A brand new report from Jayson Stark which is summarized on MLBTR states that the Cubs have checking in with the Jays regarding relievers Jason Frasor and Scott Downs. Both have shown they can handle closing duties and we all know the Cubs have never been comfortable with Carlos Marmol in the role. This is very interesting for Jays fans, since anyone who reads Baseball America as avidly as I do knows that they recently ranked 5 Cubs SS prospects in their top 10 going into 2010. Here they are in order:
1 – Starlin Castro – The top Cubs prospect would cost the Jays quite a package, so the deal would have to be much bigger than a reliever or two to get this guy. BA compare him to Tony Fernandez, a perfect Jays comparison to make, and one I’d love for them to acquire. Possible price? How about Ricky Romero, Alex Gonzalez, and Jason Frasor, or both Jason Frasor and Scott Downs along with Alex Gonzalez and a prospect? The Jays can’t option McGowan if he’s healthy and he isn’t worth much on the market. The Cubs could use another starter since both Zambrano and Lilly had health issues in 2009 and Romero would be an upgrade over Tom Gorzelanny, making this a far-out possibility.
6 – Hak Ju Lee – This Korean prospect can flat out hit, with a .330 average in Boise over 264 AB, and he steals bases as well. Although he would cost the Jays a little less than Castro due to his lack of power, Lee would still cost the Jays a lot more than simply Frasor or Downs. However, since it’s less likely that Cubs fans would be angry at the trading of Lee in comparison to probable reaction of a trade of Castro, he’s the more likely target in terms of likeliness of acquisition for Alex. He’s very athletic, but unlike Starlin is still a ways off from the show.
7 – Logan Watkins - Thought of more as a 2nd baseman than a SS by BA, he also hits for average with a .326 average in 2009. The difference between he and Lee is the position change that is likely in his future and also that he steals less and has even less power than Lee holds. Watkins is at the level where I could see the Jays landing him straight up for Downs or Frasor, but I believe they’d be less interested since they want maximum impact players and Watkins, in my opinion, has limited offensive potential.
9 – Ryan Flaherty – The one with the most power on this list, Flaherty played in LoA in 2009 and hit 20 HRs while stealing 7 bases. He’s bigger than the others as well at 6’3″ 200 lbs and may wind up at 3B as a result. Still, the Jays could really be interested in Flaherty because he can make a real difference to the lineup anywhere in the infield. The Jays are not exactly strong at 3B either, so even if he wasn’t able to stay at SS, the Jays would still be filling a need. He’s the most likely out of the bunch to be traded by the Cubs or acquired by the Jays in my opinion.
10 – D.J. LeMahieu - What BA assess as the best pure hitter out of all of these players, LeMahieu is younger than Flaherty but both will begin 2010 in HiA. Although he may be a better hitter than Flaherty overall, he lacks some pop and is taller at 6’4″ 185 lbs. He has 0 speed and can “develop average power” according to Jim Callis who made up the Cubs list.
The Cubs have a glut of SS prospects to use in the near future and are desperate to win a championship at any cost. The additions of both Scott Downs and Jason Frasor to the pen of the Cubs would drastically alter the strength of it. It would give them a 1-2-3 punch along with Marmol that would rival the pen of most teams. Believe it or not, the Jays have the depth to recover from such a loss to their pen, albeit at a lower experience and talent level overall.
In a recent event with fans at Rogers Centre, Alex Anthopoulos was asked about how hard he was working to fill the SS need of the Jays. He stated that “There was one GM that I kept calling,” Anthopoulos said with a laugh. “I wore him out probably — just trying to find ways and work three-ways [trades] and four-ways and five-ways. … It’s definitely at the top of our list.” I really do hope the Cubs GM Jim Hendry was the guy he was relentlessly calling and that he does land Starlin Castro. Adding him to Wallace and Hill in the infield would be an awesome outlook for the Blue Jays and would be a true cornerstone to the future of the franchise. Go for it Alex, don’t stop calling until you get him (or Lee), Jays fans will love you for it. I give a deal between the Jays and Cubs a 60% chance of happening since it makes perfect sense in terms of need, the question for me is, which one will the Jays target and at what price? Hopefully its for Castro, and hopefully it’s something the Jays can afford.