WHA!?!?!?!? Why would this be the trade that you'd undo? Are you clinically insane? He was one of the best Blue Jays ever!
- everyone, probably.
But let's just run with this for a minute. On July 31, 2009, the Blue Jays pulled the trigger, sending Scott Rolen to the Reds for Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart. So, what happens if this trade never went down? Let's say Rolen never agreed to allow the trade, because he had a change of heart and wanted to stay. Where does that lead us?
For this exercise, a lot of assumptions will have to be made. One of the biggest ones that I will mention at the start is that there will be minimal changes made to future drafts, as that would be a mess to figure out. However, one draft does change a bit, as Rolen sticks around through the end of his contract in 2010, and the Jays receive two comp picks for Rolen being a type A free agent - no.27 from the Reds (they're still hot after him, and they DFA Edwin after 2010 - sound familiar?), and I'm not exactly sure where the other one would fall, so let's go with 37. That one isn't as important, as I'll just say the Jays fail at it anyway, and select Zach Cone who didn't go anywhere. But with the 27th pick, the Jays go with a heralded SS out of St. John's College (although probably against AA's typical draft strategy, but we'll still go with it) Joe Panik, who in real life went 2 picks later to the Giants.
Anyway, back to the play of the Jays. In the 2009 offseason, with Rolen still on the team, the Jays consider not selling Halladay off and going for it in 2010, although they still decide against it and trade Halladay to the Phillies for the same return (although I would have loved to see how Halladay and Rolen would have helped the 85-77 2010 club). The Jays still trade off Wells and get Francisco. They still trade for Lawrie. They still sign Bautista to the big extension. They still trade away Hill and Johnny Mac. They would still trade for Rasmus, although that trade would have to be a little bit different without Zach Stewart (maybe it's Drabek or something, but there isn't really any arm close to the Majors the Jays would miss here). They still trade for Happ. And it's at this point that things start to change for the Jays.
Without a breakout from Encarnacion in 2012, AA doesn't see this as an opportunity to build a winning club around what's already there (the team was 73-89 in 2012 already, so without EE, they're probably worse). Instead, as a 90+ loss team going into 2013, the Jays sell off their biggest asset, Jose Bautista. After finally growing tired of Brennan Bosch, the Tigers look to upgrade their RF position, and instead of signing Torii Hunter like they did, they trade Nick Castellanos, Bruce Rondon, Casey Crosby and James McCann to Jays for Bautista.
The 2013 season is actually played in this scenario, and the Jays struggle, but no major trades happen. Heading into 2014, with top prospects Joe Panik and Travis d'Arnaud looking ready to contribute (when healthy), and the New Hampshire and Buffalo rotations bursting with talent, the Jays outbid the Orioles for Nelson Cruz to help bolster the offense. 2014 plays out, and the Jays are still lacking in offense, even though the pitching and defense are steadily improving, so in the offseason, they still pull off the same trade for Donaldson. They also pull off the Tulowitzki trade a bit earlier, although without Reyes going back, the Rockies send some money to the Jays to get the same prospect return.
The 2015 season goes well, and the Jays get the second WC spot, but don't win the play-in game. 2016 is better, as they make it past the WC game and ALDS, but still lose to Cleveland.
Going into 2017, the team is as follows
C - d'Arnaud, McCann
1B - Castellanos
2B - Panik
SS - Tulo
3B - Donaldson
LF - Pompey
CF - Pillar
RF - Saunders (he was never traded to the Jays, never ran over a sprinkler, so his knee is a lot better so he's still a decent defender, and just signed with the Jays as a FA)
DH - Cruz (signed back with the Jays after they picked up Donaldson and Tulo)
SP - Syndergaard, Sanchez, Stroman, Norris, Nicolino
BP - Osuna (He still makes the jump 2 years earlier), Rondon, Biagini, Cecil (the Jays have money to keep him), and three other guys who I don't really know who would fit in.
The team could be a bit different as they play in Free Agency a lot different if they have a lot more money to play with. Maybe that's Fowler or Heyward in the outfield instead of Saunders. Maybe they grab a different starter to challenge Nicolino. Who knows for sure. But I like this team for 2017 on more than I like the current one. Maybe the 2015 and 2016 playoffs aren't as memorable, but I think there's a decent chance we're still there, although fighting for them probably results in some trades I didn't consider.
The Jays probably could have found a better trade for Bautista, but I just went with the best team that had the biggest need in RF, so he fit there, and I just grabbed a few of their better prospects.