Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Building it up Just to Burn it Back Down

I either quoted The Arcade Fire, Linkin Park, or nobody just now.  That doesn't really matter a whole lot either way-- just needed a title.  Anyway.

Baseball Prospectus gives the Toronto Blue Jays a 3.7% chance at making the playoffs this season.  That is not a very big number.  Sports Club Stats gives them a 0.3% chance.  That's a smaller number.  Cool Standings has them at 2.8%.  That's a number somewhere in between the first two.  ESPN also gives them 2.8%, which is the same number as the last one, which leads me to believe that they have some similarities within their formulae.

Some quick math, for the non-believers.  Last year, division winners won an average of 94.3 games.  In 2011, division winners won 96.6 games. In 2010, 93.3 wins.    Using those three years as a sample certainly isn't exact science by any stretch, especially when we consider the Wild Card, but you get the idea, and it's probably an irrelevant study to go back much further just to narrow down the number that we're looking at.  90 wins probably isn't going to get it done.  Let's call 93 wins the benchmark here, just to be conservative, as long as we know that it doesn't guarantee anything.

The Jays currently sit at 16-24, leaving 122 games to play in the 2013 season.  The Jays would need to go 77-45 down the stretch in order to make it to that 93-win plateau.  That's a .631 winning percentage.  A .630 winning percentage, extrapolated to a full year, is a 102-win season.  That's a big number.  I'm not saying that it's impossible, just that there's somewhere in the 0.3-3.7% likelihood of it happening, and that doesn't consider the injury situation at the moment.  The Jays essentially need to take 2-of-3 in every series for the rest of the season.

It's not entirely out of the question-- playing above .500 against the division, and sweeping the Astros, Twins, Mariners, White Sox and Royals for the rest of the year ought to do it.

Alright.  I'm done humoring you.  This season, for all intents and purposes, is over, barring a miracle that begins really, really soon.  All the talk in the preseason was that the Jays would evaluate their options at the deadline, and be able to add pieces and payroll if it makes sense.  It's probably not going to make sense.  What will likely make sense, and therefore happen, is the selling of assets, not the buying.

Who goes?  Who are the likely partners?  Who are the targets?


We can begin with who won't be traded.  There is still a core here that can compete next year.  Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarancion, Melky Cabrera, Jose Reyes and Brett Lawrie seem pretty locked in to place.  RA Dickey, Brandon Morrow and Mark Buehrle are pretty likely to stick around as well-- Dickey and Morrow are controlled and are (probably) not as bad as their stats to this point in the season would indicate. Buehrle's contract is one of those borderline "unmovable" ones.  I'm sure if someone wants Buehrle, they could pry him loose without a whole lot of effort, but it seems unlikely to me.  Melky Cabrera, JA Happ, and JP Arencibia have some degree of trade value, but all are under control for 2014, and would be entirely reasonable options for a team hoping to contend next season.  Maicer Izturis is signed on for three years (albeit cheaply), and would be a surprise to go anywhere.

The bullpen is made up mostly of young, controllable guys; Delabar, Rogers, Janssen, Santos, Cecil and Loup are all either under contract, or still under team control at least through next season.  All are assets, to a degree, but again, would be of reasonable use for a team looking to contend next year.   Of all the names mentioned so far, Janssen is probably the most likely to be moved, in my view, given the proclivity of certain GM's to overpay for a "proven closer".


That leaves Colby Rasmus, Emilio Bonifacio, Rajai Davis, Adam Lind, Henry Blanco, Mark Derosa and Munenori Kawasaki on the position player side, and Josh Johnson, Ricky Romero, and Darren Oliver as pitchers.

Rasmus looks like a decent candidate to be moved.  Anthony Gose, among others, is waiting in the wings in AAA.  He's shown some life offensively, albeit in the hitter-friendly PCL, to go along with his excellent defense and baserunning value.  He'll probably never hit at a league-average clip, but there's still value there, especially as a CF.  If someone wants to take a flyer on Rasmus, there's definitely a replacement or two kicking around.

Adam Lind, suddenly, has the ability to take a walk.  With no defensive ability, and extreme platoon splits hindering his ability to hit lefty pitching, there's limited trade value, but to a National League team who could use a bench bat or plug-in for a 1B/DH, Lind could be a useful rental player.  We never know who will get injured between now and the deadline.

Bonifacio and Davis are both bench players, but can provide value in their own special ways.  Bonifacio is one of the fastest players in the league, and can play all over the diamond somewhat respectably.  He can pinch-run, provide utility defense, and is a better hitter than most pitchers, which is really useful to a NL team.  Doubtful he'd fetch much, but who knows.  Davis is also fast as shit, but he also hits lefties very well.  Davis will be a free agent after the season, while Boni will be arbitration eligible for the final time.  Pros and cons to both.

As for Muni, Derosa and Blanco, there's probably not much there to move.  Derosa has played well in limited action, and as a 39-year old guy who will probably retire soon, it would be nice to trade him to a contender down the stretch and give him one last shot at a ring.  I'd be jettisoning Blanco before too long if I were in charge, and getting Josh Thole up here.  Muni might get DFA'ed once Jose Reyes returns from injury, but he's shown some respectable on-base skills, especially for a SS, so he might be worth keeping around.  Regardless, nobody is going to pay anything for a light-hitting 32-year old middle infielder.

On to pitchers; the most interesting case is Josh Johnson.  Johnson was a good season away from an $80MM+ contract, but has found himself on the disabled list with arm troubles, hindering his odds at a big multi-year deal greatly.  As such, it's not as likely, or worthwhile, to offer him a qualifying offer at the end of the year in order to obtain draft pick compensation.  If he can recover to something resembling his typical form, he'd be one of the more valuable options on the market at the deadline.  Hard to say what's going to happen, but if AA is in win-now mode, I would expect that he'd make a trade and try to find something useful for the present (i.e. MLB-ready player), rather than for the future (draft pick).

Darren Oliver is in the same boat as Mark Derosa-- he's old, probably ready to retire, but still has some value left in his arm.  May as well flip him to a contender at the deadline as a favor.

Romero has $23MM left on his contract, and is in AAA.  Someone might take him, but only if they can get away with paying him next to nothing.


It may be mid-May, but this season is about as close to over as it can get.  It's probably a little scary, as far as thoughts are concerned, but if things don't get fancy in a real hurry, AA should probably consider getting a headstart on the trade market.  Even if it's not early anymore, it's still early; the trade deadline is still 2.5 months away.  There's still another month or so to get back above .500, which should probably serve as a reasonable barometer of where this team is.  

Teams rarely give up on the year before the all-star break, and all it earns them is a worse draft pick, and now, a smaller draft bonus pool.  There's no use in finishing the year with 78-84 wins, other than the self-respect that you can have for not being the absolute most embarrassing team in baseball, which the Astros have pretty much locked up.

This situation is probably a little bit different-- Reyes will be back soon, and the rotation ERA is sure to improve (hopefully!), so even in the event of a sale of everything other than the 15 names listed at the top (i.e. Rasmus, Oliver, Lind), the bulk of the value is going to come from those 15 guys, and the difference between the tradees and their replacements isn't going to be some vast chasm.

Tank Nation!

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