Blockbuster trade in Toronto. Next stop the playoffs?

Sports teams are out to sell hope and provide a nice distraction from our otherwise dull lives. Elite teams move beyond hope and sell expectations to their fan bases. For the Yankees, Patriots and Lakers of the world, anything other than the league title is a wasted year.

For the vast majority of teams, they are in the business of selling hope. Hope that this year is the year they finally win it all. Hope that the team will make the playoffs this year. Hope that in a couple of years, the team could be really good. I tend to cheer for teams in the third category (Edmonton Oilers, Buffalo Bills). Sadly that can of hope usually comes with a bitter taste and leaves me hugging the toilet. 

With yesterday’s mammoth pending trade with the Miami Marlins, the Toronto Blue Jays have an early start on next year’s message of hope. Perhaps 2013 is the year the team races into the post season for the first time since winning the World Series in 1993.

The Blue Jays added Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerle, a backup catcher and a speedy utility player, They gave away Yunel Escobar, Henderson Alvarez, a backup catcher and three prospects. 

The question is whether or not to buy what the Blue Jays are selling? Is this a team that will contend for the playoffs? In the American League last year, it took 93 wins to make the post season. In the National League it was 87 wins. That translates to an additional 14 to 20 wins over 2012. In 2011, the Jays were 81-81 which leaves the team short 6 to 12 wins from the playoffs.

In losing Escobar and Henderson, the Jays give up 2.6 wins above replacement (“WAR”) from their 2012 roster according to Baseballreference.com. In return they get back 7.7 WAR in Reyes, Johnson and Buerle. My math skills aren’t what they used to be but that is only 5.1 wins added, significantly short of what they need to kick through the door. 

I am feeling generous, so let’s assume the former Marlins each equal their most production season. That would be 5.6 WAR for Reyes back in 2006, 6.8 WAR for Johnson in 2010 and 5.9 WAR for Buerle in 2007. That sums to 18.3 WAR, net 15.7 when I back out Escober and Henderson.

An additional 15 or 16 wins should get the Blue Jays into the post season, but we are probably living in fantasy land here. The likely scenario is that the Jays will be better in the short term with the new additions, but they will stay at best third fiddle to the Yankees and Rays.  

This is ok. All the Blue Jays are trying to sell at the moment is hope. Without expectations, hope is as simple as a big trade on a snowy afternoon.

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