Make no mistake about it, the Jays will be working as hard as they can to make significant deals at this year’s Winter Meetings in Orlando Florida. I would be stunned if they don’t leave Florida with a deal made or one on the brink of being made as they head home. We can all speculate and come up with 1,000,000 scenarios which is part of the fun about the event. I’ve given this a lot of thought and have come up with the following moves that could involve the Jays during this year’s edition of the meetings. First, though, I’ll provide the ammunition Alex has to work with as he heads to Florida.
1 – Jose Bautista: Sure, Jays fans definitely want to see whether or not Jose can repeat and dominate once again. However, will his trade value ever be higher and can Alex afford to sign him long term while knowing he won’t fizzle as he gets deeper into his 30s? I’m not so sure, so to me, if the price is right, Alex will be willing to listen on Jose in hopes of gaining a package that will work for the Jays long term. He’s the biggest trade chip Alex has, by far, and would bring back a very prominent group of players and/or prospects.
2 – Starting Pitchers. Whether it’s Shaun Marcum, Marc Rzepczynski, Brett Cecil, Brandon Morrow or Kyle Drabek, the Jays have the opportunity to deal 1 of these pitchers in return for a very nice package. If they can wait until the Lee and Greinke situations play themselves out, any of the pitchers listed above would become very attractive options to teams who missed out. Each would bring back different returns and the Jays would demand quite a price for their services, but this trade chip is a huge one to have as it seems nobody is willing to deal pitching aside from the Royals who are demanding quite a bit for their ace.
3 – Darin Mastroianni and Eric Thames: The rumors surrounding both Dan Uggla and Justin Upton all mentioned these 2 players as trade pieces the Jays were offering in a deal. Now that the Jays have speedster Rajai Davis on board and Anthony Gose waiting in the wings, it seems that Mastroianni has been deemed expendable. His speed and OBP are both awesome parts of his game, so he has some real value as a trade chip. Eric Thames, on the other hand, has the power that many teams covet. His strike outs are high, but as we saw with Adam Dunn and Mark Reynolds recently, some teams are willing to look past the SOs in order to have the power in the lineup.
4 – J. P. Arencibia, Carlos Perez, Travis d’Arnaud: That the Jays have such a talented trio of catchers is incredible. I’m certain that the latter 2 are more expendable than J. P. as they are still quite a ways from being MLB ready. Having said that, both are top-notch C prospects that would demand some great returns. If any of these guys are dealt, it will most likely be in a package for a major impact player.
5 – Zach Stewart, Henderson Alvarez, Chad Jenkins, and other prospect SP: Pitching is always in high demand. If the Jays can find the right piece for the price, they will be more willing than ever to include some of their prospects. This second tier of depth for them still represents great potential and could garner the Jays quite a bit in return.
6 – Adeiny Hechavarria: The Jays were able to sign 2 very prominent middle infielders in Richard Thon and Shane Opitz during the 2010 draft. The fact that these players will be moving up the organization quickly and that Yunel Escobar is now a viable SS option for the medium term may allow the Jays the choice to deal Adeiny if the returns match or exceed the value they place on Adeiny. Having said that, after a down-and-semi-down season, it’s hard to believe any team would be willing to pay what Alex would want in return for the Cuban SS.
7 – Travis Snider: The man fans deemed “The franchise” when he arrived in Toronto could be dealt in the right package. It would have to be a huge deal and I really believe that as with Adeiny, they’d be selling low on the player and therefore may wait and keep the players until they prove themselves.
8 – Vernon Wells: Believe it or not, if the Jays are willing to swallow the majority of the bad deal they signed Vernon to, they could be able to deal him to another club. I’m not sure they’d want to do it unless the deal really benefits the club in terms of ceiling talent brought into the OF to replace him, but I do know that Alex is crafty enough to make it happen if he sees the opportunity and grabs it.
9 – Money: It doesn’t usually sound like a trade chip, but the Jays may be more willing than most MLB teams to take on big contract players at this point. That’s an attractive thing to teams looking to shed some big contracts. That the Jays chased both Dan Uggla and Justin Upton tells me that they’re willing to take on these players and will be aggressive in the pursuit of each one. They’ll make their evaluation, place a ceiling on the returns, and try to make it happen. If the team demands more than the ceiling, off to the next big name on the list! This, and Jays pitching, could be the biggest single reason that the Jays could land Prince Fielder.
10 – John Farrell, Bruce Walton, a renewed feeling that Toronto is a force in the AL East, and the great minors system the Jays have: Lots of players have the Jays on their “do not trade to” lists. The percentage who do, however, is likely to dwindle as the Jays have proven they have a plan and a real threat to do some serious damage in the very near future. A well thought of coach, great pitching coach, that winning feeling and a top 10 minors system should be enough to make Toronto much more attractive a destination than it was 2-3 years ago. Therefore, I’d say that the Jays have a better chance of landing players like Mark Reynolds – one of the players who had Toronto on his no trade list – and others like him at this year’s Winter Meetings. Players love going to great organizations, and my feeling is that Toronto is becoming one of those great organizations and is regaining some of the lure that they had in the early 1990s.
Ok, so now that we know what the Jays have to work with, here’s my crystal ball view of what could transpire as the meetings take place:
- Possible Deal #1: Prince Fielder in return for Marc Rzepczynski, Travis d’Arnaud, Eric Thames, and Joel Carreno. This is the biggest reach here – no doubt about it, but it is also the best case scenario for the Jays. You can read my reasoning here as I’ve gone over this with a fine tooth comb. I realize it’s a long shot, but I do believe that it will give the Jays the best chance to become a force in the AL East.
- Possible Deal #2: Alex Gordon in return for Darin Mastroianni and another prospect. If the Jays decide that Prince is not an option for them for various reasons, I believe they will go with an alternate route of landing Alex Gordon and using him as a utility player. He can man 1B, 3B, and LF, making him as versatile a player as the Jays need on the bench. He still has a ton of potential. The Jays would lose Darin Mastroianni who could wind up setting the table for the likes of Billy Butler and eventually Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. With his speed and OBP, he seems to be the perfect fit so long as he can handle MLB pitching. This deal would obviously be harder to complete if the Jays acquired Prince, as they would run out of positions and would be landing Alex as a bench player – which is still a possibility.
- Possible Deal #3: Heath Bell in return for Zach Stewart, Josh Roenicke, Moises Sierra, and another prospect like Ryan Schimpf or Sean Ochinko. The Jays need a closer and Heath Bell may be the best one available on the trade market. The Padres are in selling mode, but apparently Heath Bell is willing to stick around, so they may not be looking to offload the closer.
- Possible Deal #3 A/B: David Aardsma (or Leo Nunez) in return for a 3 prospect package (or 2 in the case of Nunez). A lesser deal than #3 in the search for a closer with David Aardsma or Leo Nunez becoming the target. This deal would be more likely if Bell is unattainable and the Jays “miss out” on Bobby Jenks on the FA market. Alex has competed a deal with the Mariners in the past, so it’s likely that he’d lean towards them and the higher upside Aardsma may have. I’m not certain what package would be required here and doubt that either player would warrant trading Zach Stewart, and I do think both are attainable at a lower cost.
- Possible Deal #4: Zack Greinke in return for Kyle Drabek, Zach Stewart, Josh Roenicke, Darin Mastroianni, and Ryan Schimpf. I don’t even like listing this as a possibility since I’m against such a deal, but I can’t look past the fact that so many fans are in favor of acquiring Zack despite the high cost. Take it as you will, but the package I listed here may not even be enough to land him based on what they’re asking from other teams. I hope it doesn’t happen, that’s all I can say.
- Possible Deal #5: Jose Reyes in return for Yunel Escobar and 2 prospects, most likely pitching prospects. This is another long shot to be sure, but one that I would not ignore at this point since the Mets are said to be shopping Reyes. If Alex could complete this deal, he’d be giving the Mets a starting SS, relieving some of their salary woes, and would be acquiring one of the elite SS in all of baseball. Bringing in Reyes and Davis as a possible combination at the top of the lineup would provide the Jays with more speed than they’ve ever had. When you think about how they acquired Escobar, the Jays would be landing Reyes in return for a FA they got to use for close to a full season and 2 prospects. Not a bad price at all if you ask me. Escobar is familiar with the NL East having played in ATL and would be motivated to beat them. At only 27 years old, Reyes is still young and the Jays have stated that they’re willing to bring in high maintenance personalities, and Reyes may fit that profile. Since Reyes will be a FA in 2012, the price can’t be too steep from the Mets. Dealing him would free up $11 million for them and would allow them to start rebuilding into a real contender. If he walks from the Jays in 2012, they would likely get 2 very high picks as he would most likely be a Type A FA.
- HAIL MARY ALERT!! I would never expect this deal to go through, but I thought it would be fun to consider such a turn of events. Here it is: Felix Hernandez and David Aardsma in return for Adam Lind, Kyle Drabek, Marc Rzepczynski, Joel Carreno, Travis d’Arnaud, and Gustavo Pierre. Mark this down in the “no way Jose” category, but I wondered if the Mariners would have to be intrigued about such a deal. They’d get 2 viable middle-to-top of the rotation starters, and would get what most see as a very potent DH in Lind. They definitely could use the power and would also have d’Arnaud coming up the ranks as a future franchise catcher. Pierre profiles as a 3B, a position where the Mariners are fairly weak in the minors. In Hernandez, the Jays would be getting one of the best arms in all of MLB and would be able to send a rotation of Felix Hernandez, Ricky Romero, Shaun Marcum, Brandon Morrow and Brett Cecil against opponents. Meanwhile, Aardsma would resolve their questions at closer for the time being. Wouldn’t that be something. I doubt a thing of the sort could occur and would be disillusion to “expect” it to happen, but what a thought. Another possibility in such a deal would see the Jays deal Jose Bautista who could play 3B for the Ms. Just a thought. Surely offering a 50+ HR candidate would get the attention of Mariners management, wouldn’t it?
These deals are all unlikely to occur and simply represent an example of what I could envision taking place at the Winter Meetings. I don’t have a crystal ball and know that they’re long shots. But having looked through recent developments, my sentiment is that Alex Anthopolous wants to make the Jays a contender in 2011 and that he’s willing to open up the Jays vault to do so. All of the deals above entail the Jays taking on big salaried players in return for prospects (aside from Nunez who makes a smaller amount than most viable closers).
I may not be able to pinpoint exactly what deal will occur, but at least I tried my best. Hopefully Alex Anthopolous does the same and comes away from the Winter Meetings with at least 1 or 2 prized acquisitions. My dream scenario would see him walk away with Felix Hernandez, but let’s face it, you can’t always get what you want! The trade chips listed above will surely be in play this week and I hope you become as entertained by the coverage as I will be. Jared and I will try to keep everyone in the thick of things as much as possible!