Saturday, December 15, 2012

Do Jays Fans Overvalue Prospects?

Well, we've all heard by now that the Blue Jays are apparently close to making a deal with the Mets for current NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.

There haven't been many particulars of the trade that have leaked out, however the speculation (according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News) is that the Blue Jays are willing to include Gose and d'Arnaud in the deal.

Normally I would assume that because we have heard about this that there is probably no truth to it.  We all know that the "Silent Assassin" works in the shadows.  However, there are other reports suggesting the Jays have been reviewing Dickey's medical information since yesterday.  So maybe there is some bite to this one.  Hard to say at this point.

The general reaction that I've seen on twitter is that Jays fans are either extremely for, or avidly against acquiring Dickey.  There doesn't seem to be much middle ground.  The one point that does seem to keep re-occuring though, is that Jays fans do not want to give up Travis d'Arnaud.

This to me is astounding.

I've always been surprised at how attached Jays fans can tend to get to their prospects before ever having seen them play at the Major League level.  I'm not disputing that all signs point to d'Arnaud being a franchise player.  I am also not contesting that on paper Gose and d'Arnaud appear to be guys that could help your team for 10 plus years if you're able to retain them.  But we don't know that, and we won't know that for a few years to come.

Maybe its me.  Maybe I'm jaded when it comes to prospects because I still remember Eddie Zosky, Derek Bell and Howard Battle.  How they were going to be the next "franchise guy".  Not one of the three worked out.

But if I am jaded, as a Jays fan, I do have good reason to be.

I could sit here and post draft results to you.  Show you that a lot of first round picks, actually first overall picks even, that never saw the light of day in the major leagues.  I'm not going to do that though.  The draft is a long way away from the majors.  Instead, I took a look at some top 100 prospect lists from over the years.  This hit a little closer to home.

In February of this year Baseball America's top 100 prospects list has Travis d'Arnaud ranked at #17, and Anthony Gose at #39.  Both are very highly thought of players.  Those are are respectable rankings.  However the Jays have had this before.  Derek Bell was #15 on the list in 1992.  Eddie Zosky was #22, and Mark Whiten #25 in 1991.  If you're looking for a higher ranking, Jose Silva was #10 in 1994.  Not one of these four really even had a career in the majors.  

In 2000 Vernon Wells was #4, Alex Rios was #6 in 2004.  Both of these guys are everyday players sure, and they have had good seasons.  But could anyone really argue that they lived up to their potential and projections?  I don't think you could.  As much as I like the guy and feel for him as a player, Wells is about to become the highest paid bench player in history.

Other Jays players to crack the top 100 that you've probably heard of include:  D.J. Boston, Angel Martinez, Marty Janzen, Gabe Gross, Josh Phelps, Billy Koch, and Guillermo Quiroz to name a few. 

In 2006, the top 10 Blue Jays prospects heading into that season were as follows:

1.   Dustin McGowan (Who also cracked the 100 list twice at #36, and #18)
2.   Ricky Romero
3.   David Purcey
4.   Adam Lind
5.   Josh Banks
6.   Casey Janssen
7.   Brandon League
8.   Franciso Rosario
9.   Curtis Thigpen
10. Vince Perkins

Of that list, I think we have to acknowledge Romero, Lind, Janssen, and League as successes.  The other six, well, you can make your own decision.

There are two sides to every argument.  Obviously the Blue Jays have had prospects crack the top 100 that have panned out.  That list includes but is not limited to Carlos Delgado, Shawn Green, Alex Gonzales, Shannon Stewart, Roy Halladay, and Chris Carpenter.

Jays fans need to relax.  If the rumours are true and d'Arnaud and Gose are included in the deal, I can almost assure you there are more pieces coming back.  I suspect it will be another large Anthopoulos deal that includes 8 players or more before the final icing is on the cake.  Alex has been after Jonathan Niese from the Mets for a while.  You can bet that he's at least brought his name up in the discussions.

The only point I'm trying to make is that no matter how close they are to the majors and how much potential they have, prospects are just that.  Prospects.  R.A. Dickey is a commodity.  If a team is in a position to be a contender, I am always in favour of trading prospects for a commodity.  Prospects are replaceable.  Don't forget that Johnson's contract is up this year and Melky has two.  If the Jays aren't competing, they can deal guys like these for prospects at the deadline.  If the Jays are competing you probably won't miss d'Arnaud, Gose, or the players given up in the Marlins deal anyway. 

I believe that the best shot the Jays have to win with this team, is right now.  Especially with Josh Johnson only having one year left on his deal.  Veterans like Reyes, Beurhle, Encarnacion and Bautista, though under contract for a few more years, aren't getting any younger.  R.A. Dickey helps this team win, right now.  The acquisition of Dickey would give them a rotation (in no particular order) of Morrow, Johnson, Buerhle, Romero and Dickey.  Keeping J.A. Happ and any other pieces they acquire that could potentially start, in the bull pen.  Giving them lots of insurance against injuries.  After last year I think we all agree that you can never have enough pitching.

Whether the Dickey rumours are true or not, I think 2013 is going to be a great season.  I firmly believe that Alex will bring in another starting pitcher before opening day.  If it is Dickey, great.  If not, then maybe we get to keep Gose and d'Arnaud, and all this fuss was over nothing.

What should we the fans do in the meantime?  Sit back and enjoy the ride.  This is the busiest offseason we have experienced as Jays fans in a long time and the Jays sure are getting media attention south of the border.

Is it April 2 yet?