In reality, Clay Buchholz was never really an option as compensation for allowing the Boston Red Sox to scoop Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell.
The Blue Jays couldn’t even get Daniel Bard, whose struggles as a starting pitcher earned him a demotion into the minor leagues.
Starting pitching is the gold standard at the Major League level and so the Blue Jays were left with Mike Aviles, a useful utility infielder, as the piece they got back from the Red Sox for allowing them to pilfer Toronto’s manager.
The Blue Jays also had to surrender David Carpenter, a throw-in by the Houston Astros in the swap that landed Toronto J.A. Happ and Brandon Lyon, to sweeten the pot.
Alex Anthopoulos, the Blue Jays general manager, said that a number of different players were discussed with the Red Sox as possible compensation for Farrell.
But in the end it always came back to Aviles, who hit .277 with 13 home runs last year with the Red Sox while spending most of his time at shortstop.
“I imagine they tried like crazy on the starting pitching aspect,” Alan Ashby, the Blue Jays radio baseball analyst, said. “Anybody who thinks you’re going to get Clay Buchholz because you’re losing your manager, there’s no way Boston’s going to give up a starting pitcher who was one of their mainstays.”
As it stands now, Aviles will likely fit in as Toronto’s second baseman, a replacement for the anticipated free-agent departure of Kelly Johnson, himself no whiz with the bat.
Johnson set a franchise record this past season when he struck out 159 times.
“The fact that he can play all over the infield gives us a lot of options, the fact that he’s been an everyday player before,” Anthopoulos said when explaining what he likes about Aviles. “He has a little bit of speed, has got some power and he does have the defensive ability to play all over the place.
“He’s a nice, valuable guy to have because it’s so hard to find those middle infielders, the guys that can legitimately play shortstop and play it for 500 at-bats. They’re hard to find.”
What that means for Adeiny Hechavarria, who didn’t look out of place in the limited starts he got at second base late in the season, remains to be seen?
What’s concerning about Aviles is his low on-base percentage of .282, which tied him for dead last in the American League among all regular players.
Anthopoulos said at the end of this past season that improving Toronto’s OBP (.309, second last in the A.L.) was one of his goals heading into 2013.
This seems like a strange way to start.
“It’s very hard to get middle infielders that can play shortstop for a lot of at-bats and get a great on-base percentage guy.,” Anthopoulos said. “Those are normally superstar players.”
And now it is back to square one for Anthopoulos, who now has to find a new manager heading into 2013, plug several gaping holes in the starting rotation, and try to figure out who is going to play left field.
“I don’t know if they think that this team is going to win, but based on what I saw late in the year I think they’re much further away than where they were at the start of the season,” said Ashby, echoing the sentiments of many.