Once the trade between the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks is completed, J.P. Ricciardi's quest for an offensive force in the lineup will be over. Last season, the Blue Jays ranked 11th in the American League in home runs, with 136. In fact, only Vernon Wells was the only Blue Jay to hit more than 20 home runs all season. Contrast that with the fact that every other team in the AL East had at least three of its players accomplish that feat. Although the addition of Troy Glaus will improve that facet of the team, several concerns do arise as a result of this trade. First, the Blue Jays have an obvious glut of corner infielders. One or two of Corey Koskie, Shea Hillenbrand, and Eric Hinske must be moved during the remainder of the offseason. Second, the loss of Orlando Hudson's defensive contributions will surely be a blow to the team's chances of success, and something must be done to minimize the damage. As of now, it seems likely that Aaron Hill will replace Hudson as the everyday second baseman, while Russ Adams will continue to man shortstop. If Adams continues to struggle defensively and Hill doesn't warm up to his new position, a lot of second guessing will take place.
Here's a recap of the trade that took place:
If the Blue Jays don't trade Koskie this offseason, it's likely that he'd likely begin the season as the team's everyday third baseman. In 2005, Glaus had the most errors among all third basemen (24). Of those, 15 were throwing errors, which suggests that his arm is too erratic for the position. Although Glaus' range at the position was satisfactory last season (3.01 range factor, 3rd highest among regular third basemen), his career average is much lower (2.68 range factor).
Since he'd take over DH duties, he'd effectively be replacing Shea Hillenbrand's production. Here's how the two match up:
Evidently, Glaus has proven to be offensively superior to Hillenbrand. Glaus has more power and his OBA is more reliant on walks than Hillenbrand's. That is noteworthy because walks are less likely to fluctuate from year to year than a player's batting average. Also, Hillenbrand's OBA last season was somewhat of a mirage because he was hit by a pitch a major-league high 22 times. Here are his HBP totals the past three seasons: 6, 12, 22. Meanwhile, here are his walk rates the past three seasons: 24, 24, 26. Obviously, Hillenbrand hasn't improved his plate discipline, despite what his OBA would suggest.
One argument I've heard many make against Glaus is that he performed far better at home than he did on the road. This is true, as his home/road OPS split (.951/.824) would attest. It's been true his entire career (2003: .868/.745; 2004: 1.068/.833). On the other hand, consider Shea Hillenbrand's split last season with the Blue Jays (.811/.774) compared to his split during his 2004 campaign with the Diamondbacks (.921/.715). Of note, however, is how much better Hillenbrand fared on the road last season than he did in 2004. Since players in the NL West play a large portion of their road games at pitcher's parks such as Dodger Stadium and PETCO, their road stats could be adversely affected. Conversely, players who play in the AL East play a large portion of their games in neutral/hitter's parks. It's an interesting topic and I'd be interested in reading people's views on whether Glaus' home/road splits should be a cause for concern.
If Glaus can stay healthy next season (a monumental question mark considering his injury-riddled past), he should provide a significant offensive improvement over what Hillenbrand provided last season.
Okay, now that we know what the Blue Jays have gained, what have they given up? Of course, in any exchange, if someone wants to acquire value, he/she must give value in return (some trades have proven to be exceptions to this rule, as some emotionally-scarred Mets fans will attest). That value manifests itself as a 28-year old second baseman who's affectionately referred to as the "O-Dog." Last season, he had the highest range factor among all second basemen (5.83) while committing only six errors all season. Meanwhile, in 177.2 innings at second base last season (about 1/10th of the amount of innings Hudson played there), Aaron Hill posted an impressive 5.57 range factor and posted an identical fielding percentage to Hudson's (.991). Obviously, the sample size is too small to draw definite conclusions, but it provides some hope for the future.
On the offensive side, Hudson hasn't been all that impressive (career .727 OPS), and considering he's already 28, I don't expect much of an improvement. In fact, Hill's OPS during his rookie season is identical to Hudson's career total. Since he's only 23 years old and he posted impressive minor league totals, an improvement should be expected in the near future.
I won't spend too much time on Miguel Batista. He's a fungible pitcher whose role on the Blue Jays was unclear. He'll be much more useful with the Diamondbacks, and I hope that he can rejuvenate his career with a strong effort in 2006.
The prospect the Blue Jays will receive in the trade is an interesting one. Sergio Santos was drafted in the first round of the 2002 amateur draft (27th overall). He has shown decent power for a middle-infielder, but his lack of plate discipline is a definite concern. If he can improve upon that, Santos could provide some insurance should Russ Adams fail to progress within the next few seasons.
Although J.P. Ricciardi will have to work the phones to trade a corner infielder (most likely Hillenbrand) to another team, I feel that the acquisition of Glaus is a step in the right direction. Although his contract is incredibly expensive (he's owed almost $33 million over the next three years), it shouldn't become an albatross as long as Glaus can remain healthy. The loss of Hudson is detrimental, of course, but Hill should prove to be a suitable replacement. As a Blue Jays fan, it's good to see management taking calculated risks in the hopes of catching the Yankees and Red Sox in the standings. I haven't been this excited for the start of a regular season in quite some while.