When it comes to the possibility of significant roster turnover, it’s hard not to pick up where we left off a year ago this time, when we thought anything was possible, and something truly significant was surely on the horizon. Hardened by a calendar year in which the only “non-relief” “contributors”– both terms used rather loosely– added to the MLB roster were Aaron Laffey, Jesse Chavez, JA Happ, Ben Francisco, Jeff Mathis and Yorvit Torrealba, and understanding how the trick Anthopoulos needs to pull has grown in degree of difficulty after a year of injury and regression, a lot of fans seem to have stopped letting their minds race too quickly at ideas of seeing a multitude of new faces on the roster next year.
There are prospects to deal, free agents to sign and changes to be made, to be sure. But the sense I’ve got is that, with a few obvious exceptions, fans seem to figure that most of the players under team control and on the current roster will be here next April.
Is that really so? Could it possibly be so?
Given that teams, if they’re going to be giving up anything that helps the Jays’ big league club, are going to be much more focussed on acquiring MLB-ready players in trade, I don’t think it can be. And seeing as even the usually-secretive front office is being open about the fact that the Jays have to make some acquisitions, certainly there must be guys slated now to return who we won’t be seeing in a Jays uniform next season– y’know, unless Anthopoulos can get really creative, perhaps, as a reader astutely suggested the other day, by striking a lower-cost deal with the Angels or White Sox, who apparently aren’t going to pick up the options on Dan Haren and Jake Peavy anyway, in order to acquire one of those pitchers for the last, expensive year of their current deals… which would be totally badass and not nearly as high-risk as going all-in on some long-term commitment to a free agent.
But no… they’re probably going to have to trade someone of value from the MLB roster. Like one of these guys!
Yunel Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria
Coming off a horrific season at the plate– not to mention in terms of judgment– and with a replacement in Adeiny Hechavarria waiting for an opportunity and looking like he might not be as entirely useless with the bat as we’ve heard, Escobar’s name will be mentioned constantly, when it comes to Jays who may be dealt– like he has been since the run-up to July’s trade deadline. And despite many heavy-handed proclamations to the contrary in the wake of his eye black scandal, there should be a number of teams who’d consider him– fans, and by extension GMs, tend to have short memories about those kinds of things, I think.
Problem is, his value has taken a hit thanks to both his reputation and his play with the bat in 2012, so it’s not like we can just assume anyone looking to fill a hole at short is going to bite– especially when a club like the Rangers has the luxury of moving the much-better Elvis Andrus, with top prospect Jurickson Profar just about ripe.
There’s a lot of risk in selling low on Escobar, just as there’s risk in betting on Hechavarria being ready, which is why I can’t help but wonder if the Jays might be better off keeping both, and precisely why this post exists. Realistically, I think we have to look a lot deeper when examining the club’s possible trade candidates.
Because of that, I think we have to consider the possibility that the seemingly better-liked, up-and-coming Hechavarria gets dealt– which may even provide a bigger return, especially with him making some solid contact in his late-season cameo, which was mostly unspectacular at the plate, but looks better when you separate August (.229 wOBA in 60 PA) from September (.321 wOBA in 77 PA). Maybe that makes it a sell-high situation. Of course, the problem is, that means the Jays holding Escobar and crossing their fingers like mad for a return to something resembling his 2011 form. Ugh.
JP Arencibia and Travis d’Arnaud
Another difficult choice that Alex Anthopoulos will be faced with this winter will be what to do behind the plate, though the dilemma was made slightly easier– especially from a public pronouncement point-of-view– by Travis d’Arnaud’s mid-summer knee injury, which kept him out of the second half of the season, as well as the Arizona Fall League.
The club is now saying that they’d like d’Arnaud to get his feet back under him behind the plate, and are leaning against beginning the year with him in the Majors, unless he forces his way into at-bats at first base or DH. In a vacuum, very obviously that would be the best course of action– and with JP Arencibia still the incumbent, and the front office not in any rush to tell the world they’re ready to pick one catcher over the other, it makes all the sense in the world.
Of course, the Jays aren’t operating in a vacuum, and if a situation comes up where they can make the team better by parting with Arencibia and not d’Arnaud, as long as they’re confident that the youngster is going to be healthy enough to stay behind the plate long-term, I can’t possibly believe they’ll let concerns about d’Arnaud’s readiness in the season’s first month or so weigh so heavily in the calculation.
Arencibia could be gone. But so too could d’Arnaud, as the highly rated prospect– number five in all of baseball for Keith Law in mid-July, behind only Profar, Bundy, Machado and Wil Myers– would certainly net a tremendous return if the Jays were willing to deal him. We may have to wait until mid-summer to see any movement here, but I wouldn’t at all bet against it being sooner.
Anthony Gose and Colby Rasmus
Though I figure they’re the least likely of the Jays’ incumbent/prospect duos to see a piece moved this winter– mostly because Gose seems to be the least-ready of the three prospects, while Rasmus perhaps maintains the most upside, making it more clearly defined that one belongs in the Toronto and the other in Buffalo– it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility that we’ll see a move here, as well.
I have a hard time seeing the Jays going with both Gose and Hechavarria if they have any kind of serious pretensions at making the playoffs in the next year, so that provides Rasmus with a bit of a firewall, but his struggles in the second half– and basically the entire time he’s been here, save for a ridiculous June– make you wonder how willing they’re going to be to give him more rope. That’s especially so after we saw them piss away so much of the value that Travis Snider once had, waiting for his star-level talent to suddenly materialize, and also how, at the minor league level, they’ve been so quick to move guys at the first sign of struggle– Kevin Comer and Joe Musgrove, for example– or once they start having to repeat levels, like Carlos Perez and Asher Wojciechowski.
Might the Jays want to move Rasmus before he gets too much farther from the gilt-edged prospect status he once had, or is it already too late? If they did move him, is Gose ready or would they want to bring in another player to bridge the gap until Gose is ready?
There are some options on the free agent market that would make such a shift possible, provided you’re ready to stomach rolling the dice on the likes of Shane Victorino, Cody Ross, Grady Sizemore or others of that ilk– assuming, that is, that they’d be out of the market for BJ Upton, Michael Bourn or Angel Pagan. Not likely, but I don’t think it could be entirely ruled out, especially if Anthopoulos finds someone who is still enamoured with the potential of Rasmus.
Gose would be a nice addition for a lot of teams, too, especially as a secondary piece to a much bigger deal– which the Jays may feel OK about dealing, given that Jake Marisnick is already at Double-A. Thing about Gose is, I wonder if he might just be too close to profiling as a fourth outfielder for a lot of teams to see the same kind of value there that the Jays, who’ve spent so much effort nurturing him, probably do. The glove and the arm will play, but it’s hard to bank a lot on that bat just yet.
J.A. Happ and Henderson Alvarez
A lot of the talk I hear about the Jays bolstering their rotation this off-season usually involves JA Happ and Henderson Alvarez remaining with the club, either at the back of the rotation, or in the most fanciful scenarios, as depth. Obviously heading into the spring with those two as the club’s fifth and sixth starters would be a tremendous development, but exactly how realistic is it?
Not a lot of clubs are going to be dealing the kind of top-end big league starter the Jays ought to be looking for without getting a rotation piece in return, and that puts these two in the crosshairs– assuming there’d be little interest in Chad Jenkins, Joel Carreno, or Brett Cecil as a starter. Last winter, for example, we saw Tommy Millone and Edinson Volquez go the other way for Gio Gonzalez and Matt Latos. Even the Mariners got 106.2 innings out of Hector Noesi in what was viewed by many as essentially a straight-up trade of Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero.
Clearly nobody is going to give a whole lot that’s great straight up for Happ or Alvarez, but they’re far from nothing. If their best possible role is as a luxury on a Jays club that will also have for depth the above mentioned Jenkins, Carreno and Cecil, plus potentially Brad Lincoln, potentially a returning Carlos Villanueva, potentially a healthy Dustin McGowan, eventually perhaps John Stilson, injury returnees Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison, and whatever Aaron Laffey-esque options that get picked up along the way, why not?
I think we all know enough not to scoff at the notion of ridiculous layers of rotation depth at this point, but it’s very possible that Happ and Alvarez will end up being more valuable in trade than they are making 30 starts each for the Jays, and I don’t know if I’ve heard their names mentioned often enough as such.
Casey Janssen and Steve Delabar
How absolutely ninja would it be for Alex Anthopoulos to spend the summer helping set a surprisingly high, new, current-CBA market rate for relievers, then cashing in on a couple of his chips that had value materialize from practically nothing? Pretty fucking ninja, I suppose, though I don’t think that’s what will happen or at all that that’s been his aim. Besides, we’re far too long removed from the Vernon Wells deal to have the same views of AA as some kind of higher level-operating mystic as we indulged in back then. But planned or not, the Jays have what appear to be a couple of excellent bullpen pieces in Casey Janssen and Steve Delabar who may be at the absolute zenith of their value right now.
Sure, dealing either of those guys would leave the Jays scrambling to find a couple key bullpen pieces as replacements, but… it’s the bullpen! A lot of fixing can be done on the fly or in the new year. And after the seasons they turned in, adding a Janssen or Delabar to an offer might be exactly the kind of thing that could tip the scales, while not being crazily unreplaceable parts.
If Anthopoulos really means business the way he says he does, and if the free agent route is going to be as difficult as it appears, these two certainly have to be on the “tradar” (TM).
You could list any number of bullpen pieces here, but these are the two that really stand out, I think, and who helped their stock the best over the course of the second half.
The marketing department would shit their pants, and there aren’t a whole lot of ways to see it not being a lateral move to deal a 22-year-old coming off an injury-shortened three win season in which his bat was wholly average and nothing like we think he’s capable of, and who you’ve already once declined to move for Michael Pineda, but if the Jays want an impact return, they may have no better piece to move than Brett Lawrie– especially since there’s virtually no scenario in which Jose Bautista, Brandon Morrow, or Edwin Encarnacion are dealt.
I’m not advocating it per se, mind you, but the club has Jose Bautista and the destined-for-third-eventually-anyway Yunel Escobar who could man Lawrie’s vacated position, with young options to fill in the spots either of them may be forced off of, or money to paper over whatever holes are created via the free agent market (well… theoretically, at least).
Could they really consider dealing the insufferably dimed golden maple one? I’d suspect that, once again this winter, they might at some point have to at least consider it, though it’s much harder to see him getting moved than any of the guys listed above. He’d sure provide the most value in trade of any of the viably-movable chips the Jays could offer, though.
And let’s be clear: anyone beyond this list– other than the noted exceptions of Bautista, Morrow, and Encarnacion– probably just doesn’t have the caché to net a whole lot that’s MLB-ready in return, even if some of the club’s most sparkling prospects are getting moved along with him. You could argue a few names if you really want to, but I think this is about the extent of it. And since the team we’re dealing with is going to need to fill either an already-existent hole on their roster, or one that they’re creating by foolishly moving a budding ace pitcher our way, if someone listed here isn’t dealt, it truly is difficult to envision it being a successful winter.
Image via Brad Mangin.