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To Trade or Keep Scott Downs

It has been said over and over again that teams are balking at the asking price the Jays are setting in return for eventual Type A FA and great RP Scott Downs. Here’s a review of his situation for those unaware of the details:

  • Scott will be a FA at the end of the year.
  • Any acquiring team, or the Jays for that matter, can sign him if they want, but if they let him walk, they stand to inherit 2 picks: the acquiring team’s best draft pick (if not in top 15 picks it will be their 1st rd pick, unless that team signs another Type A FA that is listed as higher on the Type A Rankings list, at which time the pick moves down to the 2nd rd). No matter what, the team that let’s him walk will get a sandwich pick between the 1st and 2nd rounds of the draft, making the loss a 2 very high pick return.
  • Downs is 34, has 9 years of major league experience, and has the following stats thus far in 2010: 4-5/ 2.41 ERA/ 41 IP/ 33 hits/ 10 BB/ 33 SO/ 1.049 whip. Interestingly, Downs also has 16 saves to his credit, showing that he can in fact “hold the fort” if necessary.
  • Downs is also without a doubt the top LHP reliever available in trade, making his trade value even higher as a result.
  • With a 2010 salary of $4,000,000 there is a little under 2 million left on his salary to pay, making him affordable to most teams in the playoff hunt.

So, here we sit. The jays are undoubtedly looking at finishing the season out of the playoffs. Alex Anthopolous has this great asset on his hands, as well as a very improved scouting department that he plans to use to its fullest ability. The Jays can easily pay Downs the rest of 2010, use the 2 draft picks to gather 2 more high end prospects, and deal other relievers instead. The only problem with this alternative is time and assuredness of returns. Nobody ever truly knows what you’ll get in terms of returns when you draft a player, and the cost and time required to develop a player means that 4-5 years and huge investments are required to get this done. That is why the following reasons make a dealing of Scott Downs somewhat likely (Pros to trading him):

  • By dealing Scott Downs for 2 or 3 prospects, the Jays save the costs of developing these players, are getting more assured investments, and are getting players that will be pushing to get into MLB much more quickly than any 2011 draft pick would.
  • The Jays need to trade something to get something, and although they have no “major” need right now, they could surely use a long term option with power at 3B and more depth in the outfield.
  • If they deal Downs before the deadline, the Jays would also save over $1.5 million that they could also use to lure more top end international talent onboard or use to sign their 2010 draft picks, including top pick Deck McGuire.
  • Trading Downs opens up a spot in the pen for the “future” relievers to take a hold of and get experience before the 2011 season begins. Whether it’s Josh Roenicke or Jeremy Accardo, the Jays need to get the next generation of relievers ready to take the reigns.

With all of that said, and the pros to keeping him mentioned at the beginning of this post, here is why the Jays will have a hard time moving him:

  • Starting pitching is more valuable than relief pitchers because they pitch more innings, so you can’t expect to get oo much in return for a RP.
  • If Dan Haren is only worth what the DBacks got for him, the Jays can’t expect to get more for Scott Downs. Even if the Jays got Corbin and Skaggs in return for Downs (the top 2 prospects in the Haren trade), it would be seen as a mediocre trade in terms of value received. Not great, not horrible. Therefore, it seems unlikely that Alex would settle for that, and now even less likely that any team would want to be seen giving up more than the LAA gave up for Haren in return for a reliever. Example: the Mets are less likely to include Fernando Martinez now, because his presence alone beats both of the LAA assets given up as mentioned above.
  • All GMs would like to get something for nothing or very little, and as the DBacks GM and others will prove before the deadline, there’s always someone willing to give up more than they should. My impression is that all of the teams that would be interested in Downs will now be knocking down doors all over looking for a left-handed RP (which there are many of in MLB), at a much cheaper rate than the Jays are asking. They’ll look to “rebuilding” teams that seem to not value their relievers as much as they should (Pirates, Nationals, Royals) and try to pry away their top end guys. There’s suddenly a ray of light in the eyes of all GMs looking for relief help that they as well can land a great deal like the Angels got in Haren.

Still, I’m not discounting the fact that I can see Alex Anthopolous working out a deal. Here are my top 5 “guesstimated” scenarios involving Downs in trade:

1 – To the Mets in return for Fernando Martinez, 3B Jefry Marte and another prospect.

2 – To the Phillies in return for SP J.A. Happ and OF Domingo Santana.

3 – To the Cardinals (along with a SP) in return for SP Shelby Miller, RP Eduardo Sanchez, and SP Lance Lynn

4 – To the Reds in return for Aroldis Chapman and another prospect. (big reach here, but I could see it as the Jays really do like him a ton. Look for $ to be exchanged here as well)

5 – To the Dodgers in return for SP Ethan Martin, OF Trayvon Robinson, and another prospect.

That’s the way I see it. Obviously, only 1 can be the right deal from the list above and I may be wrong on all counts, but I do think it’s close to what Alex is looking for…..generally.

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