With the Toronto Blue Jays in the midst of a season long four game winning streak, it sounds negative to talk about a topic like this. You can thank Jon Heyman for drawing my ire.
What should Alex Anthopoulos do if the season plays out the way it has been playing out and the Blue Jays play cellar dwellers?
The way I see it, if this Jays team isn’t going to do win this season, then they’re not going to do it. Factors such as the AL East crown is more winnable now this season than it has been in the last 18 years led to a big bump in payroll for the Jays, as they took on the “win now” persona. They bet the farm to acquire players that look fantastic or “sexy on paper.” If “win now” is not going to happen, I believe the Jays would have to (dare I say it) rebuild the farm.
Heyman had his own ideas the other day. He believes that the Baltimore Orioles should go after R.A. Dickey. He then followed it up with Dickey more-than-likely not being available due to a relatively team friendly contract for a reigning Cy Young winner. So basically, it was a waste of an article by Heyman. I wasn’t the only one that felt this way. Travis Bateman’s article takes it into further detail discussing some nationally syndicated writers you may want to avoid when it comes to following the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s an excellent read.
Bateman, Heyman, and another fellow writer, Kyle Franzoni however, all got me thinking: “if it’s over before the trade deadline, who are the Blue Jays most trade-able chips?”
I’m not in the head of AA. If I was, I would ABSOLUTELY NOT make a trade to improve an AL East rival unless I knew for sure the Blue Jays were absolutely out of it. So Dickey to the Orioles just isn’t happening. Guys that could be on their way out however:
Edwin Encarnacion: There are several playoff contending teams that are having issues at 1B, 3B, and OF. Encarnacion can play all of those positions. While his versatility makes him intriguing, it’s his power and contract that make him a great trade chip. The power slugger is only one year removed from hitting .280 with 42 HR 110 RBI and an .941 OPS. The 2012 season was by far EE’s best season of his career. If the Blue Jays were better in 2012, Encarnacion would have been an MVP candidate. The amount of money he’s earning this season? A mere $8 million dollars. That’s nothing for MVP type numbers. Did I mention that Easy E is also only 30 years old?
Teams Interested: Most of this is my own speculation of course, but contending teams outside the AL East that could use an upgrade at 1B, 3B, or OF are the St.Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers, and MAYBE Oakland Athletics or Kansas City Royals.
All four teams mentioned have great talent at their minor league levels. St.Louis and Texas are probably the best suitors since both teams are willing to take on money and have young, talented players they’re looking to move. The Rangers may be the most ideal. The Rangers are looking to upgrade at 1B (the Rangers aren’t sold on Mitch Moreland) and possibly move #1 prospect SS/2B Jurickson Profar as well as #2 prospect 3B Mike Olt since both youngsters are roadblocked by better players. With the possible resurgence of the Jays 1B/OF/DH Adam Lind, plus the Blue Jays need for a legitimate second baseman, this trade would benefit both teams greatly. It would also give Toronto some payroll relief for when SS Jose Reyes‘ contract starts to reach into the stratosphere of ballplayers like Albert Pujols ($23 million) and Alex Rodriguez ($28 million.)
Brandon Morrow: It’s difficult to imagine Morrow being the Jays most trade-able pitcher given his inconsistency. Many GMs, however, love Morrow’s stuff and feel he can be a bonafide top of the rotation pitcher of almost any team. Though he was more affordable last season, $8 million for a 28 year old hard throwing righty is still relative bargain for aspiring playoff teams. 2012 showed glimpses of just how good he can be, with a 10-7 record, 2.96 ERA, and 3.0 BB/9, all career bests.
Teams Interested: The Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves have to be interested if Morrow is available. Both teams would be willing to increase their payroll to acquire an arm like Morrow’s. It’s tough to say who the ideal partner is here, but the Braves have the more talented farm system at this point. If the Jays are looking to add some young talented arms, you don’t have to look hard with the Braves. Julio Teheran or Mike Minor do not have Morrow’s stuff, but can be front line starters, are younger, and would be under team control wherever they end up. Landing one of them as well as a couple of decent-to-low end prospects could make a trade like this very realistic.
Casey Janssen: It pains me to say Janssen’s name in trade talks. What pains me even more is Toronto doesn’t see him to be the ideal closer for this team. Last season’s trade for Sergio Santos showed you Toronto felt it needed improvement at the back end of the pen. This despite Janssen being the most reliable relief pitcher the Jays have had over the last three seasons (yes, even more so than Jason Frasor.) Since Janssen is an UFA after 2014 and costs around $4 million for his talents, he’s affordable by most playoff contending teams and would be a great trade asset for the Jays.
Teams Interested: Two teams that immediately come to mind are both from the NL West. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks both need closers. Brandon League and J.J. Putz, for their respective teams, have not been good.
Here’s where this gets tricky though. Both teams have closers waiting in the wings. The Dodgers have Kenley Jansen. Arizona has David Hernandez. In fact, most sports analysts have wondered why Jansen has yet to be given the closer’s role with all of League’s struggles. In Arizona, I don’t feel the D-Backs trust Hernandez in that role just yet. When Putz went down to injury, instead of going to Hernandez, Diamondbacks coach Kirk Gibson gave the closing duties to failed Miami Marlins closer Heath Bell.
Janssen would be a perfect fit for either team though. The Jays would ideally like to deal with Diamondbacks because of their farm system talent. A player like Janssen could possibly get the Jays LHP prospect Tyler Skaggs straight up due to the pitching depth Arizona has. Even though Skaggs is the Diamondbacks top organizational prospect, based off of what I read, my perception is the club may value #2 prospect, RHP Archie Bradley, more. It’s not out of the realm of getting players like Matt Davidson, Adam Eaton, and Skaggs or Bradley if Toronto ships Encarnacion and Janssen to Arizona. That does go against Arizona’s youth movement philosophy however.
Janssen, being from California, may prefer to go to the Dodgers. The Dodgers sorely need a reliable late inning arm, almost as much as the Jays do. Two problems with the Dodgers. 1.) They are struggling as badly now as the Jays were in April. 2.) Much like the Jays, they too bet their farm system on big name, talented veterans. So the Dodgers farm system is pretty dry. If, however, LA puts together a solid playoff run in the coming months, or at least believes it can, they may be willing to make a move where it could net the Jays stud prospect OF Yasiel Puig in exchange for Janssen.
There are plenty of the minor moves to be made. Playoff teams are always looking to make their team faster on the basepaths. Rajai Davis and Emilio Bonifacio have great speed and could be sent out, but it probably wouldn’t give the Jays back anybody of major relevance. Melky Cabrera, if he continues to hit the ball well, could maybe net a decent set of prospects, but I feel teams are still a bit hesitant to trade for him after his suspension and cover-up last season for PEDs. Darren Oliver or Aaron Loup are two more players that could be dealt seeing as though most teams like to carry a “lefty specialist.” Don’t expect both guys to get the Jays much in return either.
Ultimately, if the Jays are done, then Encarnacion, Morrow, and Janssen are the best bet to help rebuild this franchise. While the trades made this offseason to acquire Dickey and other good players like Josh Johnson and Reyes weren’t entirely bad, if this team doesn’t at least get into the playoffs, it’s going to cost AA his job. The flip flopping of team strategy to go from building within, to betting the farm, back to building within is generally frowned upon in any major sports management community. It portrays the image that the guy running the franchise doesn’t know what he’s doing. If the Jays go back to rebuilding, they truly will be the “Marlins of the North” and will absolutely portray that clueless image.