The Blue Jays’ acquisition of right-handed starter Chase Anderson from the Milwaukee Brewers Monday is not going to be the difference between the team reaching the 81-win plateau or not next season, and it certainly won’t be the catalyst that ignites and accelerates the rebuild. In fact, most fans likely won’t even be able to quantifiably recognize the effect Anderson will have on the club in 2020.
If this is the only thing the Blue Jays do this offseason, it’ll be a disappointing haul for sure. Luckily, this probably isn’t the only trade, move, or transaction that’ll materialize in the coming months.
Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins didn’t prove much with the swap. They still haven’t proven that they’re willing to spend on free-agent arms, nor have they proven that they’re committed to putting together a winning team in 2020.
What they have proved, however, is that they know how to trade up from the baseball equivalent of a paper clip, to say, a fountain pen-sized asset, for lack of a better analogy.
Really, if the front office was looking for a trade that would silence their critics, this wasn’t it. But, that doesn’t mean it was without merit.
In Anderson, the Blue Jays are acquiring a consistent, semi-controllable starting pitcher who, despite his lofty home run and walk numbers, slots in as an adequate fourth starter in an average major-league starting rotation.
He won’t make much in 2020 ($8.5 million) and can bring stability to a staff desperately in need of regular contributors. It might not have been much, but the Blue Jays assessed their target well, gave up little, and were able to complete a trade that looks good from every angle.
This shouldn’t necessarily satisfy Blue Jays fans, but it should at least bring them some moderate level of comfort in knowing that, for all of their faults, their team’s front office hasn’t been devaluating assets as much as certain cynics would have them believe.
Similar to 2016’s Francisco Liriano trade — a deal in which the Blue Jays sent Drew Hutchison to Pittsburgh for Harold Ramirez, Reese McGuire and Liriano, then sent him to Houston for Nori Aoki and Teoscar Hernandez; essentially netting McGuire and Hernandez for Hutchison — this deal demonstrates the sure, albeit slow, way that asset management is perceived internally.
This time around, the front office traded veteran reliever Seunghwan Oh to the Colorado Rockies for outfield prospect Forrest Wall, infielder Chad Spanberger and reliever Bryan Baker. Spanberger was then dealt to the Brewers for Anderson, distilling the trade to Oh for Wall, Baker, and Anderson.
Now, don’t get me wrong, these types of deals aren’t the reason a team wins the World Series, or even makes the postseason, but every team has stories like this, and the Blue Jays are going to need them too.
However, don’t misinterpret the message: these types of deals need to be made in addition to the big free agent splashes and stunning mid-season trades, not instead of them. Had the Astros or Dodgers made this trade and called it an offseason, their fans would surely rejoice and feel confident.
For example, the reason that Boston’s acquisition of the then-middling Steve Pearce was so satiating was because the Red Sox, already on pace to contend, already had their core of both position players and pitchers intact and set in stone.
And so, one should only become skeptical of the front office’s plan for the offseason if more of these moves keep piling up without any significant murmurs surrounding larger acquisitions. If this is a complementary move, it’s perfect. But, if it’s a supplementary move, and these types of moves continue to be supplementary, then the team is in trouble.
As with many offseasons, the Winter Meetings (which this year take place in San Diego from December 8th to December 12th) will be telling. For the Blue Jays, it’ll be the moves themselves, not the circumstances under which they take place, that’ll help surge, or slow down, their rebuild.