The Blue Jays lead the majors in runs.
Now, I don’t mean they lead the league in runs by the usual amount, whether it’s 5, 10, 20 or whatever. The Blue Jays LEAD the LEAGUE in RUNS. They’re scoring 5.28 per game. No one is within 70 runs of them. The second highest scoring offense in the league averages 4.65 runs per game.
Of course, far less impressive than the Jays’ offense is their pitching. For that reason, they were supposed to be all over all of the big-name pitchers available this week. Maybe Cole Hamels was out of reach, but Jeff Samardzija was a popular choice. The Padres’ horde, Mat Latos of the Marlins and Mike Fiers of the Brewers were also being talked about.
And if the Blue Jays did go get a bat, it figured to be an outfielder. Preferably one who hits left-handed. 111 of the Jays’ 130 homers this year have come from right-handed hitters, and while they’ve gotten solid production from every spot, the positions on the team with the lowest OPSs to date are left field and center field.
Then there are the Rockies. The Rockies always need pitching. Their most effective starter this year has been 28-year-old Chris Rusin, a Cubs castoff with a 3-4 record and a 4.13 ERA in 65 1/3 innings. Overall, their starters have a 5.12 ERA, which ranks 29th in MLB ahead of only the Phillies. They’re dead last with a 1.52 WHIP and a 1.8 K:BB ratio.
The other thing the Rockies always seem to need to do is to get cheaper. They don’t really like spending money. They’re not very good at it when they do.
None of this would seem to be a likely recipe for a Troy Tulowitzki-for-Jose Reyes trade. To say this one came out of nowhere would be an understatement. No one would have guessed the Blue Jays were in the market for a shortstop. And no one would have imagined that when the Rockies finally traded Tulo, it would be for a player who has a higher annual salary.
Still, as these things tend to do, things seem to make more sense the deeper one digs.
First and foremost, while this will always be referred to as the Tulo-for-Reyes deal, that’s not at all what it’s about. This was a Tulo-for-Jeff Hoffman and Miguel Castro deal. The Rockies landed two prime arms in return for giving up the game’s preeminent shortstop and taking on a modestly overpaid replacement. A third, as yet undisclosed, prospect is also involved, and the Rockies also parted with veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins. Reyes was not the focus. The trade would have made more sense on the Rockies’ end if it was just Tulo for the young right-handers, but then, the Blue Jays couldn’t have made that deal without somehow shedding Reyes’s salary in the bargain.
It probably comes as a surprise to many, but Reyes is making more than Tulo right now, just not for quite so long. He’s earning $22 million per year through 2017, with a $22 million option or a $4 million buyout for 2018. Tulo makes $20 million per year through 2019, $14 million in 2020 and then $15 million or a $4 million buyout in 2021. There’s also a $2 million trade kicker on Tulo’s contract. At a minimum, the Jays are absorbing an extra $52 million here, while also picking up three more years of control.
So, Reyes essentially had to be in this deal if the Rockies wanted the prospects. What remains to be seen is whether they’ll hold on to him for a bit or if they’ll flip him right away, opening up shortstop for a quality prospect in Trevor Story. Trading Reyes for a couple of prospects, probably eating some salary in the process, is probably the way to go. In Hoffman and Castro, the Rockies got two guys with top-of-the-rotation upside, though it needs to be noted that the former is coming back from Tommy John surgery and the latter couldn’t hack it as a major league reliever this year. Hoffman has the better chance of fulfilling his potential. Castro, though, has an incredible arm, and even if can’t make it as a starter, he could turn into a fine closer.
For the Blue Jays, well, this was all about making it back to the postseason, even if it materialized in a way that no one expected. Tulowitzki is a better hitter and probably a better defender than Reyes. He is injury-prone, but so is the guy he’s replacing. He’s a clear upgrade. He’d also seem to be a luxury purchase when there are still necessities required. Losing Hoffman and Castro is a big blow to the farm system that they’re going to have to dip right back into in an effort to upgrade their rotation. I’m going to withhold my judgment on whether it was the right move until seeing whether the Jays come away with a quality starter prior to Friday’s deadline.