Wednesday, 17 December 2008

A Modest Proposal

Yes, I know, JP has specifically said he is not interested in dealing BJ Ryan. Ok, I'm going to dispense with that right now. JP has a long and proud history of doing exactly the thing he's said publicly he has no interest in doing. We already know that he's dealing with budget restrictions and most of us are savvy enough to survey the marketplace and figure out the obvious answer to the question of which contract makes the most sense to deal, both in terms of the market and in terms of how well the team carries on without the player.

Don't get me wrong about Ryan - I love the guy. I believe in him, iu have every confidence he'll be a great closer in 2009. If they Jays were not making so much noise about money woes, I wouldn't even be talking about moving him. But all things considered, his contract is the glaringly obvious one to dangle.

Now, it so happens, as all this is going on, in another MLB city there's a team which the Jays had dealings with not too long ago. Despite having a couple of promising young relievers, they are flirting with Brian Fuentes whom they would like to sign for a two year deal at something like $9-10 million per (co-incidentally, just what Ryan is under contract for) but who is growing more frustreated that Fuentes wants to play for the Angels and is waiting on them, and by Fuentes insistance on a three year deal. That team, the St. Louis Cardinals, provide what is, in my opinion, possibly the best match for the Jays on a Ryan deal. The idea is at least on the radar of Post-Dispatch writer Rick Hummel though he seems unsure about the potential return, but I have a suggestion.

Ken Rosenthal reported something a couple of weeks ago (per MLBTR) which is worth noting - the Cardinals apparently offered Rick Ankiel (and a prospect) to the Mariners in a deal for JJ Putz.If Ankiel is worth Putz, and if the Cardinals are willing to spend $10 million a year over the next two years for a closer, then the Jays need to make a deal happen.

Rick Ankiel for B.J. Ryan

I won't go into proving to you that Ryan meets the Cards' needs as well as Fuentes or Putz would, but you may be wondering about how Ankiel makes sense for the Jays. After all, he's one year away from free agency and he's represented by the dreaded Scott Boras (ruling out the possibility of an extension). Well, let me explain it.

First, Ankiel is a legitimate CF defender who would, along with Wells and Rios, give the Jays one of the best defensive outfields in the majors. He would allow Adam Lind to DH and Travis Snider to stay in AAA to start the season, or, alternately, give the Jays the depth to trade Lyle Overbay if a suitable deal arose. His OPS+ was virtually identical to that of Vernon Wells in 2008 - the best on the Jays - and he probably has a bit more upside yet to tap. Yes, he had trouble with LHP last year, it's difficult to asses how big an issue that will be going forward given how little opportunity he's had as a hitter. Furthermore, he made only $900,000 last year which means his salary this year will, despite being in his last year of arbitration, be far less than that of any of the reliable names who are free agents. Only two left fielders in the AL hit better than Ankiel did in 2008.

It would be good if the Jays could manage to sign him to a 2 or 3 year deal but knowing Boras they would pay a premium to do so. it would, of course, be even better if we could persuade the Cards to give up Ryan Ludwick for him - who had a better year but is less certain to maintain his level of performance. but even as it stands, if the Jays feel the need to lose a significant chunk of payroll, Ankiel is a good return and it clears out $10 million out of an overburdened 2010 payroll. Finally, if Ankiel performs to that level or higher in 2009, he could hand us a couple of solid draft picks in the 2010 draft (as opposed to the 2011 draft).

Yes, in an ideal situation the Jays could persuade the Angels to give us Brandon Wood, or we could find in some other place a young, talented shortstop who's under control for several years - I would certainly ask the Angels before making any other deal - but there is no indication such a deal is likely to occur. I happily concede that getting young cheap high-upside talent is better than getting a guy in his walk year. And with the Brewers insisting JJ Hardy is off the market, the options to add a younger talent from a team willing to invest considerable money in a closer seem to have dried up.

Any time you make a trade your gambling the opportunity costs of doing something else with the player you traded, so I can't argue there's not a better opportunity out there, unreported. But the way the pieces fit together here - Ankiel having been offered, what they are willing to pay Fuentes, what Ryan makes, the Jays money woes - all these factors say to me that there's a natural match here.



Torgen said...

You made this point in a comment on DJF and I responded to it there too, but basically: freeing up the money from Ryan would let us sign Milton Bradley, who's even better than Ankiel, but wouldn't put us in range to sign, say, Lowe (which would crowd our 2010 rotation anyways) or Manny. Of course if we get Ankiel in the trade then that fills the spot Bradley would have taken, unless we are able to trade Overbay and move Lind to first. (I suppose we could move Bradley or Ankiel to first instead, but we probably have the best injury risk and defense with Lind there.) That's a bit of a moot point, as nobody's going to want to trade for Overbay until he has at least one good season. If Bradley signs somewhere else then I like Ankiel a lot more than options like Abreu or Giambi at DH, but if we're freeing up salary then I say aim high.

Anonymous said...

How bout:
Overbay (pick up some of his $)
BJ Ryan
Brett Cecil


Prince Fielder
JJ Hardy

Ian H. said...

I like this idea, Will. I still can't get over how Fuentes is such a sought after closer this off season. Really, he's not even one of the top 10 closers out there. He lost his job last season, and B.J. Ryan is a much better option, and probably cheaper too.

The Southpaw said...

"How bout:"

I can't see the Brewers dealing those two together under almost any circumstance. But even if they did, Lind wouldn't do it because without a DH, both he and Braun can only play LF (assuming Overbay at 1B)

You couldn't even start that discussion without Snider in the deal.


The Southpaw said...

The "Ryan for Bradley" maneuver doesn't sound bad but it doesn't seem like something they intend to consider. My thinking here is that Ryan for Ankiel not only helps th 2009 lineup but save 15, 16 million over the next two years which would potentially make that deal more appealing than simply flipping the money into a Bradley contract.


Ari said...

Yes but Torgen's point is that the reason the team needs to save money is to get a bat (because they still won't be able to afford any pitcher worth paying for), so by trading Ryan for Ankiel you basically close the hole for any potential FA signing to fill.

To answer that I say this - first of all, the savings for 2010 are more important than for 2009. That's when the financial crunch really comes, and having Beej's 10m off the books can help ease that. That being said, I'd basically take anything I can get for Ryan right now, considering the amount of arms in the system. If Ankiel can be the return, all the more so this needs to be done.

Secondly, I think an Ankiel acquisition could open up an Adam Lind trade. You'd have Ankiel for 09 and then Snider ready to take over from there. Packaging Lind with a reliever and a prospect should be able to land us a young starter that could potentially be at least our #5 this year.

And while it might be tough for Ankiel to reach A status, B seems like a near lock, considering that Luis Gonzalez is a B and doesn't have too many R-HR-RBI over the last 2 seasons. I think it's impossible to know if the team would be better off with the 1 pick in the 2010 draft or the 2 picks in the 2011 draft, so that shouldn't weigh into the decision. Especially since many of the guys JP takes are typically seen as reaches in the spots they are taken (so a 2nd pick doesn't necessarily help).

Torgen said...

I don't think getting Ankiel lets you trade Lind. Getting a bat lets Snider be the injury insurance. If you turn around and trade Lind (and I don't think his trade stock is that high after the last two months of 2008) then Snider has to be the DH. Plus Lind will be cheap for years if he does put it together for a whole season.

Tao of Stieb said...

Question: Do we really think that Ankiel is going to put up numbers that are significantly better than what Snider could?

2008 for Ankiel - 25 HRs and 71 RsBI in 120 games.

We're thinking that 20 and 75 are reasonable expectations from a full season of Snider.

Anonymous said...

Do u think theres any chance of bringing in Giambi to DH/1B?

And what about Randy Wolf and/or Randy Johnson 4 the rotation?


The Southpaw said...

On Ankiel v. Snider, I think what you have with Ankiel is a level of certainty, we know what he's very likely to do, and it could be more. With snider, we HOPE he's a 20/75 guy but assuming a 21 year old will do that is fraught with some danger. plus there's the depth issue, if either Lind or Snider struggle in 2009, (or there's a major injury to Overbay, Rios, or Wells) what's Plan B?

I think Snider COULD outhit Ankiel this year, but if I were laying $100 on one of them, I'd bet on the older player with the track record for 2009.


Torgen said...

I don't have a problem with Giambi per se (or Abreu for that matter--neither would cost a draft pick), but Ankiel improves our defense and saves us money if we're trading BJ for him. Both those guys would cost us money we apparently don't have.

Torgen said...

Oh, and Johnson yes, Wolf no.

The Southpaw said...

I mentioned Johnson over a month ago but with west coast teams expressing interest, I don't think we'd have a shot. I want nothing to do with Wolf.

I'd take a long look at Smoltz but I assume he's too expensive, if not he'd be absolutely perfect.

I've circled back around to Pedro and Penny as proffered options.

Don't underestimate the idea of bringing in Orlando Hernandez if you can look at him on a minor league deal.


Torgen said...

I still don't think Penny will be much more than league average in the AL. Sure our defense could make him look good, but it could make anyone (including someone much cheaper) look good.

The Southpaw said...

If he wasn't cheap, I wouldn't want him because average is all I expect to be buying (except from Johnson or Smoltz)...anything more than that is gravy.

woodpeck said...

get Vdub out of CF and into 1st base to increase his years of value. he's not gonna last that much longer in the outfield at this rate. the trade 4 ankiel is a good one IMO.

The Southpaw said...

Somw have suggested simply flipping Wells and Rios would solve the defense problem. But i think his defensive grades this year are a fluke. He's not a gold glover anymore but he's not THAT bad.

That's the first I've heard of the 1B idea though.

Not sure what I think of that.


johnny said...

Ankiel is a below average outfielder according to the +/- system, is a Scott Boras client and eligible for free agency after next season. A short fix for 2009 is not the sort of return I'd want for BJ.

Torgen said...

If the team doesn't move BJ, it has no money to make the moves it needs to. If the team moves BJ for Ankiel, it has money to make moves AND one less move to make. Remember, if BJ's contract is bad for us (because we have a good bullpen without him and our payroll just got slashed), and Ankiel's is good for us (cheap for his production level for the time period when we need him), then BJ for Ankiel is a good swap. Maybe not the best swap possible, but it's not every day that you can set up a 3 team 12 player deal (or however many it was) like the M's needed to get Gutierrez for Putz. (And they needed more than one year from their guy, which is why they didn't take the Ankiel for Putz offer.)