If Alex Anthopoulos wants to resolve the SS hole the Jays have had ever since Tony Fernandez left (other than the 1 good year Marco Scutaro gave us), he will need to do it in one of 3 ways: through trade, by drafting some great SS prospects, or by signing an international FA. There are just no short stops coming up in FA that can bring both the impact and youth the Jays are looking for, so those 3 ways are his options.
The first option, through trade, may be the best in terms of getting the top talent that is already developed – which lowers risk, but it could also be the costliest in what Alex has to give up. Star SS prospects don’t get traded often, just look at what Hanley Ramirez cost the Marlins when they got him from the Red Sox. The Jays have limited ammunition to spend on the trade market and may be better off being a little patient.
The second option, by drafting great SS prospects, has real potential assuming they use one, or a couple, of their top draft picks in 2010 to do so. If they use the 11th overall pick, that player could turn out to be special, assuming there’s a top rated SS there to be had. But, as most smart baseball people will tell you, in the draft you always select the best talent (assuming you can afford to sign him) and you disregard position until the talents become equal or very comparable. The biggest problem with this option is that it’s often hit or miss, as many examples can prove, and it can also take a very long time to accomplish depending on the player due to length of development. The chances of the Jays getting their hands on a player of the caliber their are looking for, in the quality of a Gordon Beckham type prospect, are very slim to say the least.
That leaves option three, signing an international FA player, which the Jays currently have a great opportunity to do. I had previously posted about their interest and “look” at defected 1B Jose Julio Ruiz, and the Cuban Ball Players Blog rated Ruiz as their 3rd best prospect. Meanwhile, at the same link, they rate SS Adeiny Hechavarria as their 7th best Cuban prospect and provide us with their take on the prospect and also posted some videos of his defensive and offensive skills. They admit to thinking Adeiny is better overall than SS Jose Iglesias, who the Red Sox signed at a cost of $8.25 million and view as their SS of the future. The parts of Adeiny‘s game that they cite which make Adeiny better than Jose include better range and overall defense, as well as more potential for pop and a better ability to hit the other way.
So, we know that Adeiny may cost more than Jose did, and we also know he’ll cost much less than the $30 million that Aroldis Chapman landed. Since we know that the Jays reported highest bid was $23 million, we can safely assume that the Jays may be willing to bid in the range of $8 million to under $20 million for Adeiny IF they like what they see when they see him play or work out (which he is reportedly doing in the Dominican Republic). ESPN’s Mark Saxon reported that the Angels and 5 other teams watched him work out there recently, which bodes the question of who those 5 other teams are. If Alex is true to his word about looking into every single opportunity, you know the Jays have to be part of those 5 other teams. Mark also adds that bidding could reach 8 figures easily, making the probable signing range somewhere between $10 million and $20 million.
The Jays definitely have the funds to do this and should have the will to try it in order to resolve their dire SS needs. I’m not really sure how many years they would get signed and how the contract would break down, but if he really is as good as is reported, the Jays should be aggressive as can be in their pursuit of this prospect. He could reach the majors much more quickly than many draft picks they’ll make in 2010 (he is currently 19 and very advanced in development) and could feasibly begin his minor league career in HiA Dunedin. A mid-to-late 2011 arrival would not be out of the question, but even if 2012 is the arrival date it just so happens to be the year Johnny Mac‘s contract expires, which is perfect timing.
Signing Adeiny would dramatically change what Alex looks for next through the trading of his surplus RP or SP and Lyle Overbay. Instead of looking to grab an impact SS prospect, Alex could concentrate on acquiring longer term SP prospects or a major impact 3B prospect, which are both a little easier to get due to their risk in the case of the former, and their greater abundance in the latter. More importantly, however, is the fact that it would loosen the pressure of signing a top notch SS in the draft instead of another position player or pitcher who they believe is more talented simply because they have such a big need at the SS position. In layman’s terms, Alex would be going into the draft simply going for the best talent – end of story, which makes a lot more sense than chasing a SS.
Since we already know the Angels are interested, we know the bidding will be rough. Hopefully the Jays and Alex can pull this one off and give fans a big signing they’re definitely hungry for.
Update: 7 pm ET 10-Feb-10: Jorge Arangure sent the following Tweet “FYI Echavarria has not yet been unblocked so he still could be weeks away from signing.”, which sets up the perfect scenario for his agent (no idea who that is yet, still looking). They can get the hype going and hope bids go out of control. Hopefully this doesn’t hurt the chances that the Jays will land him.