Last week, as part of the Organizational Rankings series, I summarized the Blue Jays’ current talent while Marc Hulet discussed the team’s future. The team’s story is pretty basic. There’s no way they can compete with the Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees this year, but after an off-season spent rebuilding for 2011 and beyond the Jays could certainly enter the AL East mix over the next few years. Marc’s write-up reflects that. One point that both of us missed, and what Dave Cameron only briefly touched on, is the tradeable talent on Toronto’s roster.
Ken Rosenthal touched on this in a recent column, but I think he’s looking in the wrong places. Jason Frasor and Scott Downs are no doubt quality relievers, and could fetch the Jays a young player or two if traded mid-season. Neither, however, figures to net them an A prospect. That’s just not the going rate for relief pitchers over age 30 who are not only relatively expensive, but who are also free agents after the season. Thankfully for the Jays, they have other players they could combine with these two to create a more palatable trade situation.
A team seeking a first baseman mid-season might have interest in Lyle Overbay. In the final year of a four-year, $24 million deal, Overbay will earn just $7 million this season before hitting free agency. He’s been quite productive over the past two seasons, posting .342 and .363 wOBAs and producing 2.0 and 2.2 WAR. The only year in the past five that he has failed to produce 2 WAR was 2007, when a broken hand, suffered on a HBP, caused him to miss more than a month. He produced horribly upon his return and the effect seemingly spilled into 2008. In 2009 he was back at a high production level. He also plays good defense, a 6.2 UZR over the past three seasons.
On Opening Day, Shaun Marcum will take the hill for the Jays. He hasn’t pitched in a game since September, 2008, when he he injured his elbow, necessitating Tommy John surgery. He also only pitched 15.2 rehab innings last season. While Marcum is still under control for the next three seasons, the Jays could use that to their advantage. If he gets off to a hot start they could trade him to a contender in need of a back of the rotation starter. With his relative cheapness, his ability to pitch in the rotation, and his three remaining years of team control, he might be attractive to other teams. This is all dependent, of course, on his successful return from surgery.
It might seem odd for the Jays to trade a player who hit 37 home runs last season, but they could have the opportunity to deal Aaron Hill. It’s not likely. After all, the Jays don’t have someone ready to plug into second base, and a middle infield of Alex Gonzalez and John McDonald would be beyond disastrous on offense. In the future they could have Brad Emaus at the position. He didn’t make Marc Hulet’s top 10 Jays prospects list, but Baseball America says he has the best strike zone discipline in the system. Would the Jays trade a 28-year-old who is under contract for at least one more season at a reasonable salary? It depends on the return, of course, but while I think it’s unlikely I wouldn’t completely rule out a Hill trade. It could come after the season, too.
Chances are the Jays will trade one or more of these players during or just after the 2010 season. The team knows its position, and realizes that the only way to compete with the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox is to maximize production from young, cost-controlled players while filling the gaps with free agents. They’re not ready for that last part yet, but they could position themselves better for the first part by trading some of their more dependable veterans.
Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.