David Purcey is On The Block

It’s not often that you’ll see a LHP reliever with good experience on the trade market so early in the season, but it’s exactly what has happened to Jays 28-year old reliever David Purcey.

Alex Anthopoulos stated his intention to move Purcey as soon as suitable returns are found (if possible), and must be getting quite a few interested callers now that this has been made public. This is all due to the fact that Purcey has been designated for assignment by the Jays but has no options remaining, meaning that if he isn’t dealt within 10 days of the assignment, he must pass through waivers before making his way to the Jays minors.

Alnthopoulos stated the following about Purcey:

“With respect to David, the last few outings in the spring weren’t great, the three outings here,” said Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos. “That’s always been the issue with him. He has always had a tremendous arm, great teammate, and the issue has always been command and the ability to throw strikes.”

“I expect to be able to trade him,” Anthopoulos said. “Because he’s out of options, we have 10 days to do something with him, and I’ve had enough interest from other clubs that I believe we’ll be able to move him before that 10-day window expires.”

With that in mind, here are some thoughts on the situation, on what teams may be interested, and on what the returns could be from those teams:

The Situation

Since teams know that the Jays are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to dealing Purcey, since they’ll lose him on waivers if they don’t trade him within 10 days, they’ll be bidding carefully in hopes of getting him on the cheap.

However, since quality LHP relievers are so coveted in MLB, the Jays will likely have multiple suitors, meaning that they may be able to raise the price and get a decent return.

David Purcey(28) is under control through 2015 (Arb1 in 2013, Arb 2 in 2014, Arb 3 in 2015), is making $436,000 in 2011, and has 1 good season of relief pitching under his belt (34 IP, 3.71 ERA, 1.206 Whip).

Instead of waiving a pitcher like Jo-Jo Reyes(26) who couldn’t get the job done in the National League, only had a whip under 1.5 once and for a very short period, and has never pitched in relief, the Toronto Blue Jays have decided to cut ties with Purcey. Reyes has never had a positive WAR rating, while Purcey was ever so slightly above the norm with a 0.2 WAR rating in 2010.

Perhaps the Purcey situation is developing due to the fact that Purcey holds more value on the trade market than Reyes does, for obvious reasons, and the Jays are therefore more comfortable letting go of that asset than letting Reyes go for no return. But, as with the letting go of Brad Emaus in the rule 5 draft, I have to question whether or not this is “gifting” an asset to another club in the same was as Fred Lewisand Jayson Nixwere gifted to the Blue Jays. In this case, I’d say the Jays are giving up more than any of Emaus, Lewis, or Nix, and will therefore hopefully get some return above andbeyond cash considerations or the dreaded nothing.

As for needs, the Blue Jays have little in the way of pressing needs. If anything, they may want to acquire someone who can man both 2B and SS since both Aaron Hilland Yunel Escobar could wind up on the DL at some point in time.
Sure, John McDonald can man both positions, but should one of the 2 starters go down, someone would need to back him up, right? Jayson Nix can man 2B and 3B, as well as play the OF corners, but he can’t man SS, so that leaves him out.

There’s always the possibility of a bigger deal being considered, with Juan Rivera or another player being included in a deal. But, such deals are not easy to accomplish this early in the season and may therefore be pipe dreams at this point.

Teams That May Hold Interest – My Top 5

Houston -The one team that is publicly known to have interest in Purcey are the Astros. They have recently began to gather ex-Jays players, including Brett Wallace, Brian Dopirak, and most recently Joe Inglett. They already sit last in the NL Central (3-8), andhave a long ways to go before they’ll be able to contend in that division. Fernando Abad is currently the only LHP in their pen, so you can understand their interest in Purcey. Here are the few players I see the Jays holding interest in, with one in particular that has had a ton of bad luck of late:

  • Clint Barmes (32) – 2B/SS – This guy just can’t catch a break…or wait, that’s all he has caught recently! While with the Rockies, he showed some of his potential, but wound up with a broken clavicle suffered while running up the stairs. With the Astros, he is currently on the 15-day DL with a broken hand. He has a ton of talent, but with the emergence of Angel Sanchez with the Astros, he would simply become a utility player for the team….a very expensive one at that. They also have Jeff Keppinger already slated for that role once he is healthy. The Jays interest would lie in having him act as a true utility player that holds a little more upside than Mike McCoy does. Barmes is set to make $3.925 million this season and will be a FA once the year is over (contract info courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts). If the Jays believe he could garner a Type B pick for the team, their interest could simply lie in getting their hands on yet another 1st rd sandwich pick.
  •  Others: Prospects. I’m not well versed on their prospects, but I do know that they have a few middle-of-the-road guys that could interest the Jays. I wouldn’t expect anything near a Delino DeShields Jr. caliber player, but more of a low in the minors pitcher that the Jays may like for one reason or another.

Kansas City Royals – They’re actually doing better than was expected so far in 2011 and have a ton of SP prospects on the way. Unless they plan on breaking many of them in as relievers, they must be interested in shoring up their RP group in order to ensure that when all of their highly rated prospects get the call, they’re not forced to watch good efforts go to waste with losses caused by a weak pen. Joakim Soria anchors their pen, and they have recently added ex-Jays LHP Tim Collins (the only lefty in their pen) as well as Jeremy Jeffress. The addition of a long relief LHP would go a long way to making the Royals more consistent in the pen, and Purcey fits that bill perfectly. So, who would the Jays target?

  • Mike Aviles (30) – INF – Aviles, just as Barmes listed above, has been the unfortunate recipient of some injuries in recent years. He’s off to a slow start this season, but does have 1 HR and 2 SBs to his credit already. His best season was in 2008, when he hit .325/.354/.480 with 10 HRs and 8 SBs in 419 ABs. He bounced back enough in 2010 to show that he’s worth a gamble, and at 30 years old, he still has plenty of productive time remaining. The Royals have Mike Moustakas slated to take over at 3B ASAP, and already have Chris Getz (2B) and Alcides Escobar (SS) manning the middle of the infield. Wilson Betemit acts as their super utility, so there’s a chance that they’d be willing to part with Aviles. He is making $640,000 this season, and will be arbitration eligible for the first time in 2012. He is under control through 2014.
  • Others: Clint Robinson and numerous other prospects.

Detroit Tigers – The Tigers don’t seem like a great trade candidate for the Jays, but they have had so many issues pop up with their pen – including the ever injured Joel Zumaya – that they could be in the hunt for some RP depth. Having moved Phil Coke to their rotation and having added RHP reliever Joaquin Benoit to their pen, the Tigers on really have Daniel Schlereth manning the LHP reliever role. Brad Thomas, their 2nd LHP reliever, has been horrible thus far in 2011 after a lackluster 2010 and so the Tigers could be looking for an upgrade. Who could they be willing to provide in return?

  • A Prospect or Casper Wells – I’m not certain as to how the OF will play itself out in Detroit, but I do get a feeling that they’d be reluctant to deal any of their younger options (Wells, Brennan Boesch, or Ryan Raburn) since Magglio Ordonez is injury prone and getting into the last years of his career. The Boesch and Raburn combination gives the Tigers and RHB/LHB combination that they can use to get the right matchups. Therefore, it is possible that they’d be willing to let Wells go if it means strengthening one of their major weaknesses, such as pen depth.

Philadelphia Phillies – The team lost Brad Lidge to injury and doesn’t exactly know when he may return, and how effective he’ll be when he does return. They’re also maxed out when it comes to budgeting issues, and therefore will likely be on the market for cheap pen help as opposed to high-priced acquisitions. J.C Romero is currently listed as their only LHP relief pitcher, so adding Purcey would definitely help give them more from the left side. Likely return?

  • Prospects Justin De Fratus (Kyle Drabek‘s VERY good friend) and/or J.C. Ramirez. Both are RHP that I view as future relief pitcher in MLB that could provide the Jays with stability in the pen once their highly touted prospects make it to The Show. Whereas the Jays can afford to wait in order to make a playoff push, the Phillies are playing for today, so a prospect for Purceyswap makes perfect sense in this case. It could be any number of other prospects, but he 2 listed above are those that stand out to me at first glance. Phillippe Aumont will forever be listed by people due to his being Canadian, so there’s a shot he could be targeted, but he’s had a horrible time of late and doesn’t seem that attractive as a result.

St-Louis Cardinals – The Cards could very well be in play here as they are about to place Brian Tallet on the DL which leaves them with no LHP reliever on the roster. Add in an upcoming Albert Pujols bidding fiasco, a slow start to the 2011 season that needs to get better to entice him to stay, and an injured Adam Wainright, and you’ve got a team that may be very willing to part with a good piece for David Purcey‘s services. I wish I could say that the Jays would target Colby Rasmus and put a war of words between him, his dad, and Tony LaRussa as the major reason, but I can’t. The fact remains that the Cards need Rasmus to perform for them to win, so I’ll concentrate on other likely but will add a “wildcard” that would apply to Rasmus.

  • Matt Carpenter – There’s reason to question my logic here because Carpenter had such a strong spring training and the Jays seem ready to hand 3B over to Brett Lawrie, but bear with me here for a second. Carpenter is already 25 years old, hasn’t played above AA, and has been fairly old for the levels that he has played at thus far. He also hasn’t hit more than 13 HRs in any one season, making him unlikely to unseat David Freese at 3B. The Cards also have Zack Cox coming up the ranks as a real aternative at 3B that isn’t that far away from the majors as a College draftee. If the Jays did get Carpenter in trade, they could easily use Brett Lawrie in LF and have a rotation of Travis Snider, Brett Lawrie, and Jose Bautista in place for LF/RF/DH.
  • Wilcard: I’m going out on a big-time limb here and am just thinking out loud here, but could the Jays land Colby Rasmus if they were willing to include other pieces with Purcey that made the Cards more likely to be able to retain Albert Pujols after the 2011 season? I’m thinking of guys like Brett Cecil, Aaron Hill, and/or Rajai Davis who could all work to help make the Cards better due to their weaknesses in the rotation, at the top of the lineup, and at 2B. I would be surprised if Hill were involved, but with the strong play of Jayson Nix and his ability to play 2B you just never know what Alex Anthopoulos may do. It has been said that once Adeiny Hechavarria is ready to take over at SS, Yunel Escobar could be moving to 2B, making Hill expendable. After not picking up his 2014 option, perhaps the Jays are signalling that Hill could be had in trade. Just a thought!

That’s my list of candidates at this point. We’ll see how it plays out, but I do believe that Alex Anthopoulos will be able to work out a trade and that it could come as quickly as before the weekend. With so many teams being in need of LHP relievers, there’s little doubt in my mind that the phone is ringing often. I could be wrong and Purcey could go elsewhere, but I do hope that the returns match his skills, because the Jays deserve at least some return from a good quality arm like his.

– MG

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