If the Jays ever considered Leo Nunez as a possible addition this off season, now would be the time to ask for him in trade.The Marlins just completed a deal with the San Diego Padres that had the fish taking on 2 relievers in return for the talented Cameron Maybin. Not only does this add some big time pieces to their already well-stocked pen, but it makes it more likely that they’ll look to deal Leo Nunez or others in order to afford Dan Uggla – if a deal is attainable at this point, after Dan Uggla‘s side have stated that they’re willing to make a deal happen but have been cut off in communications with Florida executives.
Leo Nunez is arbitration eligible for the 2nd time this off season and cost the Marlins $2 million in 2010. With a raise on the way, this money would go a long way to getting Dan Uggla under contract, if this is still in their plans. Why else would they give up Cameron Maybin for 2 relievers? Leo is by far their biggest cost in the pen and lost his closing job to Clay Hensley at the end of the 2010 season, making him expendable. I’m fairly certain that with Jose Ceda making the jump fromt he minor leagues, Clay Hensley, and the 2 new additions, Florida is more than satisfied to use Leo Nunez and his bigger than average Marlins salary as trade bait.
On the Jays side of things, whether it’s along with Dan Uggla or not, Leo would go a long way to adding some depth and experience to a Jays pen that very well needs it. They can definitely afford his salary, but the question leans more towards whether or not Leo will be effective in the American League, or more specifically in the AL East?
If we use the great splits data provided by Baseball-Reference here, which highlights Leo’s splits during the 2008 season – his last with the KC Royals in the AL – we can see that the result is favorable with one fault. While Leo did extremely well versus the Rays, Orioles, and the Yankees, holding them to .182, .125 and .125 averages each in 27 ABs total. Meanwhile, he had a horrible time against the Red Sox, allowing a .429 average in 14 ABs. All that this tells us is that he had a little bit of a hard time against the Red Sox that season, but fared really well against the majority of the AL East in a time that had them as arguably the best division in baseball. Analysis: it’s only one example of a lot of stats to sift through, but they all point to the same conclusion, that he was 24 when he got it done, and that he has the goods to get it done in the AL.
Another interesting piece of information from that season is that both John Buck AND Miguel Olivo caught Leo on numerous occasions that season and know his stuff extremely well as a result. Going further into it, Leo had a 2.31 ERA when Miguel Olivo caught him versus a 3.19 ERA when John Buck caught him. It’s interesting that there’s still a chance that one or the other, Buck or Olivo, could be catching for the Jays in 2011. Does that make Nunez a more interesting acquisition target? Perhaps, but it all depends on what the Marlins want for him in return.
The Jays have plenty to offer the Marlins and it all starts with the outfield. With Cody Ross and now Cameron Maybin gone, the Marlins are in dire need 0f a CF and some pop in the lineup. Sending Adam Loewen or Eric Thames to the Marlins in return for Nunez is a possibility, but would they be satisfied with only that in return for a possible closer? I’m not sure, but I do know they like to find prospects that can help them keep costs to a minimum. Someone else may have to be included and that’s for the GMs to figure out, but I know for a fact that the Jays have enough to get him and that Florida is willing to deal Leo, so a deal can be done if Leo interests the Jays enough.
The great thing about acquiring Leo Nunez is that it still leaves plenty of room to acquire another end of the pen arm, even a closer. Leo is accustomed to setting up in the pen and could take that hole in the Jays pen over from Scott Downs. He’s under control through 2012 and is still affordable at that rate in a pen that has no big contract in it. In fact, as we look to 2011, the only pen contracts over $1 million will be Shawn Camp once he and the Jays agree to a deal while facing his 4th year of arbitration eligibility, and Taylor Buchholz assuming he agrees to terms while in his 3rd year of eligibility and assuming he’s healthy and offered a deal by the Jays.
The way I see it is that the Jays have only $43.75 million committed to the payroll in 2011 so far and they can afford to pay Leo Nunez for the 2011 and 2012 season as a result. He is still young at only 27 years old and is proven as effective in the American League. He shuts down LHB very well and has some closing experience with 56 saves so far in his career. If the price is right in terms of trade pieces headed to Florida, I say the Jays should make every attempt to acquire Leo and to make him a strong part of the pen in 2011 and 2012.
You can vote for Leo in our new poll entitled “Which closer on the market would you like to see close for the ’11 Jays?” I’d like to add that since this move was made, Heath Bell is most likely off the market since the Padres will be relying on him to shut the door. The Padres GM voiced the same opinion on XM Radio after the trade of 2 of their relievers was announced, basically committing the Padres to keeping Bell on board.