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Maintaining the Faith in General Managers

At Project Franchise, we plan to one day put the power to run a team in the fan's hands. In the meantime though, we, as fans, are left putting our faith in the General Managers that run our favorite teams.

It's a great feeling to rely completely on the decisions those GM's make, and we all know those fans that go a bit overboard for it, thinking their GM's can do absolutely no wrong. Most of us, however, are a bit more objective than that. Still, it's part of being a fan to want to believe in them. They're the ones that can turn our teams into champions or tear them right down. And to those who love sports, and love their teams, all of that is quite the big deal.

With the MLB non-waiver tread deadline behind us, GM's across the league have been in the forefront for their moves and non-moves. We've seen big names traded like Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, and Roy Oswalt. But the trade that stands out to me involves names a lot of people haven't heard of - the swap between the Blue Jays and Astros of Brett Wallace and Anthony Gose. Sure, it stands out because the Blue Jays are my team. It also stands out because of how very rare it is to see prospects swapped directly for each other. But it also stands out because it's one of the rare times that I have had to challenge my faith in my General Manager, Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos.

Anthopoulos took over for JP Ricciardi at the end of the 2009 season, and for the most part, I think he's done a terrific job. He added a lot of talent to the farm system in his trade of Roy Halladay - a big achievement given the restrictions Halladay placed on where he'd be willing to play - and has made significant acquisitions that have aided the major league team already, with Brandon Morrow, Yunel Escobar and Fred Lewis all looking like players that could be part of the next great Blue Jays team.

Another player I thought would be part of that team, though, was first-basemen Brett Wallace. In the aftermath of the Roy Oswalt trade last Thursday, the Jays shipped him over to Houston in exchange for center-fielder Anthony Gose, whom they had just acquired moments ago from Philadelphia. My initial thoughts: outrage.

Going into this season, Brett Wallace ranked as either the #1 or #2 prospect in the Blue Jays system, depending on which expert you were reading. He was commonly a top-30 prospect in the league. Described as a hitting-machine, Wallace looked a guy who would be a great piece on any team - a solid, reliable first-basemen that could be counted on to hit for at least decent average and decent power, with potential for a .300 batting average, strong OBP, and 25-30 home-runs in his prime. Would that make him a superstar as a first-basemen? Probably not. But it certainly made him a strong asset. When traded, he was also clearly MLB-ready, as evident by his debut with the Astros just two days later.

Anthony Gose, on the other hand, is a polar opposite. He's young and extremely raw. 19-years old and currently playing in High-A, he has terrific speed, as shown by his 70 stolen bases in 2009. Scouts also rave about his defense. But in terms of results, that's where it has ended for Gose. He's been caught stealing nearly half the time in 2010, has shown little power, and has failed to hit for a high batting average or on-base percentage. Still, with his size and speed, the tools are obviously there. Should he figure out the art of hitting and add some power, he could turn in to a legitimate superstar. A great defensive center-fielder with game changing speed and a chance to hit 15-20 homers with a decent batting average? Sure, I can see why a scout would salivate. But the immense rawness of Gose's game left him seeming like an unspectacular prospect. He was ranked in the lower-half of the Phillies top-10 prospects lists going into the season, and rarely made appearances on top-100 prospects lists.

With the experts from websites like Baseball America, ESPN and Baseball Prospectus all clearly favoring Wallace to a vast degree over Gose, I think the outrage I experienced should be pretty self-explanatory. How, exactly, does it make sense to trade a team's best prospect for someone that will likely fall in the lower-half of their top-10? 

The answer may fall in to the reasoning that Alex Anthopoulos has made it very clear that he seeks high-impact, elite ceiling players. Brett Wallace doesn't fit into that description. He should be a solid-regular, without a doubt, and it doesn't take much hope to think he'll be an above-average first basemen. But that won't make him elite. Gose does have that ceiling. But that shouldn't make them equals. The likelihood of Wallace becoming a good MLB player diminishes so much of the risk inherent with prospects that it's very logical for his value to be far higher, and that's what the prospect rankings on the Internet had shown. If Wallace doesn't fit in to the long-term vision of the team, well, that's fine. But trading him, in theory, should provide far more return than just one lottery ticket.

As a fan of the team, it left me with the feeling of being ripped off. There seemed to be a loss of value within the transaction. And because of Wallace's status as an MLB-ready player, versus the long journey ahead of Gose, it's frustrating to think that it delays the timetable for the Jays to be competitive.

As a fan, it made me question my General Manager.

Five days later, of course, the outrage has subsided. I've heard GM Alex Anthopoulos on TV and on the radio justifying the move. Logically, he doesn't see the move the same way. He seems to view Gose as a higher-caliber prospect than Wallace, despite what the consensus on the Web would have you believe. And there's his very understandable point. You can find other guys with Wallace's skillset. If the Jays need a first basemen in the off-season, they can go to free agency and probably find someone to put up the same numbers Wallace would have, even if they have to pay him more to do so. If they're right about Gose's potential, then that's the type of player it would be virtually impossible to acquire through any other means. And given that Wallace will be putting up nice numbers in the majors for years before Gose ever, hopefully, steps foot in the big-league game, you have to figure this is something Anthopoulos truly believes in. After all, it's going to look pretty bad on the General Manager who swapped the two during these years, especially if Gose's numbers continue to look unimpressive in the minors.

And that's where it comes back to faith in the General Manager. It takes hoping that Anthopoulos' scouting and assessment of the player he acquired is spot on, and that the team won't hesitate to spend the money to replace Wallace, who was traded mostly because he was replaceable, with a strong player - even an upgrade.

And even beyond that, as I learned in my state of outrage - sometimes, maintaining the faith is the far more pleasant approach to take. 

With all the big trades that have gone down over the past few weeks, it's easy to question our General Managers, and as fans, there's no doubt that we'll continue to do so. But at the end of the day, the most logical thing of all may be to keep that faith going. After all, if the decisions are bad, we'll get our chance to suffer for them anyways. There's no need to jump to conclusions and speed up the process.