A couple weeks back I thought Alex Anthopoulos made his clearest statement yet that his basic game plan for team-building and spending the prospect capital he’s accumulated in his two years as General Manager revolves around in-season trades– specifically trade deadline deals.
Of course, nobody could possibly believe that Anthopoulos would ever speak in absolutes, but it must have certainly a blow to those holding onto hope that the Jays were going to be ultra-aggressive in their pursuit of big name free agents this winter, with the hope of pushing up the club’s timeline for contention in one swift move.
In a piece Tuesday from Gregor Chisholm of BlueJays.com, we hear more of the same from Anthopoulos– who makes plenty of sense, even if he might not exactly be telling you what you want to hear. Money quote:
“I think it’s even more attractive, that asset base of prospects, is even more attractive come July because most teams that do sell at that time realize they’re not going to get Major League players back at that time of year because any club that is adding can’t take away from their big league team.
“Everyone realizes that their return is going to be young players that are in the Minor Leagues. It certainly helps now, but I think it’s going to be even more valuable to us during the summer if there is a trade for us to to make.”
Herein lies the problem for Anthopoulos this winter. Not a lot of clubs can sell their fans on a deal that moves Major League talent for a player who can’t help immediately– it kinda makes it look like you’re writing off the season before it starts. The Jays got away with it last year when they moved Shaun Marcum for Brett Lawrie– which, you may recall, pissed a hell of a lot of fans off at the time– but there’s not all that much for them to move this winter. Especially not with a too-thin roster as it is, and a real opportunity to snatch that extra Wild Card spot if everything breaks right.
Eric Thames, Brett Cecil or Jesse Litsch are the guys who jump out at me as having at least some level of Major League roster value to other clubs, while being somewhat replaceable on the Jays roster, but who else? And what do they get you? Toss in a solid prospect or two and maybe something a club would be willing to spare to fill the hole at second or a place in the bullpen, but not a whole lot.
There’s Travis Snider and Kyle Drabek, but how many clubs would look to either of those two as definite starters? Besides, the Jays have already put themselves in a position where their fortunes will depend on whether a number of young players– JP Arencibia, Brandon Morrow, Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus– can take the expected steps forward, or, in the case of Adam Lind (or Cecil, if he stays), back to where he once was. I’m of the mind that they might as well keep those two potentially high-end talents and add them to that list– as we’ve heard a number of times, they’re exactly the kinds of guys the Jays would be targeting in other organizations.
The club could also look to move Arencibia, Morrow, Lind or Henderson Alvarez, I suppose, but it wouldn’t be easy to make anything but a lateral move. Arencibia’s natural replacement, Travis d’Arnaud, may be closer than we had been led to believe– at least, that’s the sense I got from listening to John Farrell speak with Jeff Blair this week– but Opening Day seems a huge rush. Perhaps Lind and Morrow could make a modern version of Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff in some kind of blockbuster trade, but the Jays wouldn’t exactly be dealing them at the height of their value.
Then there’s Henderson Alvarez who, since I’m already just spitballin’, kinda like Eric Thames, looks like a keeper, but might just be behind a number of others in the system in terms of long-term projection. So maybe in actuality he is the Jays’ best chip– not that removing him from the rotation wouldn’t be an issue, but to move him now likely means a rotation spot going to Kyle Drabek to start the year, who’d at least give the club a cushion of a month or two before, if the experiment once again fails, they’d have to consider calling up someone from the system.
Wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, really. Would it?