As the Giants attempt to get over what is sure to be a pretty good hangover, although a much more pleasant one than those enjoyed by Rangers fans and players, Free Agency has opened and teams are now free to snap up players. From Cliff Lee to Victor Martinez, there are a good amount of intriguing players around MLB that the Jays could target this off season, but it seems that Alex Anthopolous may be a bigger fan of the trade route – and who can blame him after the highway robberies he recently experienced when he acquired Fred Lewis and Yunel Escobar for very little.
The quotes in question are as follows:
"“I’m not opposed at all to taking prospects and trading them for big-league players,”"
"“I think the trade route, although there’s a lot more risk to it, there’s a lot more of a chance to make mistake, I think that’s probably the best avenue for us to pursue,”"
So what does that tell us about this off season? I think a lot of Alex’s positioning comes from 2 big vantage points. First, the talent pool in this year’s FA class is so shallow that it will be over priced and will demand long-term contracts that the Jays are not willing to consider, and second, that the Jays have a ton of talent to trade in the minors, including a ton of pitching prospects.
Who’s on the block if this is really the case? Well, that always depends on the talent being acquired, but the following is a short list of players I consider “expendable” and “attainable” by other teams from within the newly found Jays prospect riches:
1 – Zach Stewart: He proved to us in 2010 that he can indeed be a starter and would be viewed as anything betweeen a potential middle of rotation starter to a potential closer. The acquiring team could easily slot him immediately in their pen and use him as a long-term relief or spot starter role. The Dodgers and Brewers seem to be the teams that need this type of player most. Matt Kemp or Prince Fielder could be the big targets.
2 – David Cooper: Although he didn’t exactly tear the cover off the ball, David did heighten his trade value in 2010 as a sound defensive 1B with enough pop to make due and a lot of potential to get better. The Jays want pop from the 1B position and I doubt Cooper will ever be the answer there. I’m not sure what the returns would be in this case, but the teams most likely to be interested include the newly crowned champion Giants, the Diamondbacks, and the Rockies who could see him as the heir to Todd Helton as a high-average and run driving 1B.
3 – Henderson Alvarez: He is one of these pitchers that Jays fans have followed for a good length fo time already as he used to rank as the absolute best SP prospect the Jays had in the minors. However, the 2010 draft and Drabek’s acquisition have driven his status down a little in comparison and may have made him more expandable than ever. The returns could be quite good for this young hurler, as he has experienced success at a very young age at every level he has been tested with. The Mets, Brewers, and Dodgers remain the usual suspects in search of SP, although Alvarez may be a little further away from MLB than those teams would like.
4 – Eric Thames: With Travis Snider and Vernon Wells almost guaranteed to man the OF for the next 4-5 years, and Jose Bautista, Darin Mastroianni, or Anthony Gose being the incumbents for the last spot depending on the lineup and whether the Jays sign Jose long term, Eric could become a very nice trade chip. He had a career year last season in AA with 27 HRs and a .370 OBP, and could be tested in the majors in 2011 by the acquiring team. A deal involving Matt Kemp would most likely include the likes of Thames. There are many other teams who could use some outfield pop at a cheap rate, including most notably the Kansas City Royals who are looking at the possibility of dealing Zach Greinke. How nice would he look at the top of the rotation for the Jays in 2011? A pitcher would likely be on his way to KC in this scenario – a very unlikely but fun one to imagine to say the least.
5 – Travis d’Arnaud and Carlos Perez: Of the two, I believe the msot likely to be traded would be Travis d’Arnaud, mostly because his trade value is higher and he is closer to being major league ready than Carlos. However, both bring the possibility of becoming true #1 franchise catchers and therefore could bring back some hefty returns. Teams such as the Marlins and the Royals (once again) could have a lot of interest in Travis. In the Marlins case, it could be in return for a player like Dan Uggla, who could be headed to the hot corner for the Jays if acquired. As for KC, I’m still thinking about Zach Greinke.
Other possible prospect trade chips: Chad Jenkins, Joel Carreno, Brad Mills, Luis Perez, and other SP could all be involved in the right deal. Other outfielders that could be dealt include Moises Sierra and Welinton Ramirez, with Moises brining back a decent return if included.
The most likely Jays targets, in my humblest of opinion, include the following players:
Prince Fielder, 1B MLW – The Jays are one of a few teams that can afford the big guy and one of 2 that I can count who don’t have a big bat at 1B and can also afford him. The other team being the Boston Red Sox, but only if they’re willing to move Kevin Youkilis to 3B. If the Red Sox are willing to deal Lars Anderson, they may be able to put a better package together for Prince, but will they be willing to trade SP as easily as the Jays would be? I seriously doubt that after the injuries and lack of production they have received from their core pitchers. Therefore, if – and that’s a big if – Prince is dealt, I make the Jays the favorites. (The NYY have Mark Texeira, PHI have Ryan Howard, DET have Miguel Cabrera, LAA have Kendry Morales, and the remainder likely involved teams either have younger and cheaper options such as Chris Carter in Oakland, or don’t have the cash to get involved). However, if the acquiring AL team is willing to make Prince a full time DH, all teams – including the evil empire, are in play.
Colby Rasmus, OF STL: Although management tried to squash any talk of Colby being disgruntled in St-Louis, we all heard the same rumors that this was the case. With the costs of Albert Pujols and Matt Holiday sure to hamper the Cardinals for a long time, and the aging Chris Carpenter being one of their vital pitchers, this is the time for them to win championships. If the Jays can offer Shaun Marcum to solidify their SP core (remember that they traded a big bat in Ryan Ludwick for Jake Westbrook to make a run in 2010), I’m positive the Jays could land Colby. I’m not saying the Jays would be able to do this straight up or that they would want to, but it seems like a feasible scenario. The Cardinals could take on one of many OF FA available on the market in order to fill the hole let behind. Eric Thames or Moises Sierra could also be involved in this deal.
Mark Reynolds: Able to fill in at either 1B, 3B, or as a very potent DH, Mark is still young and would provide a ton of pop to the lineup. He would only be attractive if the Jays believe he can hit well above the Mendoza line and seems the least likely to be targeted from this group as a result. The risk would just be a little higher.
Those are my 4 most likely trade targets by the Jays this off season. If you feel some others are more likely or have head any rumors of targets, let us know in the comments or by email!
I still believe that the Jays may attempt to grab Victor Martinez or another FA or two, but I’m fairly certain that the Jays will be strict in their adherance to not handing out money just to hand out money, particularly when it comes to lengthy deals. Someone like Victor Martinez would allow for partial playing time for both JP Arencibia behind the plate and Adam Lind at 1B. The roster would be very flexible overall, but the question is at what price? If Victor will sign a 1 or 2 year deal, he could work for the Jays. If not, he’ll likely wind up in Detroit or Texas.