After a few years of criticism, GM Alex Anthopoulos is getting patted on the back from fans following a busy week that continued to shake up the Toronto Blue Jays.
Last Friday, news broke that Canadian star Brett Lawrie was traded to the Oakland A’s in a package deal that secured power-hitting All-Star Josh Donaldson. Lawrie, who has spent a good chunk of his major league career on the disabled list (which, after the trade went down, he attributed to the Rogers Centre turf), was packaged with minor-league pitchers Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman, and shortstop Franklin Barreto to tempt A’s GM Billy Beane to part ways with his third baseman.
The acquisition of Donaldson is a much needed upgrade at third base and a huge factor when it comes to the line-up, where he will probably find himself amongst sluggers Jose Bautista (whose batting approach Donaldson has admitted studying) and Edwin Encarnacion.
On Wednesday, the headlines continued with a one-year deal to switch-hitting Justin Smoak hours after making him a free agent. Although Smoak’s numbers with the Seattle Mariners aren’t very consistent – at his best in 2013, he hit 19 homers and drove in 50 runs – his batting average is sure to improve in hitter-friendly Rogers Centre. Smoak also is regarded as an above-average defensive first baseman, which gives Encarnacion more time in his comfort zone as a designated hitter.
Hours later, the Blue Jays made another announcement — clearly sealing the deal on the fate of Melky Cabrera — when they traded J.A. Happ to Seattle for outfielder Michael Saunders. Recent rumors suggest Melky Cabrera will soon see serious offers from the Royals and Reds, to name a few.
Saunders was confirmed as the new full-time left-fielder, with Bautista in right and rookie Dalton Pompey, who made waves after his call-up in September, manning former Blue Jay Colby Rasmus’ center-field spot. This was a great move by Anthopoulos who was clearly hesitant about the projected prices for free-agent outfielders this year, and he found a way to rid the team of a lackluster starter in Happ. Fans need to keep in mind that Saunders is far from Melky Cabrera when it comes to offense, however, his move to left field will impact the club in a variety of ways.
With Happ gone, it finally opens a spot in the rotation for young star Aaron Sanchez to keep shining after getting his feet wet and wowing everyone late last season in a relief role where he posted a 1.09 ERA. Now fans will have an opportunity to see exactly what Sanchez is made of and if he is the next future ace of the ballclub. Moving Happ also gives Anthopoulos the financial flexibility to patch-up the pen. After crunching the numbers, the Blue Jays will have around $18 million to do just that, with some left over to possibly upgrade second base.