The Jays-related rumours continue as the offseason market heats up. The market was slow to develop but has picked up speed recently as there have been several significant free agent signings and one blockbuster trade. Of particular note to Jays’ fans was Josh Johnson signing an incentive-laden deal with the San Diego Padres.
The free agent market for pitching, catching, and middle infield is pretty thin right now, making upgrades difficult, if not impossible. That leaves 2 main options: the farm and trades. The farm isn’t deep enough to provide an answer for any of those positions, leaving trades as the primary means of improvement. Is gutting the farm even more than they have already–in exchange for a 74-88 record, no less–the answer?
The Latest Rumours
No one knows yet what form any moves will take, of course, but it needs to be considered. The latest rumours to hit the fan in Toronto are instructive. Apparently, the Jays have varying degrees of interest in OF Matt Kemp of the Dodgers, free agent starter Ricky Nolasco, and starter Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs.
The rumours swirling around the Blue Jays’ interest in Jeff Samardzija focus on the Cubs receiving one or both of Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman, the Jays’ top 2 prospects, in the deal.
Jeff Samardzija is a good pitcher (good K-rate, K/BB ratio, ground ball ratio) who struggles somewhat to keep runners off base (higher walk rate) and to keep the ball in the park (HR/9 rate north of 1). An average 9-inning start will yield 3 walks and 9 hits, one of which will leave the park. He’s 28 and under team control for 2 more seasons. His WAR over the last 2 seasons–his only 2 seasons as a starter–is unimpressive. That the kind of market the Jays are scouring to find the hidden gem: a market that sees Jeff Samardzija as being worth at least one top pitching prospect plus other valuable young players.
At A Glance: Some Completed/Pending Deals
Jason Vargas signed with the Royals for 4 years/$32MM, 38-year old Tim Hudson signed with the Giants for 2 yrs/$23MM, and Dan Haren received a 1 yr/$10MM deal from the Dodgers. These are mid-to-back-end-of-the-rotation guys. The Giants also signed Tim Lincecum to a 2 yr/$35MM deal.
The St. Louis Cardinals just addressed their middle infield need by signing PED abuser Jhonny Peralta to a 4 yr/$53MM contract. Apparently his 50-game suspension (Biogenesis) didn’t deter the Cards one bit. He replaces Pete Kozma because someone should.
The best remaining shortstop on the market is Stephen Drew, who was given a Qualifying Offer by the Boston Red Sox. He declined it. I mention this because the Jays would like a shortstop to play 2B.
The Phillies, under the inspired direction of Ruben Amaro, Jr., re-upped with catcher Carlos Ruiz for 3 yrs/$26MM, and the Yankees locked up Brian McCann for 5 yrs/$85MM. The best catcher remaining on the free agent market is Jarrod freakin’ Saltalamacchia.
What about the other option? What about hitting the reset button and blowing it up? The Jays, given their situation and their needs, seem desperate: do they have to make a bad move? Why not sell between now and July 31? Let’s think about it for a bit.
The emotional position against selling is powerful, but not particularly compelling. Who cares if people cry and wail and gnash their teeth if the Jays blow it up. Also lacking teeth is the AA-is-trying-to-save-his-job argument. As a matter of fact, it works in favour of blowing it up. No, there are too many unknown variables in this option. We don’t know what his relationship with Paul Beeston is like, we have no idea what the new guy will do when he starts in January, etc., etc.
Toronto Has Players with Value
In a market where the value of the positions that the Jays are trying to fill is ridiculously bloated, why not turn the tables on the game and find a loophole or inefficiency? Alex Anthopoulos actually has a history of doing this and he has some (very) valuable chips to play in this game.
- RA’s a top-end starter with a good contract and a history of overcoming adversity;
- To Chavez Ravine if they lose Nolasco and Beckett continues to decline? How about Dickey and Thole to PIT?
- He has good ‘stuff’ and a nice contract, but is durability driving down his value?
- His skills play in almost any venue in either league;
- His contract isn’t bad in this market, not for a guy who offers 2+ WAR and 200+ IP;
- Could TEX use his durability and reliability?
- He’s a serviceable starter and he’s left-handed: his value is similar to Jason Vargas, whom the Royals are now paying $32MM until 2017–Happ doesn’t cost near that much;
- The Angels want pitching and have a pitcher-friendly park–Happ’s also better than the pitchers they acquired last year;
- His numbers and that contract? The line forms at the rear…;
- DET? Nah, re-unite him with Jason Frasor in TEX;
- Some contending teams need his swing-and-miss stuff desperately;
- DET is calling;
- An All Star season highlighted by several substantial improvements mean Cecil has value as the #1 LHRP out of the ‘pen, LOOGY, or possibly even as a CL;
- Package him together with Delabar to DET and see what shakes loose.
- Similar to Buehrle‘s, Reyes’ contract isn’t nearly so bad in this market;
- With money to spend, a hole to fill and Peralta in STL, Reyes could return to a place where they lamented his departure and he’s still popular: the Mets;
- A LH veteran hitter who torches RHP with a pretty friendly contract who returned to form in 2013;
- SEA? PIT? NYY? Is Mark Teixeira still injured? The short porch beckons…;
- A premier slugger who’s become a student of hitting, has versatility (DH/3B/1B), and has one of the most team-friendly contracts in all of MLB: who wouldn’t want this guy?
- Another premier slugger with a terrific contract, versatility, but who is one of the top RF in MLB when healthy;
- SEA is looking for a real OF, and they have pitching prospects;
- A young player with team control remaining who provided >4 WAR for the Jays in 2013;
- I bet the Jays could have their pick of PHI‘s prospects if they wanted to move him;
- I also wonder if the Mets’ interest could be piqued…
- There are rumours that teams are interested in his services–I know, I didn’t believe it either, but the rumours persist;
- Find one of those teams and deal him, pronto;
- His value is linked to RA Dickey, dictating any prospective destination.
So keep Edwin Encarnacion and Brandon Morrow, but the rest of these guys help to re-stock the farm pretty well with enough surplus value to get decent roster players too. Filling out the remaining positions would be relatively simple, as there are plenty of mid-to-low-end FA’s available. Heck, James Loney can play 1B…
Who cares what Joe Schmo in the 5th level or Billy Blogger say on their mobile? Sure, it’s probably a PR nightmare and an on-field disaster in the making but, seriously, they’ve won 73 and 74 games in each of the last 2 seasons and missed the playoffs 20 years running. Would we even notice the difference? We’re used to it. Besides, it’s an opportunity to get some reasonable value out of this market rather than giving up your 2 top pitching prospects for Jeff Samardzija, and then hoping to make more trades to fill other needs with prospects you no longer have.