Expect Jays to Cash in Current Talent for Future

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.

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

27 Responses to “Expect Jays to Cash in Current Talent for Future”

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  1. Mark says:

    “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.”

    Downs and Frasor aren’t expensive. Downs costs 4M and Frasor is 2.65 M. You make it sound like they’re making 10+M and have untradeable contracts.

    Also I’m pretty sure Downs is an “A” type free agent, so yeah, the Jays wouldn’t move him unless they got an equivalent to an A type prospect.

    I wouldn’t consider Marcum a back of the rotation pitcher, but that’s me.

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  2. Tom Au says:

    I, (a former Pittsburgher) prefer the Pirates’ chances to the Orioles’. Not because the Pirates are better, but because they are playing it a weaker division and league.

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  3. Tyler says:

    I think the Jays would have to be called murderously stupid if they traded Aaron Hill, personally. Hill and Lind have to be as close to untouchable as anything on this team gets if we’re hoping to rebuild. They’re young, they’ve got what we’ve lacked for years (power) and neither is terrifically expensive. What could we realistically get back for them that would be worth trading them? A series of prospects? That can only be a loosely compelling idea unless we’ve got a 7-year rebuilding plan and don’t hope to even think about contention until the current crop of Jays fans are half in the grave.

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    • Adam says:

      I’m a Jays fan, and I for one hope Anthopoulos trades Hill. He just had a career year, his trade value isn’t going to get any higher. Since we realistically aren’t going to be able to compete until Vernon comes off the books, Hill would have become expensive by then.

      Lind, on the other hand, is more likely to maintain his power from last year. He’s the middle-of-the-order hitter to hold the fort, not Hill.

      If we’re going into build mode, let’s really stockpile young talent. Our two best prospects just came over in the Halladay deal, we need more. If we act like the Marlins for a couple of seasons, we’ll then have the money to splurge on complementary FAs once Vernon is gone and buried.

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      • Pete says:

        Aaron Hill’s contract has a club option for 2014 for $10 million. That would be his most expensive season on his current contract. He won’t become any kind of financial liability, and thus won’t need to be traded, for a long, long time.

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  4. Tyler says:

    OK, that was excessive hyperbole, upon review. But my basic point stands; the Jays have to consider some of their assets mostly unmoveable if they feel like fielding a remotely competitive team any time in the near future and I’d have to believe that Lind and Hill should be those assets. Moving Marcum could make sense, or even maybe packaging two of our nigh-limitless pitching prospects to get one better prospect. Any of the older players also make sense, but if you shuffle off Hill and Lind, the Jays have almost nothing of note offensively (unless you believe Wallace and Cooper are going to really bust out in a few seasons).

    You’ve got to have a foundation, and I think Hill and Lind are it for us.

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  5. Impossibles says:

    I don’t see any need for the Jays to move Hill. You still need to sell tickets and try to win, and AA has said many many times he does not see the Jays as a small market team, the market will support the team if the team has a sustained level of success. This isn’t going to be a rebuild/contend/rebuild organization, they want to win win win. Hill isn’t expensive enough to prevent that. Look at what Cleveland got back for V-Mart, nice players but not star players.

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    • B N says:

      It’s a good thing that he doesn’t see the Jays as a small market team, because they definitely haven’t been. They’re a mid-market team burdened with some horrible contracts (bad and/or unlucky). Once those come off the books, they’ll be able to win-win-win. Unfortunately, due to to their division, they’ll need to win-win-win-win-win to actually reach the playoffs. They’ve got 2 teams that will generally outspend them and on team that seems to be outdrafting them in their division.

      If they want to reach the playoffs, I don’t think they have to blow up their team- but they definitely do have to rock the variance-boat. To reach playoffs in the AL East, they need to win somewhere around 95 games. Basically, they need to be at least 2nd best in their division and better than all but 2 other teams in the rest of the AL. So.. they can stay a 0.550 team and be consistently “competitive.” Or they can have some regular purges that drop them down to 0.500 and try to push them closer to 0.600 some years.

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    • Adam says:

      I don’t think the Jays have to move Hill, I just think that if we’re doubling our scouting budget, let’s take advantage of it and be sure to get some more Top-10 picks. Moving Hill would ensure that we’d lose enough games … AND we could get some good, young high-ceiling players who might just have more than one 30-HR season in them. If we’re in building mode, let’s sell off our most valuable assets, particularly when they’re at their highest value.

      I’m just suggesting that to realistically be able to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox, we might just need to be as bad as the Rays were, to be as good as the Rays are now.

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  6. Renegade says:

    I definitely feel that Hill is going to regress this year HOWEVER I wouldn’t trade him unless the offer blew me away. He’s signed to a nice little contract and he’s one of the pieces you build on.

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  7. dizzle says:

    You know – there is one trade for Hill I can see the Jays being interested in. Assuming that they’d need a 2B back, they loved Brett Lawrie a few years back in the draft and were supposedly set on grabbing him, and then ended up with David Cooper after he was taken by the Brewers.

    If the Brewers are in the hunt this summer, and obviously have a need at 2B, do you think both sides would do Aaron Hill for Brett Lawrie and Mat Gamel? Lawrie is a Canadian, so you get some positive press even when trading Hill.

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  8. Impossibles says:

    The Brewers have Ricky Weeks at 2B.

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