If you were lucky enough to witness the craziness that was last night on Twitter, you got a glimpse of just how excited Jays fans can become when the Jays make, or are rumored to be making, big moves. No, Yu Darvish was not meant to become a Toronto Blue Jays pitcher, so the question becomes this: what now?
There had been reports which pointed to the Jays also being in on Matt Latos, right to the end, which tells us just how involved the Jays have been as they try to improve their pitching. Both of these pitchers, Darvish and Latos, fit the Alex Anthopoulos mold in that they are top flight starters. If he’s going to add a pitcher, it’s going to be one that he believes can step in as a difference maker.
With that in mind, I’ve come up with a few targets that the Jays may covet now that they’re back to square one.
Matt Garza (CHC) 6’4″ 215 lbs
He’s unlikely to ever be considered an ace, but Matt Garza does have the stuff to pitch well in the AL East and had a good track record while with the Rays for 3 seasons. He’s as close to a guaranteed 200 innings or so with a sub 4 ERA that the Jays could find on the trade market right now. The Cubs will want a lot for Garza since it would leave their rotation in total disarray, which may make that price steeper than teams are willing to pay.
Another problem with obtaining Garza is that he’s only under control through 2013, at which time he becomes a FA. If the Jays do make a move for a starter or two, it’s unlikely that they’d target one with so little time left on his contract. Latos had 4 years left on his deal, and Darvish will likely sign a 5 to 7 year deal. I’d expect those kinds of control time to continue to be targets for AA. This tells me that unless he’s willing to meet the demands of the Cubs and to sign Garza to an extension – a very unlikely scenario from Garza’s point of view since he’ll want to see what he can get in FA – Garza will not be a Jays pitcher any time soon. There is a chance that AA would be content with the picks that could be coming Toronto’s way if Garza walks, but they’re a big gamble with the revamped compensation system in place.
Matt Cain (SFG) 6’4″ 230 lbs
Unlike Garza, Cain has never been tested in the American League East, but he does hold a very distinguished record of performance. He’s in the last year of his contract, and his team mate, Tim Lincecum, becomes a free agent the year after. So, it seems to me that the Giants are going to have to make some very important decisions very soon. Do they want to deal Cain to help their chances of retaining Lincecum, do they decide instead that they can’t afford Lincecum long-term and deal “The Freak” for a boat load of talent, or do they make a statement by keeping both around for the foreseeable future? The latter is possible when you consider that they dealt one of their top pitching prospects, Zach Wheeler, to the Mets for a questionable return last season.
The Jays seem to have been tied to Cain for a very long time. I can’t remember who first linked them to him, but today, he would make a perfect addition to the Jays staff. He’s a workhorse who just turned 27 years old, has playoff experience, has started over 30 games for the last 6 seasons and has really brought his performance to a new level over the last 2 seasons (3.14 and 2.88 ERA with 1.084 and 1.083 whip respectively). How much of a jump would those stats take with a switch from the NL West to the AL East? Nobody really knows, but I can tell you that chances are the Jays would have a great opportunity to win every time he took the mound, and that he’d be more than willing to lead the staff alongside Ricky Romero.
As with Garza, the question becomes whether or not the Jays could get him under contract if they dealt for him. The Jays are not in win now mode, so dealing away 3-4-5 players for Cain just doesn’t make sense right now. There is a chance that Anthopoulos could ask the Giants for a period of time to work out a new contract with Cain – as they allowed to be done when dealing Roy Halladay – but if you’re Matt Cain, why take away the opportunities for a bidding war on the open market? Security would be the one reason, I imagine. When you’ve thrown over 200 innings for 6 seasons, you know that security could be comforting.
For those of you who imagine the Jays would be more interested in their young LHP Madison Bumgarner, you’re probably right. But, if the Giants are going to afford Lincecum moving forward, they’ll need the affordable Bumgarner to be there with him.
Gio Gonzalez (OAK) 6’0″ 205 lbs
The Jays last made a trade with Oakland when they sent the newly acquired Michael Taylor to Oakland in return for Brett Wallace. The latter was sent to Houston for Anthony Gose. While I still believe the Jays got the best of both of those deals, it seems that the Jays didn’t “fleece” the A’s to the point of not having open dialogue with them for future trades. Gio’s name seems to be everywhere right now. The Yankees, Red Sox, Nationals, and Marlins have all been linked to him at one time or another, and the price for his services does not seem to be coming down at all.
To me, Gio is a #2-3 starter that the Jays need to be careful about. Dealing too much talent for his services could prove to be a long-term blow to the organizational strength AA has built up over the past seasons. Still, he is battle tested in the American League, is only 26 years old, and could definitely help bolster a rotation that needs it. To me, Gio makes more sense than the 2 others listed above for a few reasons. He knows the AL well, he is slightly younger, and he’s under control through 2015. Also, by acquiring him the Jays would also ensure the pitching weary Yankees wouldn’t be acquiring him. Gio is arbitration eligible for the first time this off season, so he’ll be more than affordable salary wise for the next few seasons at least.
If the A’s lower their asking price, I expect the Jays to be big players for his services and wouldn’t be surprised to see a reliever come along with him.
Some of the others which could be targeted by the Jays include:
- John Danks CHW (FA in 2013)
- Gavin Floyd CHW
- Jair Jurrjens ATL
- Jon Niese NYM
- Wandy Rodriguez HOU
- Brett Myers HOU
- James Shields TB (FA in 2013)
Of those listed above, I can only truly see Danks and Shields as being attractive targets, and it seems highly unlikely that the Jays could land Shields due to his being on a division rival’s roster. Jurrjens, a very talented pitcher, makes some sense here, but he is definitely not a workhorse and has too many health issues to be considered a big target for the Jays. Therefore, Danks could be the one target brought to Toronto from that group, while I view the rest as simply being too low of an upgrade for the Jays to consider them as true trade targets.
HOWEVER, there is one more issue we have yet to consider. The Jays have said all along that they’d rather use the trade route to upgrade pitching. There is one player soon to be available on the FA market that could make them stray from that some in order to provide them with the ammunition needed to pull off a major pitching addition. I’m speaking of Yoenis Cespedes, who is highly sought after by anyone and everyone who has the money to get him.
Unlike the Yu Darvish acquisition, there is no posting fee for the services of Cespedes. Now that the Jays “saved” themselves some money, they can definitely afford to make a splash – while also blocking their rivals from acquiring him – and obtain the rights to what could be the best Cuban import to come around for a very long time. They have a couple of Cubans in their organization to make a pitch with, Yunel Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria, and could therefore have an edge over others if the money is similar.
The Jays would have to beat out the likes of the Nationals and Marlins as well, who now seem to be consistently spending like big market teams as well. But, if we assume that the Jays bid for Darvish was in the 40-50 million range, and that a 60-75 million contract would have followed a winning bid, we can safely assume that the money is available if the Jays evaluate his talents as being worthy of the investment.
Alright, let’s assume for one moment that they do sign Yoenis Cespedes. What does it mean to the Jays?
Well, if what we read is true, he could walk right in and be the opening day center fielder for the team that acquires him. This would make outfielders such as Colby Rasmus, Travis Snider, and Eric Thames available on the trade market. Rasmus seems to be the most likely target of any team dealing pitching at this point, and a package centered around him could definitely land the Jays pitchers such as Matt Garza, Matt Cain, or Gio Gonzalez. Cain and Gonzalez in particular seem to be perfect fits for such a trade since both are trying to add some offensive ability to their squads.
In making such acquisitions, the Jays would not only be bolstering their rotation, but would also be preventing the Red Sox and Yankees from making the acquisitions on both counts: in the case of Cespedes and in the case of either Gonzalez or Cain.
There seems to be some advantage to signing a player such as Cespedes, but as always when signing an international free agent, it comes with a huge risk. Has this stopped the Jays in the past under AA? Not at all. If anything, under his watch, we’ve seen nothing but his being at the forefront of adding any and all possible international talent and making the best effort to bring them to Toronto in all cases. I fully expect the Jays to be part of the front runners for his services, as they were for Aroldis Chapman, Adeiny Hechavarria and Leonys Martin. Whether or not they land him is another issue, but at least we can rest assured that the Jays are on a serious hunt for talent and are really striving to bring the playoffs to Toronto.