Alright friends, we've looked at who the Jays could possibly look in to acquiring, both from the NL, and from the AL, so now we've got to look at who the Jays could theoretically use in a trade. In hindsight, I'd have written this one before the other two, but there's not really a whole lot we can do about that now, huh?
Anyway, the Jays are looking to upgrade their rotation, they'll probably need a bit of bullpen help, they might need a 2B depending on what goes down with Kelly Johnson, and they would probably like to upgrade to an elite 1B. They seem pretty set in the OF, SS, 3B, and C positions. They deal from a position of strength at the prospect and cash levels, but also have some available MLB-level talent in the form of young relievers, outfielders, and 1B/DH.
I'd like to preface this by saying that, in my mind, there are literally 0 players that I would call untouchable, and would like to think that AA will have the same philosophy. There are obviously some guys who you probably shouldn't trade (Bautista, Romero), but if Tampa Bay called us up and said "Hey, we'd like to offer you Evan Longoria and James Shields for Jose Bautista" I'd jump right on that, despite being all set at 3B. [Sidenote-- If any of you guys wouldn't take that deal, you're retarded.] Basically what I'm trying to get across here is the fact that, while some people have really high value right now, nobody should be untouchable if the right deal presents itself. The return might need to be astronomical, but if given a chance to improve the team, you should take it; I think AA holds that same philosophy. If you can remember the Justin Upton rumors from this past winter, we could really just go ahead and replace his name with Bautista's, and there you go (Bau is way more expensive and is 30 years old, but has been the best hitter in baseball two years in a row, as opposed to cheap, but contractually extended, 24 year old Justin Upton, who probably isn't in his prime yet, but has the potential to be the best player in baseball, so there is a difference, but you get the point).
The above talk is really just conjecture. I don't think anybody is going to offer enough for AA to trade Bautista at this point, especially when the Jays are inching their way towards contention. The same can be said for Young Richard Swaggerman, known otherwise as Ricky Romero. If there is any truly untouchable member of this team, it is probably Brett Lawrie.
AA wants starting pitching-- a front-end starter, which almost describes Brandon Morrow. While he has yet to reach that unharvested potential that so many have seen in him, if he were to be traded again, it probably won't be for a little while, since his value is so much lower than it could be at the drop of a hat if Morrow just figures it out overnight. If Morrow were moved, it would probably be part of a package to land a top-10 starter, which I don't see on the trade market.
Colby Rasmus is staying, probably for a minimum of 3 years. If Anthony Gose is going to be the superstar that many scouts believe him to be, he's still probably 2 years away from being in the lineup everyday, and if that's the case, Rasmus isn't even an auto-trade. Bautista will probably be out of RF by then, and Rasmus would probably make a better RF than Bautista, Snider, Thames, or practically anybody else currently in the Jays system, assuming Gose takes CF.
Yunel Escobar just signed a team-friendly extension, which doesn't necessarily preclude him from being traded, but Adeiny Hechavarria projects to be an all-glove SS who bats 8th or worse for his whole career, and isn't ready to be an everyday MLB player yet, so there's nobody who could step in to fill the void Escobar would leave. If it came down to Escobar being a necessary piece to obtain Joey Votto, I think AA would pull the trigger.
JP Arencibia is pretty unlikely to move, but as a 24 year old catcher, despite hitting something like .212 this season, he'd be worth a lot in a trade. Similar to Escobar, there's nobody ready to fill in the void that he would leave. Travis d'Arnaud and Carlos Perez are both getting close, but probably still need more time. I actually think it's likely that JP gets traded at some point within 2 years from today to make room for d'Arnaud and/or Perez, but until they're ready, JP probably stays put. Again, if he were the lynchpin in a trade for an elite SP or 1B, I think the Jays would do it. I don't doubt that he could move to 1B at some point in the future in order to make room for d'Arnaud or Perez.
Guys like Kyle Drabek and Travis Snider probably aren't going anywhere either. Both are coming off abysmal seasons, and are at their absolute lowest values. They'll be given chances to get back to where the organization thinks they should be, and would probably only be moved for guys of similar hype, like Dom Brown, for example. I think we all know that such a scenario is unlikely. Besides, both are like 24 years old.
I think Cot's baseball contracts is an incredibly invaluable site, especially for this kind of post, and I must have referenced it a thousand times when writing this series. All the contract information that I use will come from their Blue Jays page.
The Jays do have some expendable pieces at the MLB level that they could move and still field pretty much the same lineup, or at least one that is similarly effective. Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion are the two guys who are probably the most likely to be moved, especially to make room for the elite 1B that the Jays are searching for. They're both power bats who, at the moment, are taking up the DH and 1B spots-- spots that might be needed if the Jays want to have guys like Snider, Thames, or Loewen in the lineup without taking AB's away from Bautista and Rasmus.
When healthy, Lind might very well be that elite 1B the Jays are looking for, as he referenced in a stellar 6 week stretch before the all-star break this year, or in his entire 2009 season. The knocks against him include the fact that he doesn't walk, and his defence isn't incredible, but he's only played about 3/4 of a season at 1B, so we can give him a break. He signed a very team friendly contract before the 2010 season, covering his 3 arbitration years, and giving the Jays 3 fairly cheap team options. He was hampered by some injuries over the second half of the year, but when healthy, he proved that he can hit.
Edwin Encarnacion was the Jays best hitter over the second half of the season, and is a virtual lock to have his $3.5MM player option exercised. Being a free agent after the 2012 season, he doesn't have a ton of trade value, especially after being DFA'ed, non-tendered, released, and released again, and then sucking for the first half of a season all within a 6-month period.
I feel like the return for either player in a trade would probably pretty low at the moment, because neither has multiple consecutive seasons of established success under their belts, but if the Jays want an established 1B, they won't have much choice unless they want to platoon the DH spot.
Eric Thames took over for Travis Snider when Snider sucked last season, and established that he could handle the duties of a hitter in the MLB. Thames' bat speed is pretty good, but beyond that, he's still pretty raw, and doesn't really bring a ton to the table besides being a pretty good athlete. His defense is terrible, and he hardly walks, which makes practically everybody think that he's going to be a career 4th outfielder. Oakland is a team that could use an outfielder (Willingham, Crisp, Dejesus and Matsui are all free agents), especially a young one with some pop, who could play LF in their tiny little weeny ballpark. Who knows, Thames might learn to take some walks someday and become something useful. They're also in the market for a 1B upgrade over Daric Barton, and apparently saw something in Edwin Encarnacion once. And they've got pitching!
Rajai Davis is fast, and can hit lefty pitching. What more do you need?
Mark Teahen costs $5MM and sucks.
Mike Mccoy doesn't really offer a ton, but he walks like it's his job, which it probably is, and plays defense respectably well. He defines replacement level player, but I can see someone asking for him in a package deal for some depth, pinch running, 13th bat, etc.
As we all know, relievers aren't actually worth shit, since there are so many of them out there. Janssen, Perez, Carreno, Cecil (if he's not in the rotation), Mcgowan (if he's not in the rotation), Litsch, Villanueva, Chad Beck, Danny Farquhar, Alan Farina, Brad Mills, Jesse Carlson, Chad Gaudin, and the newly claimed Jesse Chavez and Kyle Davies could all legitimately end up in the bullpen this year, but if the Colby Rasmus trade taught us anything, it's that none of those guys should be untouchable by any means. I count 15 guys in that group (2 of which could be starters), and of the guys who aren't locks to be on the team, some are out of options, and others just probably don't have a future on this team. That doesn't count free agents-to-be Shaun Camp, Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch, who could all conceivably be brought back as well, if for no other reason than to obtain draft picks next year (Frank was actually pretty nails in the second half last year). There are usually only 7 or 8 spots available in the bullpen, and I'm not sure guys like Perez and Litsch are going to be sent down just because they still have options left on their contracts if they're among the 7 best pitchers in that group. I'm sure Beck and Fark could meet the "still-have-options" fate, since they're still quite young, and guys like Chavez, Gaudin and Davies would be DFA'ed or outrighted like it was nothing if they don't do anything in the spring, but if AA wants to bring in any relievers through free agency, that's one less spot for some of these guys above, guys who could be useful on another team somewhere. Joe Nathan is now a free agent after having his club option declined by the Twins, so he'll join guys like Matt Capps, Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Cordero, Juan Cruz, Todd Coffey, Mike Gonzalez, and more.
The Jays' system is pretty deep; probably the best or 2nd best farm in baseball, now that KC has brought some guys up to the bigs (TB makes that challenge). I can see them moving Adeiny Hechavarria if they don't think he's going to pan out, which all the minor league experts that I follow on twitter claim is likely to be the case. As a high-ish profile international signing, his value could probably be misrepresented a little bit, and his little stint in AAA during the last month of the season where he OPS'ed 350 points above his AA numbers could skew other team's perception of him even more (.235/.275/.347 in AA over 111 games, .389/.431/.537 over 25 games in AAA). The only problem I can see here is that if anything were to happen to Yunel Escobar where he had to miss significant time, the fill-in would probably be Hechavarria. The Jays just don't really have the depth on the middle-infield that they do elsewhere. I mean they signed Chris Woodward for fuck sakes. Fucks sake. Fucks sakes. Fuck's sake. Is fuck a person? And we're doing this for his sake? Or is this for all the fucks in the world? Moving on.
Adam Loewen looks like he could possibly be able to turn in to something useful based on his AAA numbers and his cup of coffee with the Jays at the end of this season. I'm sure Thames projects to be better (and is younger), but there might be a bit of value in Loewen if he can continue to develop. The problem is that he'll be 28 at the start of the season (peak age for hitters is between 26-28), he is out of options, and doesn't really have any place to play in Toronto, so he might end up being exposed to waivers as a AAA demotee, traded for very little, or just be a bench player that will be used instead of Mark Teahen. I really hope the Jays don't keep Teahen around just to sit him on the bench if they plan on sending Loewen back to AAA and risk losing him to a waiver claim just because of the pricetag on Teahen.
The Jays also have Darin Mastroianni, and Moises Sierra in the minors as outfielders who will probably face the same fate as Eric Thames or Loewen. Both should be MLB-ready by the 2013 season at the latest (barring injury), but neither should get significant reps over Gose, Rasmus, Snider, Bautista, or Thames if they're all still around. 2009 draft pick Jake Marisnick, a highly regarded prospect, could be ready by then as well.
Pitching is the real wild card. AA's gone crazy drafting highschool pitchers over the last couple of years, and I'm sure he'll be really hesitant to move any of it without getting a prize in return. The MLB rotation looks like it will be made up of Romero-Morrow-Alvarez, with the last two spots being taken up by any combo of Cecil, Mcgowan, Villanueva, Drabek, a free agent or trade acquisition, or longshots Deck Mcguire, Nestor Molina, Chad Jenkins, or Drew Hutchison (we're getting in to the realm of unlikelihood with those last couple of guys-- Hutch is only 20, Mcguire is 22). There is definitely room to add another arm to the rotation if the Jays want this season to be a competitive one. There are too many question marks in the back end of that rotation to let the Jays contend, especially in the AL East.
The Jays could easily just hog all those prospect starters for themselves the way the Rays do without upsetting anybody, and for the most part, they will. Beyond all those guys mentioned above, we've got guys like Griffin Murphy, Noah Syndergaard, Daniel Norris, Justin Nicolino, Asher Wojciechowski, Aaron Sanchez and more kicking around, still a few years away from the show. Now, I'm not going to go ahead and say that all of these guys are future major leaguers, because that's not the way baseball works. Some guys, no matter where they're drafted, and no matter what they do in the minors, don't make it as major league pitchers. Having said that, AA's plan is to just go ahead and stockpile as many high-upside arms as possible, which is what a lot of the aforementioned names are. That means that any of these guys can be traded as they approach the bigs, without risking any depletion of the farm system, or the future.
The same can be said for any prospect in the system, not just pitchers. Anthopoulos' plan when he took over from JP Ricciardi was for this team to be contending in 2012 and onward. If he can secure another pitcher to give some extra stability to this rotation, this team can probably make that goal a success, otherwise, there will need to be a lot of improvements from guys that are already in the organization. The fact that the Jays have so many high-ceiling guys inching their way closer to the major-league team every year can only be a good sign. If nothing else, having more than 25 guys who are good enough to be on the 25-man roster should make this in entertaining offseason full of trades and extensions and shit.