As a Jays fan first and a Brewers fan second, this trade was definitely one that was personally interesting, if for no other reason than just because of the teams that were involved.
The players that were involved, however, are what makes this trade perhaps Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos’ boldest move to date.
Shaun Marcum is a great competitor, and was a favorite among teammates and fans. Having met Shaun personally on multiple occasions, I can acknowledge his great personality and fierce competitiveness, and he will surely be missed by the Jays.
That being said, acquiring highly-touted minor leaguer Brett Lawrie at the expense of proven major leaguer Shaun Marcum is precisely the kind of move Anthopoulos was talking about in an interview with Shi Davidi of the Canadian Press about one month ago when he said:
“If we’re going to do what everyone else is going to do in this division, we have no chance of getting better,”
“If it’s the easy decision and everything lines up, the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed, well everyone is going to look to do it and you’re probably not going to be able to do what you want to do.”
“We’re going to have take chances at times and make moves that may open us for criticism, but we also have to look at the upside of the moves. They may backfire and may not work, but if they hit, we’re going to do really well.”
“And that’s how we’re going to get better.”
The move was also just the definition of two teams trading from an area of depth to address an area of need. It also raised the eyebrows of other GMs around the league because they did not know Lawrie was indeed available.
The Brewers, desperate for starting pitching after finishing 26th in the majors in team ERA, were fortunate to have depth from a position player standpoint and possessed quality players that could be provided in a trade.
They get two years of Marcum, who will easily be one of the top members of their rotation, at a relatively low salary. They also have a very good chance of having him avoid free agency and locking him up to a lucrative contract extension.
The Blue Jays were quite deep in starting pitching and could afford to trade one of their established starters with multiple arms waiting in the wings.
The move is an another example of Alex Anthopoulos’ philosophy of acquiring young, controllable players that can help the team build for a period of sustainable success. Marcum turns 29 in a few days, and was the oldest member of the Jays’ 2010 starting rotation.
Marcum responded very well to his Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss the entire 2009 season, and the Jays were able to move him while his value was at its highest.
The Blue Jays now get a minimum of 6 major league years of Brett Lawrie, which is special considering he is still only 20 years old.
Selected by the Brewers with the 16th overall pick in the 2008 draft, Lawrie became the highest selected Canadian-born position player in major league history.
The Blue Jays had their eye on Lawrie that year and were planning on selecting him with their 17th overall pick, but Milwaukee ultimately snatched him right before the Jays could.
Since then, Anthopoulos has had his eye on Brett Lawrie for some time and has wanted to acquire him, whichever way possible. Similar to the way he acquired Anthony Gose after some time, Alex Anthopoulos finally got his man in Brett Lawrie.
Anthopoulos confirmed this fascination with Lawrie in an interview today on the Fan 590 in Toronto by saying:
“Brett’s someone that we’ve been trying to acquire for a long time. After I got the job last year, he was one of the players that we targeted. He was a 19-year-old athletic player that could run, throw, power, plays the game as hard as anybody that you’re going to see and will rip your heart out to win,”
“Shaun’s name came up late. I was not prepared to trade him for Brett, as tempting as it was. Then, the more I thought about it and knowing how much I wanted Brett and how much he fit and how hard it is to get young, talented position players with that type of ceiling, it was a move the team needed to make and one that would help us for the long term.”
In Lawrie, the Blue Jays get one of the highest-rated prospects in the game. He was ranked as the 59th-best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America prior to the 2010 season, and then, as his season continued and he had success at Double-A, his ranking improved to #15 when Baseball America released their mid-season prospect rankings. He was ranked by most as the Brewers’ #1 prospect, and he instantly slots into the Top-2 prospects of the Blue Jays’ system.
What do I mean when I say he “had success” at Double-A? In a 2010 season where he skipped the Hi-A level entirely and started at Double-A Huntsville, Lawrie raked a .285/.346/.451 line with 8 HR, 63 RBI, and 47 walks in 135 games.
He also managed 36 doubles and an unbelievable 16 triples, which helped him lead the Southern League in total bases. His 16 triples were the most by any player in the Hi-A, Double-A, and Triple-A levels in 2010. He also went 30-for-43 in stolen base attempts, good for a 69.7% success rate.
There’s no denying that Lawrie can swing the bat, but what position he will man in the Jays system is still somewhat up in the air. He has drawn criticism for his defensively ability, particularly the range of his arm.
Wherever the Jays put him, should Lawrie reach his potential and blossom into the Jeff Kent-type player he’s rumored to become, the Jays have something special on their hands.