The trade deadline is now 4 days away and, as always, rumours are rampant. Due to Anthopoulos‘ ways, the Blue Jays have been mentioned in a high percentage of trade discussion. As we have heard year in and year out, he checks in on everyone. I generally don’t get overly excited about these rumours though, because AA’s biggest moves have generally been quite stealthy. The biggest deal so far was Samardjiza to the A’s, but there are certainly still big names out there including Price, Hamels, and even Tulowitzki.
At this point, Blue Jays fans are going into hysterics about how terrible Anthopoulos is for not having made a move yet. Even though we know those same critics would be the first to complain that he gave up too much to get a deal done, if one were occur. Well, if you can’t beat them, join them. This is my input into what the Blue Jays should do for the 2014 MLB Trade Deadline.
Most rumours surrounding the Jays have centred on pitching — most often starting pitching. The reality is that starting pitching may not provide us with the easiest path to improving the team. This team has holes, but the starting pitching has been a recent strong point. They rank 6th in the MLB over the last month for WAR with 2.9. Once Stroman fit into the rotation, these 5 guys simply haven’t been that bad. Any trade is going to likely drop Happ out of the rotation, so we aren’t looking for back-end guys. Additionally, I think we will have ample depth down the stretch with the return of Nolin and possibly Morrow, no worries for me there. The only deal for a SP that makes sense is a front-end guy like Price or Hamels. Those guys will cost multiple big prospects and we will have no guarantee we can even sign them long-term.
The reliever market has even more big names in play in 2014. Uehara, Miller, Bastardo, Papelbon, etc. may be the crown jewels remaining, but Street, Soria, & Thatcher have already been moved. The price paid for these relievers so far seems to be quite fair really. Normally a couple of mid-level prospects will get the deal done. I view the reliever position as an easier way to upgrade their current roster. Although many of the pieces have remained the same since 2013, the results have not matched. Janssen has struggled as of late, Santos is gone, Delabar lost the ability to throw strikes, Wagner never stepped up, and the list goes on. Outside of Loup, Janssen, & Cecil, the 2014 Blue Jays bullpen simply hasn’t been very good.
Lastly we have the position players. The Blue Jays have mostly been linked to second and third basemen. The idea seems to be that Lawrie can take whatever position is left available between the two. This makes a lot of sense considering the relative lack of production the Jays have gotten from the 2B position this year when Lawrie was not in. Tolleson has been a good platoon utility player, but I don’t want him playing every day. [Note: The Blue Jays traded for Danny Valencia, who will assumedly platoon with Francisco at 3B.]
So of these three options, I would like the Blue Jays to address them in the following order: third base, relief pitching, starting pitching. Ideally I want the Blue Jays to go out and get Beltre from the Rangers for a handful of prospects. Beltre is an aging 3B with $18M owed to him next, but he still produces at an elite level and provides solid, but declining defence. However, a big splash like this doesn’t appear likely for the Blue Jays in 2014. They truly do appear to be at some imaginary salary cap imposed by ownership. This would perfectly explain the Valencia move that just happened. He is cheap, controllable, and fits a very niche role – playing 3B and hitting only lefties. It just so happens we currently have a 3B who only hits righties. Looks like we will be going with Lawrie at 2B and a Valencia/Francisco platoon at 3B. I bet they keep Tolleson around to play some utility and pinch hit. Goins and Kawasaki will fight it out until Lawrie returns, but both may end up getting sent down.
With the Valencia deal done, the Jays should move hard on the RP market. Spend the prospects to go get an elite late innings reliever to sure up the bullpen. A move like this coupled with the addition of Sanchez, perhaps Morrow, and a rebound second half for a couple guys could quickly revert the Blue Jays bullpen back to elite form.
Luckily for the Blue Jays, they had a strong 2014 draft and have seen numerous prospects take big steps forward. This gives them more ammunition for trades and makes the potential loss of prospects easier to swallow. I would suggest moving some of their infield depth and/or pitching depth at the A-ball level for a quality RP. Uehara would truly look great in a Blue Jays uniform down the stretch.