fielder for the Royals is Jeff Francoeur, who had an all-time historically bad season with -2.7 WAR. Just by inserting the major league ready Myers into the Opening day lineup, it would be fairly reasonable to see a 3+ swing in the standings. Some even believe that marching Francoeur on the field instead of Myers could make acquiring Shields a complete wash. This trade really just represents a "rob Peter to pay Paul" scenario where the Royals are filling of position of need by stealing from another positional need. There's a reason the Royals have not made the playoffs in nearly 30 years and it has much more to do with this front office's ineptitude than failing prospects. The money now allotted to Shields ($21 million over 2 years) could have been used to sign a guy like Brandon McCarthy or Edwin Jackson while still being able to put Myers in RF. This could have solved both problems at hand rather than creating a problem to fix a problem. This is just not a smart baseball decision and frankly just is not common sense.

            In addition to Myers, the Rays acquired Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard. Odorizzi spent time most of the minors in double A and triple A and projects as a solid middle of the rotation piece with good control despite his mediocre stuff. He was ranked as #31 in my prospect countdown. Montgomery represents a bit of a lottery ticket as he completely fell of the rails in 2012, posting a hideous 6.07 ERA and 5-12 record. His stuff is quite good for a lefty, with a plus fastball and an elite changeup but has been killed for his complete lack of control and command. In my opinion, the most realistic scenario for Montgomery is as a situational lefty to neutralize the left-handed opposition. Leonard posted solid numbers in rookie ball with a .251/.340/.494 triple slash and flashed polished defense at the hot corner. He remains a long ways away from reaching his potential, but has a ceiling of an above average third basemen.

First Impressions:

Winner: Rays. Rays dealt from a position of strength and while they certainly will feel the loss of Shields, their talented arms should minimize this shortfall. Additionally, the Rays can use the money saved from Shields and reinvest it into improving the club. Lastly, the Rays added four quality minor league talents with one having a legitimate shot a major league stardom. Even if Myers doesn't reach his potential, just becoming a solid major leaguer should push this trade in favor of the Rays

Loser: Royals. Royals traded a major haul of talent for a pitcher that will minimally improve the team as a whole. Shields is a very good pitcher and should help the Royals improve for 2013. However, for a team with a ton of other needs, Shields alone is not going to make up a 20 win swing in the standings and make the Royals a contender. If the Royals were one good starting pitcher away from contending, this trade could be justified. But the current circumstances of the team does not justify mortgaging away the future success for 2013 mediocrity.

 By: Aidan Flynn


 
 
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Michael Young is saying goodbye to Texas and hello to Philly
            After years of requesting for a trade, Michael Young has finally received his wish from the Rangers' front office. Young, 36, is heading to the Philadelphia Phillies for reliever Josh Lindblom and minor league pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla. The Rangers will pick up $10 million on Young's $16 million tab for the 2013 season. The trade was pending Young's agreement to waive his no-trade clause.

            Michael Young was the face of post-Alex Rodrguez baseball in Arlington. During his tenure with the red, white, and blue, Young hit .301/.347/.444 while spending time at every infield position and DH.  Additionally, Young had become the Ranger's all-time leader in games played, hits, doubles, and runs, all the while becoming one of the most popular and well respected players in team history. However, the Phillies are not receiving the player that accomplished all of those feats and accolades. Instead, they will insert Young as their starting third baseman just one year removed from one of the worst all-around seasons by anybody in recent memory. Young hit poor .277/.312/.370 (despite playing in one of the most hitter friendly parks in baseball) and was a well below average defender (-12 defensive runs saved) during his limited time in the field. He compiled a -2.4 win season (second worst WAR in 2012), which more than likely contributed to the Rangers falling one game short of the division title. Now, the Phillies are expecting a sudden rejuvenation from a player that saw his walk rate and line drive percentage decline and ground ball percentage increase by over 6 points. If you're Ben Revere and you increase your ground ball rate, that's a good thing; if you're Michael Young, however, a lot of those ground balls will end up becoming outs.

            In addition, Young has experienced severe home/road splits that question his ability to hit outside of Texas' friendly confines. His home numbers (.320/.368/.479, .351 BABIP, 114 OPS+) present him to be an above average hitter while his numbers on the road (.283/.326/.410, .319 BABIP, 86 OPS+) make him look much more pedestrian. Even with Citizens Bank Park being favorable to hitters, it still does not match Arlington's offensive prowess and Young should expect his numbers to further decline. If there is one positive from Young's season, it is that he had the second lowest BABIP (35 points below career average of .334) of his career and his performance was likely further spoiled by this bad luck. Even if his BABIP returns to norm, I have a hard time believing Young will be anything above replacement level (0.0 WAR), especially so when his already atrocious defense should not take a transition to the hot corner well.

            While Young gives the Phillies a strong clubhouse presence and  someone who will not embarrass himself at third, is he really any better than Freddy Galvis ? Even with Young's "leadership" ability, he has complained frequently about his lack of playing time in the past, twice requesting for a trade. Ironically enough, the Rangers made the World Series the year he asked for a trade following the signing of Adrian Beltre. I am not going to try to insinuate any more about Young as a person, but can a guy's personality alone be worth $6 million? Regardless, I think it is telling alone that the Rangers would be willing to trade a franchise icon and swallow $10 million for a couple of relievers.

            As for the Rangers return in the trade, relievers Josh Lindblom and Lisalverto Bonilla will be headed to the Lone Star state. Lindblom performed admirably in his 2012 rookie season, finishing with a 3.55 ERA, 110 ERA+, and an 8.9 K/9 ratio. Lindblom sits in the low to mid 90's, and flashes a plus slurve. Overall, Lindblom was a middle reliever in 2012 and should continue to be one throughout his career. As for Bonilla, he offers exciting potential after dominating (1.55 ERA, 12.4 K/9) in high A Clearwater and double A Reading. He mixes a 92-96 mph fastball and a strong changeup that features excellent movement. Some scouts believe that both of these pitches qualify as plus-plus, or elite level. He struggles with his control at times, but the Rangers added an exciting arm with the potential of a solid closer.

First Impressions

Winner: Texas Rangers. Despite losing a franchise legend, the Rangers are the victors of this trade. While the pitchers received offer only reliever upside, Young became a black hole of sorts and was overpaid. With this trade, the Rangers free up a bit of cash and should not find it hard to replace Young's on-field production.

Loser: Philadelphia Phillies. Although one would find it hard to believe that acquiring a 7-time All Star for a couple of relievers is a bad decision, this is what this trade embodies. Young really is not much of a player at this point in his career and offers little to no upside over any alternatives. While I do expect Young to rebound, it still should not be enough for the Phillies to get their money's worth.

-Aidan Flynn

 
 
     After speculation that the Phillies were dangling pitcher Cliff Lee for an outfielder like Justin Upton or Jacoby Ellsbury, they did end up trading a starting pitcher for an outfielder. However, that pitcher’s name was not the former Cy Young winner.  Vance  Worley was sent to the Minnesota Twins along with minor league pitcher Trevor May for outfielder Ben Revere.  With Ellsbury and Upton most likely commanding lengthy and expensive contracts in the near future, the Phillies decided to go with a less expensive option. 
     

     Ben Revere has played about two-thirds of a season each of the past two years with 117 games in 2011 and 124 a year ago.  In those two years Revere has shown he can hit for a decent batting average and steal a lot of bases.  However, he has proven to hit for almost no power as he has yet to go yard in a major league game.  In 2012, Revere batted .294/.333/.342 with an OPS+ of 89 and 40 stolen bases.  With his speed and league-leading ground ball percentage (67%), Revere figures to be slotted in the leadoff spot for Charlie Manual’s squad.  The one thing that is worry-some for the Phillies is that he does not walk nearly as much as he should.  He walked just 29 times last year in 553 plate appearances.  Revere is also a great defensive outfielder.  Playing some of all three outfield positions in 2012, Revere made zero errors, saved 8 runs and had 8 assists.  Revere had a WAR of 2.4 last season and being just 24 years old, the Phillies expect him to improve on that number as he will man center field at the bank in 2013.  

      The Twins biggest problem is pitching, as they were second to last in the American league with a team ERA of 4.77.  After trading Denard Span to Washington, the Twins have now given up another outfielder for two young pitchers in Vance Worley and Trevor May.  Worley has two years of major league experience but has not thrown more than 133 innings in a season yet.  He was much better in his rookie year, with an ERA+ of 127, than his sophomore season (95 ERA+).  One noticeable difference for Worley was his BABIP.  In 2011 batters hit .283 off Worley on balls put into play, and in 2012 his BABIP was .340.  This could be a sign of some bad luck for Worley in 2012.  He did however not strikeout as many batters in 2012 as he struck out 7.2 batters per nine innings compared to his 8.1 mark in 2011.  Overall, this is a nice addition to a Twins rotation that certainly needs 
some help heading into 2013.  

Nick Rabasco

      This trade saw another power arm head to Minnesota, this time with Washington state native Trevor May. May entered the season as the Phillies' top prospect. During his breakout 2011 campaign for high A Clearwater, May had a 3.63 ERA and struck out a ridiculous 12 batters per nine innings. However, 2012 was a reality check as May struggled mightily with his control (4.7 BB/9) and home runs (22 HR in 149 innings) in double A Reading. His mid-nineties heat with excellent sink and a plus curveball still allowed him to strike guys out (9 K/9), but not at nearly the rate he was the year prior. Despite his prototypical pitcher's frame (6'5", 220 lbs), he struggled with maintaining his stuff and velocity throughout games, which lead to poor pitch execution (often leading to a home run). This combination of control issues and fatigue could lead him to the bullpen, where his stuff could play up and minimize his shortcomings. If May manages to regain his control, he should be a solid middle of the rotation starter. However, the jury is still out on May's ability to throw strikes, with most feeling a transition to the late innings is inevitable. Regardless, the Twins added a talented pitcher that should help their club in some capacity by 2014. 

First Impressions 

Winner: Twins: If the trade was just Revere for Worley, this would have about as equal a trade as possible. Although May isn't special per say, his talented arm was enough to swing this trade in favor of the Twins, a team in desperate need of pitching.

Loser: Phillies: Again, not a knock on Revere, but the Phillies really did not need to include a top prospect. Either way, the Phillies got a more than serviceable outfielder that should provide excellent defense and hold his own in the NL East.


Aidan Flynn


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Ben Revere is taking his talents to the City of Brotherly Love.
 
 
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             An offseason in which the Nationals' major goal was to find a center fielder and leadoff hitter, the Nats killed two birds with one stone by acquiring outfielder Denard Span. On Thursday, the Minnesota Twins reached an agreement to send Span to the Washington Nationals  for minor league pitcher Alex Meyer. Span is signed through 2014 and has a $9 million club option for 2015.

                Denard Span will be moving from a rebuilding Minnesota Twins ball club to a Washington Nationals team who is expected to be amongst the best in the game again in 2013.  Span absolutely strengthens this team as he will provide some solid production from the outfield.  Expected to slot in as Washington’s leadoff hitter, Span has hit .284/.357/.389 throughout his 5 year career.  In this aspect, Span should certainly be an upgrade, as National leadoff hitters only hit a collective .276/.325/.419 for 2012. Span is also coming off a successful 2012 season in which he batted .283/.342/.395 and had a career high in WAR (4.8). In addition, Span provides above average speed as he stole 17 bases in 2012 and has shown the ability to steal 20-25 bags in the past.  To complete his all around package, Span is a terrific defensive center fielder who had 20 defensive runs saved and the highest dWAR (2.4) among outfielders in 2012. Span is a perfect match for a team in need of a center fielder and his deal is short enough that it should not block minor leaguer Brian Goodwin when he is ready. 

-Nick Rabasco

                Heading to the Twin Cities (or at least AA affiliate New Britain, CT) is 6'9", 220 lb man-child, Alex Meyer. Meyer finished the season in High A Potomac with a 2.86 ERA, 129 innings, 139 strikeouts, and a superb 6.7 H/9. Meyer's repertoire includes a high 90's fastball and a plus, wipeout slider that sits in the low-mid 80's. His changeup remains a work in progress. In addition to his changeup questions, his height has given him problems repeating his delivery. An inability to control and repeat one's delivery leads to ineffective and erratic command. And an inability to command one's stuff often results in being delegated to relief. If Meyer were to go in relief, his command issues could be minimized while his stuff could play up in shorter durations. Throughout the year, Meyer battled bouts of wildness, but showed improved command of his pitches (3.1 BB/9) compared to his time at the University of Kentucky. In reality, if Meyer can maintain this ability to throw strikes, there is a good bet he can remain a starter, a position in which more value lies (see Chapman piece on the value of innings). Minnesota acquired an uber-talented arm with front of the rotation potential. However, for Minnesota to claim victory on this trade, it hinges on Meyer's ability to start at the big league level. For additional information on Alex Meyer, check out the scouting report released during our prospect ranking countdown.

-Aidan Flynn  

First Impressions

Winners: Nationals, Twins;  
              
               Both teams acquired players that will suit their short term and long term needs. The Nationals further augmented a team that won the most games in the junior circuit, and Span's extremely reasonable contract should give the team financial flexibility to make additional moves (Adam LaRoche?). 
              The Twins are clearly a team in rebuild mode and improved the farm system with one of the most talented arms in the minors. If Meyer would have to transition to reliever, this trade would swing in favor of Washington, but I have enough confidence in Meyer's ability that this trade should work out well for both parties involved.


 
 
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Tommy Hanson
             In a classic, one-for-one, baseball trade, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim sent reliever Jordan Walden to the Atlanta Braves for starting pitcher Tommy Hanson. Hanson is owed a projected $4 million in arbitration and is under team control through 2015 while Walden makes the major league minimum and is under team control through 2016.

            The explanation behind the title deals with the  numerous afflictions that have ailed both pitchers in the past couple years. Hanson, a 22nd round draftee of the Braves in 2006, has had extensive history with shoulder and back problems. Last year, Hanson had two separate DL stints dealing with rotator cuff strain and shoulder tendinitis. This year, he dealt with a car-crash induced  concussion and another DL stint with back strain. However, his persistent injury history is not even the biggest concern regarding Hanson's future big league success. His fastball velocity has correlated with his previous shoulder pain and has seen precipitous drops since his 2010 sophomore campaign. Since 2010, his average fastball velocity has dropped from 92.7 to 91.2 (2011) to 89.7 this past season. Not surprisingly, his performance has coincided with his shoulder issues and velocity decrease. From 2010, his ERA has increased 1.15 runs (3.33 to 4.48), his ERA+ has decreased 28 points (117 to 89), and his walks per nine innings has increased by 1.2 (2.5 to 3.7). By most means, he went from an above average starter to a mediocre below average one in a matter of two years.

            Obviously, these are not favorable trends  for any pitcher, let alone one with serious durability concerns. I am by no means an expert on pitching mechanics, but Hanson's delivery and short arm throwing motion (see below) seem awkward at best and could certainly be the basis for his shoulder ailments. Now, Hanson heads back to his hometown Angels, a team in desperate need for starting pitching after dealing Ervin Santana and letting Zack Greinke and Dan Haren walk as free agents. If… a big if… Hanson is healthy, he could be a more than serviceable starter and fill in solidly as a mid rotation guy.


            Like Tommy Hanson, Jordan Walden has seen his performance suffer due to injury and velocity attrition. One year after saving 32 games in his rookie season, Walden entered the season as the team's closer. Yet, early season struggles (8.31 ERA in first month) quickly saw he demoted of the role in favor of Ernesto Frieri, only to then miss 35 games with an arm strain. Although Walden struck out an impressive 11.08 batters per nine innings and solid peripherals (3.02 FIP), the two ticks of fastball velocity lost since 2010 is quite concerning. Once again unsurprisingly, Walden saw his numbers drop as he finished the year with a 3.46 ERA in 39 innings, while producing a slightly above average ERA+ of 110. One positive that differentiates 
Walden from Hanson is the type of injury suffered. Shoulder issues tend to have high re-injury rates and more damning long term consequences, even more so for a starting pitcher. Walden's less serious bicep strain and injury risk in general should be mitigated by pitching in relief for shorter durations and in fewer total injuries.

First Impressions:

Winner: Braves; Atlanta dumped a wrecked pitcher who's peripherals are all trending in the wrong direction for a decent middle reliever. Even if Walden happens to flame out, the chances of Hanson doing so are just as high and this trade could very well end up as a wash. In this case, the team that dumped the most money (Atlanta) would be the winners of this forgettable trade.

Loser: Angels; The Angels acquired the starter they desperately needed, but one I am very hesitant  to pencil in for more than 10 or so starts. His injury, velocity, and command decline do not portend for future success. Although Walden will not be missed much in Anaheim, the Angels probably could have done better than Hanson.

-Aidan Flynn
 
 
             Tuesday night brought the unexpected news of a major blockbuster between the Miami Marlins and the Toronto Blue Jays. Akin to the Red Sox-Dodger deal in August, big names and big money is being moved between the two franchises, and should have huge ramifications for the futures of both teams. Although these consequences will be detailed later in the article, here are the details of the trade: the Toronto Blue Jays will acquire shortstop Jose Reyes, right-handed pitcher Josh Johnson, left-handed pitcher Mark Buehrle, outfielder Emilio Bonafacio, catcher John Buck, and $4 million (Blue Jays will eat the other $167 million remaining on the contracts); the Miami Marlins will acquire shortstop Yunel Escobar, infielder Adeiny Hechavarria, right-handed pitcher Henderson Alvarez, minor league left-handed starter Justin Nicolino, minor league outfielder Jake Marisnick, catcher Jeff Mathis, and minor league right-handed pitcher Anthony DeSclafani .

    The American League East just got even stronger, if you can believe that to be possible.  The Toronto Blue Jays made themselves an instant force with one big blow, landing major talent from the Miami Marlins.  The Jays are coming off just a 73 win season in 2012 and have already let manager John Farrell go to the Boston Red Sox.  However, they have filled 2 gaps in their starting rotation and added a sparkplug shortstop in Jose Reyes.  They have also received catcher John Buck, back for his second go-around with the club, and Emilio Bonifacio.  

    Let's start with the pitching.  Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle are two guys that Toronto can immediately move to the front end of the rotation.  Johnson has the talent to be a legitimate ace and he has shown that ability when he lead the league in ERA and ERA+ (2.30, 180) in 2010.  The big question surrounding Johnson is his health and durability.  He has only managed to throw 200+ innings once in his 8 year career.  He is coming off a decent season in 2012 in which he had a 3.81 ERA and 104 ERA+ in 191.1 innings.  The ability to be a 6+ WAR pitcher is there (2009 & 2010) for Johnson. The only question, once again, is his health and durability.  However, durability is not a question for the other rotation piece Alex Anthopoulos picked up, crafty lefty Mark Buehrle. Buehrle returns to the American League after just one season in the senior circuit and is heading into his age 34 season. He has thrown at least 200 innings in a whopping 12 straight seasons, with his most serious injury being a day-to-day cut from opening a mayonnaise jar.  He has been extremely consistent with his production as well.  He has never had a season with an ERA over 5 and just one season with an ERA over 4.28, with his career mark at 3.82.  He also has had just one season (4.99 ERA, 95 ERA+) with an ERA+ of under 100.  He will however give up his share of base hits despite tossing 2 career no hitters, one of which being a perfect game.  He averages 234 hits per season.  His command is very good, walking an average of 5.4% of hitters compared to the league average of 8.6%.  When it's all set and done, the Blue Jays should be very pleased with these two additions to their starting rotation.  

     Offensively, Toronto has added some nice pieces as well.  They have added two elite base-stealers to go along with Rajai Davis (40 SBs in 3 of his last 4 seasons).  Reyes is coming off a 40 stolen base season while Bonifacio is coming off a 30 steal season.  There's no question that the Jays now have the ability to cause havoc on the base paths night in and night out.  However, despite this speed and talent, there are some question marks.  With Reyes, he has struggled to consistently stay on the field throughout his career. From 2009-2011 he played in 36, 133 and 126  games respectively.  However he is coming off a 160 game season in 2012, which is a good sign for where his health stand heading into 2013.  Reyes can swing the bat as well, with a career line of .291/.342/.440.  He is also one season removed from winning a National League batting title with a .337 average.  Reyes has great tools as well defensively with a rocket for an arm, however he has struggled to be consistent.  He has committed at least 15 errors at shortstop the past three seasons and has a career defensive runs saved total of -18 runs while coming off his career worst defensive season (-17) in 2012.  He has also had a negative UZR over the past four seasons, with his 2012 mark at -2.8.  As for Bonifacio, the question is getting on base.  He owns just a .329 OBP, which has hindered his stolen base opportunites in the past.  He is coming off a tough year in which he played just 64 games and hit .258/.330/.316 with 30 steals in 33 attempts.  The Blue Jays are hoping Emilio can return to his break-out season of 2011 that saw him hit .296/.360/.393 with 40 steals in 51 tries.  The Blue Jays also were able to snag veteran and former all-star backstop, John Buck.  Buck is a guy who can backup J.P. Arencibia or fill in at DH here and there if needed.  He had the best season of his career back in 2010 with the Jays, finishing at .281/.314/.489 while hitting 20 long balls.  However, he has declined the past two seasons and is coming off a campain in which he hit .192/.297/.347 and 12 home runs in 106 games played.  Considering where the Blue Jays finished last year, their fan base should be very excited to see this trade occur.  Any team who can add Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck all in one trade has definitely improved for the upcoming season.  -Nick Rabasco


              What a season it has been for the Miami Marlins. An offseason that provided a state-of-the-art, publicly funded stadium, brand new uniforms, a re-branding of the franchise, star player signings, and the most obnoxious structure in sports sent unprecedented excitement throughout a notoriously poor baseball community. Then, the regular season started. The Marlins went 8-14 in the first month and new manager Ozzie Guillen (hired to appeal to the Hispanic/Latino Miami population) outraged the entire city with his remarks regarding his admiration of Fidel Castro, which resulted in a five game suspension. The Marlins would continue to struggle and finished with a worse record (69-93) than in 2011, despite having a payroll $44 million more in 2012.

            It's clear 2012 was a season to forget for the Marlins, which prompted this major transaction. The two big major league players heading to South Beach are Yunel Escobar and Henderson Alvarez. Escobar, seemingly the model of inconsistency, suffered a horrendous offensive campaign with a 75 OPS+ and whose attitude resulted in a suspension following writing a homophobic slur on his eyeblack. Escobar has flashed his potential before (4+ WAR in 2009, 2011) but with his current makeup issues, one has to wonder if he'll ever return to that level of production. Alvarez, basically a replacement level starter in 2012 (.1 WAR) faced a steep decline from his solid rookie season. His superb K/BB rate in 2011 of 5.00 decreased dramatically to just 1.46 as he saw he BB rate increase and K rate decline. Not necessarily a good sign going forward for any pitcher. At this point, he should just be an innings eater for the Fish.

            Among the minor leaguers the Marlins are receiving include highly-touted outfielder Jake  Marisnick, infielder Adeiny Hechavarria, and lefty Justin Nicolino. According to Baseball America, Marisnick is the team's second best prospect with claims of five tool potential. Although he only hit .249/.321/.399 this year, he has plus speed that he utilizes well in center field. He does have some swing n' miss in his game (100 K's), but his strength should at least allow him to have average power if the average does not come along. Hechavarria is among the best defensive shortstops in the minors, and is adept to making both the routine and flashy plays thanks to his cannon for an arm. His hitting ability remains suspect as his triple-A numbers were inflated by playing in hitter friendly Las Vegas and had just a .645 OPS in the majors. As for Nicolino, he profiles a decent mid to back end of the rotation option for the Fish in the near future. He is the classic soft tossing lefty that hits his spots on a routine basis (a la Jamie Moyer) and pitched very well (2.46 ERA, 1.5 BB/9, 8.6 K/9) in high A Lansing.

            However, arguably the biggest prize of all for the Marlins is their newfound financial freedom, saving $160+ million in commitments over the next several seasons. This money could be used to reinvest in the free agent market (something I highly doubt in respect to last year's signings being a complete flop, but still possible) or could be used to lock up talent to long term deals such as 23 year old Giancarlo Stanton (158 OPS+, 5.4 WAR, and league leading .608 SLG). Even that could be in question given Stanton's immediate reaction following the trade, possibly discouraging him from staying in Miami long term. Now normally, trades that dumps unreasonable contracts and are able acquire cheap, young, talent is usually a clear win. Yet, it is not that cut and dry, given the circumstances surrounding the Marlins spending spree last year and the current state of their fan base. After the dismantling of World Series Championship teams and alienation of the baseball community on numerous occasions, 2012 was supposed to be a redemption for past mistakes and failures by ownership. This move only underscores previously ingrained thoughts that the current management group will not allow this team to be successful. Loria's clear ineptitude toward running a franchise has become flat out embarrassing and his continued mistakes have become laughable (unless you are a Marlins fan, my condolences). Don't get me wrong, I completely agree that if mistakes are made and the opportunity arises to wipe that slate clean, take advantage of it. Yet, it seems unlikely that Loria and the front office will reinvest that money into the on-field product given their previous history. At some point, for Marlins fans and just baseball fans alike, this act is getting old. -Aidan Flynn

First Impressions:

Winners: Blue Jays: Toronto was able to add an all-star caliber shortstop, and two very solid pitching options that can fortify an injured riddled rotation in 2013. One concern going forward is the health of both the acquired players and the team in general, but on paper the Jays look to be major contenders for the American League East Division Championship.

Losers: Miami Marlins: Miami was able to hit the reset button, but have basically forfeited the 2013 season and the next several years in general. Lack of trust to reinvest money into the on-field product will have long-term repercussions on baseball in Miami. Do not be surprised if owner Jeffrey Loria is forced to sell the team in the near future. The alienation of the fans and its lack of desire to stay competitive makes this trade a loss for the Fish.
 

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