Those who are wondering whether the Jays will be buyers or sellers come trade deadline time don’t have a much clearer picture after Alex Anthopoulos’ first significant mid-season deal. Anthopoulos sent Alex Gonzalez and a pair of minor leaguers, SS Tyler Pastornicky and P Tim Collins, to Atlanta in exchange for Yunel Escobar and left-handed reliever Jo-Jo Reyes.
The trade essentially boils down to whether this season has been a fluke for the two starting shortstops. Gonzalez is enjoying a career year offensively at 33 years of age in which he’s hit 17 home runs at the season’s halfway point after being signed by Toronto primarily for his defence. Escobar, meanwhile, is six years younger than Gonzalez but finds himself hitting just .238 in 75 games this season, 53 points off of his .291 career average.
If Escobar can regain his offensive game in switching leagues, he could prove a viable starter for Toronto and help mentor fellow Cuban shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria along the way to the majors. And if he can’t, it’s a relatively low-risk trade considering Gonzalez was never in the team’s future plans and his first half contributions were simply a bonus for a team not likely to re-sign him beyond this season. On the other hand, Escobar is under team control through 2013, offering the Jays a solid opportunity to see what he has to offer.
In Reyes, Toronto gets a reclamation project who has struggled in both starting and relief roles over four seasons with the Braves. His careers marks – 5-15 with a 6.40 ERA – won’t excite anyone, but it doesn’t change the fact that he is a hard-throwing 25-year old lefty. However, as part of the Jays’ newly pitching-rich farm system, he’ll need to fight for a permanent spot in the big club’s bullpen.
That farm system did lose one arm in the trade in 20-year old reliever Collins. While Pastornicky hasn’t wowed anyone at Class-A Dunedin and isn’t likely to be missed in Toronto, Collins had earned a following at Double-A New Hampshire and was turning heads in spite of – or maybe because of – his diminutive stature. The 5’7” (and that’s apparently being generous) lefty had a 2.51 ERA and nine saves in 35 appearances with the Fisher Cats to go along with an eye-opening 73 strikeouts in just 43.0 innings.
Whether the trade works out or not for the Blue Jays (and I think it was a terrific move), Anthopoulos should be credited for taking a low-cost, bargain bin free agent (Gonzalez signed for 2.75 million) and turning him into a young, talented shortstop who could be a Jays mainstay.
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Written by Ben Fisher