Sunday, 6 July 2008

What to do?

Well, even the faintest of hopes for a resurrected season bit the dust in Seattle and even I am forced to concede that this season, one I was convinced was a return to the glory days, has inexplicably and unexplainably veered so throughly into the ditch that to continue to harbor hope is an exercise in masochism. Yes, it's possible we could play .650 ball from now to the end of the season and win 90 games. But I can't work up the passion to hope for it. That being the case, it's time to turn our thoughts to the second most fun activity in baseball - trade speculation.

I have always held the opinion that once you know you are out of it, it's time to think about what next year's roster is going to look like and sell off anyone who has value who is not a part of that vision. This has been, for me, the most frustrating part of the JP-era Jays is that between their summer-long tease and JP's passionate hopefulness, every July we are caught in a no-man's land on the fringe of contention where he can't bring himself to act.

I hope very much that in this, his probable last summer with that opportunity, he manages to cash in and bring us some value in return. Presented here, then, for your reading pleasure, is an attempt at an omnibus review of the market, the chips the Jays have to offer, and what potential return might be worth speculating about. Hopefully it will be comprehensible by the time I am done pulling together what is, in many ways, a very fluid set of circumstances.

Presumed sellers (a group which may grow): Toronto, Cleveland, Kansas City, Seattle, San Diego, Colorado, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Houston, Washington.

Presumed buyers (a group which may shrink): Boston, NY (both teams), Tampa Bay, Chicago (both teams), LA (both teams) Arizona, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Atlanta.

Mushy middle (either because of standing or money): Baltimore, Detroit, Minnesota, Oakland, Texas, Florida.

On the Jays' roster, I think we can agree that for various reasons, Wells, Rios, Hill, Lind, Halladay, McGowan, and Marcum are not going anywhere. Rolen and Ryan would take pretty huge offers, I think, but might be moved. Most everyone else on the major league roster could at least be talked about (though not to say none of them would have an important role in 2009).

But that said, for my money, here are the most obvious players that might be moved and my take on their situation.

1. Barajas and/or Zaun: I list this first before AJ because it seems to me there's an obvious deal here. It is widely reported that the Marlins are looking for a catcher. If I'm the GM, I don't rest until I sell them on taking one of these guys for Dallas McPhearson. Even if I have to add a John Parrish or some such to the deal to make them happy, to me it is beyond obvious that this needs to happen. True McPhearson has an injury plagued and inconsistent history and true, his numbers are in the hitter-friendly PCL but even so, as a cheap possibility at DH (to guard against injury), 1B, or even 3B if an irresistible Rolen deal comes along, I don't see how we can pass up the opportunity to generate our own version of what Carlos Pena did in Tampa last year or Milton Bradley in Texas.

I would try to make a deal for one of these guys now (give the Marlins their choice) and, if Robinson Diaz recovers in time float the other one later. Other teams who might be interested in a catcher include Boston and Oakland.

2. AJ Burnett: Please, all you droolers out there with your knee-jerk AJ bashing, just control your bowels on this one. Even in this, admittedly his worst year, he's only had four truly awful starts in 18 and that over against 11 very good ones. Any contender in need is going to see value in that. Of course, no one is going to move until CC Sabathia lands, but the persistent rumor is that may happen even before his next start.

Before we address what teams and what they have, lets be clear about this - once CC is off the market, Burnett is either the best or second best remaining available starter (depending on whether or not Bedard is actually available). given that the M's HAVE to redeem the package they sent to Baltimore, they will be asking a ton and that should make AJ the more desirable target, even with his baggage and current inconsistency. So don't listen to what the obsessed tell you, once Sabathia is dealt Burnett moves to center-stage.

As for potential landing places, let's get this off the table - if Milwaukee is indeed offering LaPorta in a deal for CC it's almost inconceivable to me that they won't get him...but on the off chance I'm wrong about that, I think we can all agree that trying to leverage LaPorta for AJ would be our first priority. so my remarks flow from the presumption that Milwaukee got Sabathia and the other buyers are left to compete for the scraps.

It has been said that the Jays would prefer a shortstop and it is clear that over the coming years (3-4) it is their area of greatest need. It has also been rightly observed that there is very little in the way of a match among established players. Someone suggested that if the Brewers fail on CC, that the Jays express interest in JJ Hardy and there is some merit there, but on the whole it can be safely stated that if we acquired a SS, it would be a guy who's in the high minors. So let's look at the remaining contenders and see what is out there:

Boston - I can't see why they would be anxious to win AJ but Lowrie would certainly be a great return.

NYY - There's not really a good match here, certainly no SS to be coveted. I can't see them being a factor for AJ.

Tampa Bay - It would be kind of odd, I think, for the Rays to make a play for Burnett but certainly if they did you have to try to get Reid Brigiac from them. He's not having the best year in the minors but he is widely considered to be a prime prospect.

Chicago WS - I don't think the White Sox are in the market for much and leat of all a pitcher.
LA Angels - This is not a team that needs a SP.

Arizona - SS Reynaldo Navarro was listed #9 on Baseball America's pre-season rankings.

LA Dodgers - You can't speculate about young Dodger's shortstops without starting with young Taiwanese Chin-Lung Hu. The Dodgers are said to actually be looking for a veteran SS. I don't know what the team is thinking in not giving Hu the job, but if he's available he's the one to ask.

St. Louis - The Cards have a SS prospect in Pete Kozma but he's not real close and they don't have the luxury of trading him, even though they, like Baltimore, enjoy the advantage of being a team that AJ might not opt out on if they give him a little signing bonus. Earlier in the season, some speculated that major league outfielder Chris Duncan might be available. If so, one could do worse.

Chicago Cubs - Obviously, if you are dealing with the Cubs you have to covet 3B Josh Vitters. Lefty SPs Rich Hill and Sean Marshall are also desirable but there's no SS to be found.

Milwaukee - Beyond the names already mentioned, AA wunderkind Alicdes Escobar is the obvious choice. A SS with great defense and a ridiculous OBP is something that would solve a lot of problems.

Philadelphia - Jason Donald, a SS in AA for the Phillies is not a high profile prospect but the 23 year old is hitting quite well in Reading. I’ve no idea how good his fielding is.

Atlanta - Brent Lillibridge would have been the obvious answer a year ago, but he's struggling this season.

NY Mets - Having cleaned out their best prospects to get Santana, I don't look for them to be a major player.

One might also make note of Baltimore, since they are one of two teams Burnett might opt to stay with, but they are not likely to match the offers of some of the higher profile contenders.

3. David Eckstein - Rumor has it the Dodgers want a veteran to take up the slack of the injured Rafael Furcal (and why they are afraid to use Hu I do not know) and Baltimore is said to be mulling the idea. I hesitate to speculate on what Eck might bring because, frankly, anything with any upside is a deal you make. i don't hate the man but he is a player of limited value.

4. Brian Tallet - I've heard Wilner say on occasion that the market for RP is marginal, but the rumor mills insist that pitchers like Ron Mahay are drawing a lot of interest as a lot of contenders are short on LHRP. I know that the Brewers have only one quality lefty in the pen, ditto the Rangers, Cardinals, Phillies, A's, Yankees, Twins, Angels, Marlins, Tigers, Cubs, O's and D'Backs.

Far be it for me to speculate on the return from such a large group, but notice how often the possibility exists for us to pad a Burnett deal in order to maximize our return.

5. Lyle Overbay - this one is somewhat predicated on the idea of acquiring some other good young hitter which makes it wise to clear Overbay out of the way. I include it mostly because there are a lot of Overbay-bashers out there. The problem is, none of the contenders are hurting for what Overbay brings to the table. I don't see a deal.

6. Jason Frasor - On the one hand, RHRP has been a minor weakness in our staff, but on the other, one can easily project League, Accardo, Wolfe and Janssen into 2009 and beyond and Frasor is likely to be gone before next season anyway. Some teams, like the Yankees, stand in great enough need that even a local whipping boy like Frasor has some value.

7. Matt Stairs - some have speculated about the Dodgers but I don’t see a team who needs him bad enough to gamble on having him there next year. I don’t see a deal.

8. Jesse Litsch - trading AJ makes it more problematic to deal Litsch even under the rubric of “sell high” but give the lack of quality SP on the market and the number of contenders in need, it’d be foolish to not listen to offers if you could get some.

9. Brad Wilkerson/Shannon Stewart - don’t fool yourself, Stewart has no value because even a team that wants him knows we have no room. Wilkerson might have the most very marginal of in you might get a little case for him but nothing of interest to a fan.


1 comment:

sp said...

Great writeup. Hardy or Lowrie would be great returns for Burnett, but it's not gonna happen. I think the priority has to be an SS though. Preferably, one who can start now or next April at the latest. Justin Jackson is still years away and I dread the thought of a cavalcade of Ecksteins over the next 2-3 years.