The Big Question For The Jays

The Jays have surprised most fans, so called experts, and MLB teams in being able to sustain a decent effort thus far in maintaining the Wild Card and Division leaders within reach. They sit 5 games out of 1st in the AL east and are riding a 6 game winning streak that has shown all of their strengths. However, regardless of what happens between now and the trade deadline, is there any chance at all that the Jays will become “buyers”, or are they bound to the strategy of building for the near future instead? That, my friends, is the big question for the Jays and their management.

It’s too early to say who is going to begin to sell and who is going to buy (other than the most obvious), but there are a few interesting names floating around out there that could add some serious power to the chances of the Jays making the playoffs….so should they bite and deal for some of these guys? I’m not sure and believe it has to be considered on a trade by trade basis, but by my estimation, the Jays are one great third baseman and one btter bench player away from making a serious dent in the AL East and challenging for the lead. Assuming that Jose Bautista would fill that bench role if a 3B were acquired, here are some of the possible targets I came up with based on the possible selling teams for the 3B spot which would help the Jays out for now and the medium to long term:

Big Upgrade:

  • Casey McGehee, MLW, 27: Entering this season, most were skeptical about Casey’s big 2009, but he’s put most of those worries to rest with a strong start to the 2010 season. Not only is Casey a good 3B, but he also has experience all over the infield, which is a plus for the Jays. The price to acquire him would be manageable, as Milwaukee is in need of exactly what the Jays have to provide in trade: a starter and a strong reliever. A combination of 2 of the following: Jason Frasor, Dana Eveland, Scott Downs, and Kevin Gregg, along with a close to the majors prospect could get a deal done, or the Jays could include Edwin Encarnacion who already has history in the NL Central and add a pitcher. The Brewers 3B of the future is Mat Gamel anyhow, so Edwin would just be keeping the spot warm for the youngster and could be dealt in the future for more returns for the Crew.

Average Upgrade

  • Brandon Wood, LAA, 25: I know, I know, the Angels are unlikely to move him easily, but the pressure on them is beginning to build now that Texas and Oakland are playing so well. They already have decent starters, but they could be interested in a slight upgrade over what they already have. However, I see a more likely scenario of one reliever, a prospect, and Edwin Encarnacion heading to Los Angeles in return for Wood. The Jays would hope that a change in scenery helps Brandon find his touch at the plate in the majors, while the Angels would strengthen a weak spot. It is also possible that they would have interest in Shaun Marcum, who would be a big upgrade over Joe Saunders, while the Jays can find a replacement for Shaun internally and get Saunders in return and hope they can get something for him at some point in the season.

Slight Upgrade

  • Andy LaRoche, PIT, 26: He only has 3 HRs to his credit, but Andy plays 3B well defensively, has a .325 average and a .407 OBP that the Jays could use at third. He lacks some of the power that Edwin Encarnacion would provide the Jays if healthy, but his higher average and OBP make him an enticing choice, not to mention his cheap acquisition cost since the Bucs will be using Pedro Alvarez at 3B before long. This is the least likely of all scenarios and the least appealing, but it would improve the lineup slightly and maintain a cheap option at 3B for the next few years, or until the Jays can find a permanent option at 3B.

Again, all of these options are long shots because it is fairly certain that the Jays will look to the draft or free agency when seeking a permanent option at 3B. Some fans may argue that either Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion are able to fill the 3B role adequately, while I disagree. Their well below the norm averages and on base percentages make them liabilities in the lineup. If the Jays really want to reach the heights of the AL East lead, they can’t rely on either of those two and go up against Alex Rodriguez and Evan Longoria. They need to find a start to play 3B for them. Sure, I’d rather see Aramis Ramirez or Jorge Cantu instead of LaRoche or Wood, but both the Cubs and Marlins are still in the hunt and are unlikely to move those guys easily.

I still have doubts that the Jays could ever become real buyers in their position, but if they can stay within 4-6 games of the division lead, they definitely have the money to do it since they’re 20-30 million under the average salary costs they have maintained in recent years. Any team looking to free up some cash could find a trade partner in the Jays. It’ll be interesting to see if Alex Anthopolous can fill that last remaining weakness shorty, and whether it is with one of the names above.

Again, the big question will be, can the Jays ever be considered buyers, or will they stay the course and be patient in becoming increasingly competitive? Only AA can answer that question.

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Tags: Edwin Encarnacion Jose Bautista

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