There are a number of reasons why Alex Anthopoulos right now, once again, finds himself in an unenviable position as he heads into another high-pressure off-season. Chief among them is the difficulty of finding a way to add the top-end starting pitcher the club badly needs without blowing up its offence.

The free agent market is grim. Matt Garza heads the class- unless you really like Ervin Santana, though at least Garza doesn’t come at the cost of a draft pick)– but will turn 30 in November, will want a lengthy and expensive contract, and has struggled with health and home runs over the last two seasons. Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka may offer the Jays their best shot at landing a quality arm– especially if reported changes to the posting system don’t go through in time to effect him– but as we’ve discussed before, there are red flags in his not quite eye-popping strikeout rate and the fact that he has a tonne of innings on his young arm.

Even if the club has concluded that one of those guys, or Dan Haren, or Ricky Nolasco, or any of the other “big” names in the rather tepid free agent pool, are options worth seriously pursuing, it’s still somewhat difficult to imagine Alex Anthopoulos or Paul Beeston being comfortable with handing out the kind of contract it’s going to take to land them. It’s doubly difficult to imagine the front office being willing to go there and the player being willing to accept our money, frankly.

For that reason it’s presumed– and often stated by Alex– that the club will be looking to the trade route, but with that comes its own set of problems. As we’ve also discussed, while far too many folks are laughably clamouring hard for the club to deal Jose Bautista, it’s difficult to envision a scenario where dealing him makes sense– unless, perhaps, the Jays can line up a way to replace some of his offence first (or the offence of any of their core position player who might be dealt) through trade or free agency– meaning that one of the club’s centre fielders would be the most logical choice to be moved.

There are, however, other trade chips that the Jays have. One potential asset is money– according to Tom Maloney of the Globe and Mail, some believe that the Jays could take on $20- to $25-million in payroll above this year’s figure. Unfortunately, the club’s other chips are almost all pitchers themselves. If the Jays add a starter over the off-season, he would join a rotation already set to have R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, and Brandon Morrow (if healthy) in it, with a fifth slot being fought over by J.A. Happ, Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond, Ricky Romero, Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, Sean Nolin, and Marcus Stroman.

As we’ve learned around here over the last few years, you can never have too much pitching depth, but… um… that actually might be too much pitching depth.

Sure, some of those guys could be dealt to shore up one of the club’s other glaring positions of need– second base and catcher, in particular– but maybe there is a way for Anthopoulos to actually get creative and deal them for the kind of player he needs. It’s a little fantasy league-ish to think so, and such a deal wouldn’t be easy– in fact, it might be impossible– but what if you were a team that was thin on pitching depth, thin on payroll, yet with a very highly paid pitcher on your roster? Might you consider dealing such a pitcher away in order to fill multiple rotation spots, albeit with lesser arms and bigger question marks, on the cheap?

It would depend on who the pitcher, obviously. The Rays, should they choose to move David Price, will certainly be able to extract a metric fuck-tonne more value than that. But what about a pitcher whose contract is a little on the too-big side? We only have to think of last year’s deal with the Marlins to see an example– albeit not one we can realistically expect to repeat itself– where a team did almost exactly what I’m talking about, exchanging big ticket players for payroll flexibility, cheap young replacements with upside, and a sprinkling of prospects to even out the deal.

Could it happen again? Having combed through the league looking at potential fits, I think the possibility is there, if remote. But that doesn’t mean we can’t spitball a few ideas anyway!

Take, for example, the Arizona Diamondbacks. The $86-million they spent on payroll this year was the most by the club since 2002, and it stands to go up, with $79-million committed already for 2014, and arbitration raises to guys like Gerardo Parra and Brad Ziegler not included among that figure. In other words, it’s possible they’ll be pushing the limits of their internal budget. They don’t necessarily have depth issues in the rotation, with Tyler Skaggs and Archie Bradley waiting in the wings, but there isn’t a whole lot that’s terribly impressive behind them, and maybe they’re ready to make room in 2014 for at least one of those guys– or at least willing to do so if it means adding some financial flexibility. They could do that by dealing Brandon McCarthy or Trevor Cahill.

The Jays, if the payroll guessing is correct and Rogers doesn’t lose its mind and tighten the purse strings at this critical juncture, could fairly easily do what they need to do at other positions while accommodating the $10.25-million owed McCarthy in his final year before free agency, or the $7.9-million owed to Cahill, plus the rest of his deal, which goes to $12-million in 2015, then is followed by a pair of club option years.

Cahill, frankly, isn’t that great. And McCarthy has warts too, mostly in terms of health. But… the thing is, Cliff Lee isn’t walking through that door if all you’re willing to give up is a couple of back-end arms with upside (or whatever a deal like this would end up including– a reliever? a prospect? a Buffalo outfielder? Maicer Izturis, anyone?) and a little financial breathing room. McCarthy probably isn’t either, but maybe? Maybe??

Payroll is always an issue for Oakland, though they only have $23-million in guaranteed commitments for next season. Not included in that figure, however, are arbitration raises for guys like Jed Lowrie, Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss, John Jaso, and Seth Smith. There are also contract options on to decide on– Coco Crisp ($7.5-million), Brett Anderson ($8-million), Chris Young ($11-million), Kurt Suzuki ($8.5-million)– and pending free agents (Bartolo Colon, Grant Balfour) to either re-sign or replace.

They’re not likely going to pick up all of those options. Crisp is a gimme, but Young has struggled and Suzuki is a platoon catcher. The intriguing one for us here, of course, is Anderson. Sort of. This year he’s struggled with health, as usual, and with command, walking 10.4% of batters faced, having come into the year never having had a rate higher than 6.1% in a single big league season. However, there are reasons to be optimistic.

For one, it was an ankle injury that kept him out for most of this season, not anything to do with his arm or shoulder, though he did miss most of the previous season recovering from Tommy John surgery, and has had some recurring back issues as well. Secondly, his troubles with bases on balls have maybe started to dissipate since his return from the DL– he walked 15 batters in 29 innings in April before getting hurt, but pitching out of the bullpen has walked just five in fourteen innings since. Of course, that sample is awfully small– had he lost one or two more batters in those fourteen innings it would look like nothing at all had changed.

Still, though, his velocity is up a little bit over previous years, and while it has presumably nudged in that direction by his move to the bullpen, that seems a good sign. And while his ERA is particularly fugly– currently sitting at 6.28– he’s been plagued by home runs, which, given the average HR/FB rates he’s produced through his career (both on the road and at home), would seem to be a blip more than anything.

Anderson may be a guy that Oakland is thinking of relying on to help replace the production of Colon, but one wonders if the A’s may figure that the $8-million earmarked for picking up his option (which has a $1.5-million buyout) could be better spent elsewhere, especially if a team was willing to move one of their own young pieces– one that is controlled more cheaply and for much longer– for the privilege of bringing in the pitcher who posted a 2.80 ERA over 19 starts in 2010, and a 2.57 ERA over six in 2012.

We could continue the exercise by perhaps looking at the Brewers, who may look at their division and decide that Yovanni Gallardo and the single year left on his deal may not be as good a fit for their plans as a younger player controlled longer and the cash saved by trading him away– though they’re by no means strapped– or we could get silly and start thinking about… I don’t know… the Angels adding rotation pieces and shedding salary (as if they care) by moving someone like C.J. Wilson, or the Phillies and Lee. But that’s getting pretty deeply divorced from reality. The prior examples, though, seem at least somewhat realistic, don’t they? Maybe not when you factor in the revenue increase that all teams will receive thanks to the kicking in of MLB’s new TV deals, but I certainly wouldn’t put it past baseball owners to simply have that money find its way into their own pockets.

So… yeah, maybe?

Thing is, again, if a deal like this is going to happen, you’re not talking about acquiring players without warts. Unfortunately, this day and age, you’re not talking about finding such players on the free agent market, either. But if Jays fans think that the lesson of 2013 is to always bet on sure things, then I’d submit that they haven’t really learned anything at all. Risks are part of the game, and fuck yeah I’d take a Brandon McCarthy or Brett Anderson for the right price. Shit, give me both!


All payroll figures per Cot’s.

Comments (110)

  1. Ubaldo Jimenez is the guy to go after if they decide to enter the free agent market.

  2. No AAs quest for a catcher?

  3. I’m accepting of giving Redmond a shot next year . Preferably as a fifth or sixth but baseball is apparently tough to play, and to predict so… Im okay with #McCarthyism.

  4. Billy Beane would hustle AA so hard

  5. Well I’m just a bugger for punishment so going to throw this out there. We should try and sign JJ at a reduced and incentive laden contract for 14 than hold tight in the pitcher dept.
    Use the addtional money at catcher and second base. Rely on a new and tumourless Melky for left field. Now hold your hand over your ass for the ride.

  6. So what’s the deal on Josh Johnson then, Stoets? Do they qualify offer him? Bid him adios…or does he have ANY trade value after his giant abortion of a season?
    What’s a realistic number to offer him as an offer – that won’t cause a Jays’ Nation collective barf-in-mouth spit-take?

  7. I didn’t see Timmy mentioned anywhere in this article.any chance he could be had for 3 years 20?

    • Think it’ll cost a LOT more than that.
      But I’d like to see them try to get him if the cost isn’t too crazy.

    • He’ll get the qualifying offer. Also: not interested, as shitty as that is to admit. Because… y’know… the best.

      • I don’t follow. What does “you know… the best” mean?
        Also the QO thing is slightly mitigated if th Jays end up with a protected pick, right?

  8. This is nothing more than an exercise in futility. Ugh.

  9. Seattle seems like an interesting trade partner. THey have pitching and need offence. I wonder if lind and/or rasmus would be of interest. They also have Ackley, franklin and miller who could fill a hole at 2nd.

  10. john danks?

  11. Homer Bailey is a guy that is about to get real expensive for the Reds. A team that isn’t exactly rolling in doe.

    • Bailey’s easily the most intriguing semi-realistic option out there. If he’s shopped the Jays need to be at the front of that line.

      • having heard folks talk about his personality and make-up, I have a feeling Toronto would be at the bottom of his list for teams he’d be interested in playing for. That said, ‘money changes everything’.

  12. I hear Roy Halladay might be on the market!

    And cheap!

  13. Wellington Castillo + Jeff Shardzjima from the cubs are who the jays should go after.

  14. NO STOETEN!!!!!

    You are my favorite writer in this city dude, but “fugly” ? Say it isn’t so man. Don’t go flippin’ the script and getting all cray cray on be bro. (fistbump) keep it real is what im saying. yolo. big ups. bro.

    You get the point. You are the Barrack Obama to Steve Simmonds George Bush JR. But you still can’t say fugly.

  15. OK this is total Triple Play ’98 but hear me out:

    You get a right handed batter to platoon with Lind for DH. You Move Melky to first and start an outfield of Jose Colby Goose.

    You then Trade Edwin Encarnation to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Jurrickson Profar and Catching Prospect George Alfaro.

    After that You sign whoever is the best defensive catcher available to partner with Alfaro.

    Then you put a call into every team in the league and find out what prospects it will take aquire their ace. I mean, Could you go all in for a chance at a championship? Seattle obviously doesnt WANT to trade Felix Hernandez, but what if you gave them like 20 million cash, and our top 5 or 6 prospects?

    Jose-Colby-Reyes-Lawrie and Felix – Dickey – Morrow gives you as good a shot as possible to win the World Series and if you do that, you can suck for 20 more years.

    • dumb

    • this is ridiculous

    • Whatever they do, I really think trading EE would be a huge step backwards for a team looking to seriously contend in the next two years or so. Anyone who has watched this entire disaster of a season will tell you that Edwin has been the most consistent player, hands down. No need to trade that away and create a hole.

      • The talk about Trading Jose or Edwin is ridiculous. Most successful teams require that 1, 2 punch to strike fear against opponents.

        It would be a huge step back if the Jays traded either one of them.

    • Thank God you don’t run the team.

    • J.P.?

    • Our top 5 or 6 prospects don’t land Felix–at least, not anymore.

      If you offered Sanchez, Syndergaard, Nicolino, D’Arnaud, Gose, and Marisnick, “maybe” Seattle thinks about it. But I don’t think they trade Felix, even for that. And as you will note, that boat’s already passed given how we don’t have half of those prospects anymore.

  16. It seems like they’ve already identified places they are going to try to fuck around and see what they have that could work in house. Derosa at 1, Lawrie and Goins at 2, Pillar playing every outfield position.
    I think that’s as telling as anything for what their plans are.
    if there is only X amount to spend, I’d like to see it all go to a pitcher, I think Ubaldo would be a great fit. If they really wanted to make a splash, it sure looks like the white sox are in for a big re-build…. Dunn or Konerko or both could retire. Maybe a Sanchez/Gose/ Stroman/ DJ Davis Package for Sale wouldn’t be completely unreasonable.

    • Sales delivery is not sustainable

      • Oh Fuck off.

        This is so stupid.

        Repeatable deliveries can blow me. How are they working out for y’know, every other pitcher that has had an arm injury?

        Quit pretending you’re a scout. Even they dont know.

  17. Adding an chronically injured pitcher must be a reverse jinx right?

  18. Not to be a dick, but what does “this day in age” mean? Were you trying for “in this day and age”?

    On the less assholey side, with the new tv money, I doubt a team like Arizona would drop Cahill or McCarthy at a talent-discount just for the 10 mill saving.

  19. AA definitely is in an unenviable position. We need a top of the rotation pitcher (ace) but we can’t afford to give up current offense and if we trade any more prospects we’ll have to rebuild for a decade following 2015/6. It is incredibly difficuly to get an affordable ace these days….

    • They can get by without an ace.

      • They have a good chance of winning the world series next year without a top of the rotation starter? Possible if guys peak/are hot at the right time but very unlikely.

        • Pittsburgh and Atlanta are World Series contenders without an ace.

          • Red Sox, Indians and Orioles are all in the race.

            All of them had opening day starters that either had an ERA over 4.8 last year or were named Chris Tillman. Yanks hung in there with CC putting up worse numbers than RA.

            • No offense, but stupid posts. The top 7 ranked AL teams for ERA are KC, Oak, Texas, Det, Bos, TB, Cle. Bottom 5 ERAs are Hou, Min, Sea, LA, Tor. Coincidence? The top 7 all have far better top 3-4 SPs than the Jays this year.

          • Right. So you are comfortable comparing their top 3-4 starters with ours?

            • Yes. You just don’t NEED an ace the way you seem to believe. Obviously it would help. Getting a very strong group of 4 guys would still be very good– and with Morrow, Dickey and Buehrle, you have a good foundation for it already.

              • So who is our top 4 right now? You like our matchups in a playoff series? We need a top of the rotation starter as i said earlier.

              • Can we count on Morrow to be fully healthy and at the top of his game in October next year? 54 IP this year, 124 last year. Wont they have to work him up to get over 200 IP?

    • Calling it now.

      Jays are the Cleveland’s of the 2014 off season.

      Protected pick. Sign a couple lower level FAs that got QOs to not ridiculous contracts. (Think Lohse and Bourn type of contracts here) Give up their 2nd and 3rd rounders.

      All in or bust baby. If it doesn’t work out kiss Bautista, EE, Buerhle, Reyes, Morrow, Colby, Lind, Dickey and whatever FAs they signed goodbye at the deadline.

      This is the smart move isn’t it? Spend a few more bucks to really drive this team up and see how many tickets a winning Jays team can sell. If it doesn’t work out and quick….. Blow it the fuck up next year and get some long term salary relief.

      • Yeah, the window is getting smaller. I agree another epic fail next year and it could be time to blow it up and rebuild. It is not a given though. We have the horses offensively (if healthy har har) but big questions in SP.

      • Pretty sure you’d be losing #11 plus your second rounder in that scenario, not your 2nd/3rd rounders.

  20. What about signing Colon?

  21. Go for Anderson and McCarthy. If you have 4 fragile aces, you definitely get two full seasons out of the lot right?

  22. I’ve said it before. Go after Phil Hughes as NYY are fed up with him( apparently_) and he still has great stuff. Sure he is a risk but his cost will be a lot less and gives good upside with a 95mph heater and good slider. Other notables w/b Nolasco ( likely to resihn in LA though, I know) and maybe Tim Lincecum ( give him half his salary in BC Bud.
    Paying 100m to Garza w/b dumb in my view

    • NOOOOOOOO!!!!!

      Hughes sucks

      • He does suck, right now, and hence one of the reasons he will be asked to leave NYY with no QO, thus no draft choice atatched.
        A guy name Bucholz of Boston “sucked”big time last year and is a CY candidate this year.
        I think you have to take a few chances and hope you can get that potential out.
        They probably won’t get him, for various reasons but I think he could be like Morrow or Burnett if the right pitching coach gets to him ( oh yeah, I forgot..)

        • But Phil Hughes always sucked.

          Hey, Jose Bautista used to suck and then he got really good, let’s just get a guy who used to suck and maybe he’ll turn out good!

          • At times you baffle me. On the one hand you argue that we cannot afford high priced help so let’s go after yutzes like Cahill. Then when someone becomes available who may deliver on the upside that we can realistically pursue with some small hance of success you say his quality isn’t very good. So far, yeah, but a lot of scouts like the guy and that is likely why Toronto won’t get him anyway.
            You must be a treat on the stock markwt. Fuck ,don’t buy RIM at $7, they haven’t proven anything, it’s all potential and then when it’s 150$ /share, yeah htere great , let’s pile in. Yeah right!

            • I don’t know what this nonsense is all about. Phil Hughes is not very good– what’s confusing here?

  23. Signing anyone “injury prone” pretty much guarantees he’ll burst into flames the second he sets foot in the Jays ST complex. And probably cuase 5 other guys to catch fire when he explodes, and send them to the 60 day DL.

  24. Is it worthwhile to trade pieces for a guy like McCarthy (and pay him his salary) when someone that is on the free agent market this year (and not too high profile to come here) is comparable?

  25. @Stoeten.

    Excellent post. It’s encouraging that Rogers will give the Jays an extra 20-25 million to try & fix the holes.

    The Jays are fortunate that they have some additional depth this year with Redmond & Rogers.

    Morrow is a wildcard. Can Ricky Ro make the rotation in 2014?

    • RIckey Ro will be hard-pressed to make Buffalo’s roster.
      I have a feeling that they’ll try to do something with him…because that 7-odd million going to the minors must really stick in AA’s craw right about now.

      • Agreed. Might even be better to give a team half his salary to take him, grab a prospect or two and say ‘see ya’.

        That said, I’d love to see Ricky turn it around and be lights-out again. I’m rooting for him.

  26. I love the idea of Anderson, but then I think back to last year and how much I loved the idea of Johnson. I feel like we may be getting into that all over again. And in the end, I think I’d be more comfortable re-signing Johnson at a discount.

    Gallardo and Bailey are interesting though.

  27. it seems the only viable free agent starting options for the jays are halladay, wandy r, or possibly an incentive deal with marcum. not much.

    • Halladay’s arm is fucked :(

      • then wandy rogriguez i guess. bringing any one of the supposed top free agent starters – e.g. ubaldo, santana – is just asking for more of the same.

      • Halladay is magic. Jays sign him, and he bounces back. Finishes 17-8 with 200+ IP and 4 CG. Feel it. Send the vibes to AA to take a gamble on a known entity and a good human being.

  28. I’m not sure why my replies are randomly placed. Stupid tablet.

  29. I hope AA inquires to Lee`s availability. Morrow, Gose,Nolin and J.P. for Lee. Frees up some $$ for Philly moving forward and gives them a backup catcher since AA signs Ruiz as well.

  30. Jays rotation next year.

    Dickey, Buehrle, Morrow, Johnson. Drabek

    Not the most exciting idea for 2014, but we were thrilled about this 10 months ago.

  31. [...] Alex Anthopolous has some work ahead of him this offseason, most notably his quest for starting pitching. [DJF] [...]

  32. Is it out of the realm of possibility to trade Beurhle? His contract over the next two years is sitting around $20M per. He had a pretty good year other than April. If you can trade him, and I don’t care what you get back, you can free up a fuck-tonne of money that can be used to improve the team elsewhere, including the SP.

    I think the principle of selling as high as you can works in this case.

    • Totally agree, he has to go, that salary needs be slotted in for a top rotation guy or an overpayment for a free agent !st/2nd baseman. We’re screwed if it’s for a 3/4 starter, since we now have SEVEN 4/5 starters and THREE #6 starters….I llike what he is but it CAN’T work if he stays…

    • If the idea is to free up cash, sure, but who is going to replace him?

      Secondly, Rogers can help out immensely by not forcing AA to free up cash – upping the payroll to where it needs to be – that $150-$170 million range – would be the ideal scenario.

    • You’d think the jays would have taken his future salaries into mind when they traded for him, wouldn’t you?

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