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The Jays Acquire Rajai Davis

The offseason is still in its infancy, but rest assured: this deal will involve the most unique names of any completed ever. The Oakland Athletics just acquired David DeJesus and cleared a piece of their outfield logjam by sending Rajai Davis to the Toronto Blue Jays for a pair of arms (with bodies attached!) named Trystan Magnuson and Daniel Farquhar.

The Jays get the only player in the deal with Major League experience. Davis profiles as a fourth outfielder. His 2010 UZR score may not suggest it, but Davis can man each of the outfield positions. His best offensive tool is his blinding speed — an attribute that comes in handy off the bench and appears often in Davis’ plate appearances. Unlike so many of his new teammates, Davis is all about slapping the ball into the earth and then blazing the basepaths. Davis’ career .330 on-base percentage would’ve ranked as the fifth highest on the 2010 Blue Jays.

The middle of November roster matrix projections usually hold a life expectancy equal to that of a house fly. With Dan Uggla off the market one has to wonder if the Jays now have Jose Bautista penciled in at third base. That would leave Vernon Wells as the lone right-handed outfielder on the roster with lefties Adam Lind, Travis Snider, and Fred Lewis around to fill in the remaining outfield and designated hitter blanks. Davis’ cost figures to be a raise over his $1.35 million salary from last season — manageable if his role includes starting every few days against lefties.

Baseball America ranked Magnuson and Farquhar amongst the Blue Jays’ top-25 prospects entering the season. Both are right-handed relief prospects that spent the 2009 and 2010 seasons in Double-A. The Jays willingness to include both when most of their bullpen qualified for free agency (Kevin Gregg, Scott Downs, and Jason Frasor at least) is a bit curious, but perhaps more of a testament to their faith in either re-signing those players or acquiring equivalent talents in a loaded middle reliever market.

Magnuson is the oldest of the pair at age 25. He hails from Canada and stands six-seven. After the Jays drafted him in the supplemental round of the 2007 draft (out of Louisville) they attempted to convert him to the rotation (as they are wont to do with college relievers; i.e. Dave Bush and Brett Cecil) the transformation failed and Magnuson went back to relieving. His fastball can touch the mid-90s while his breaking pitch remains a work in progress, but his minor league strikeout-to-walk ratio of 6.3 this season suggests he could be ready for the big leagues in 2011.

Farquhar stands roughly eight inches shorter than his trade mate and had a rougher season in Double-A. His walk rates have sat above four per nine ever since hitting High-A and his strikeouts have dwindled at each subsequent level. Marc Hulet ranked him as the tenth-best prospect in the system earlier this season, noting his potential to become a late-inning force while also describing how he gets results by writing, “The right-hander comes at hitters from a variety of arm angles and can reach the low-90s from a sidearm slot.” He too figures to see some action in 2011.

Some may take exception to calling non-elite minor relievers prospects, but few can take exception to the line of thinking employed by either team here. Davis was likely in the fast lane to a non-tender and the Jays must like him enough that they wanted to avoid the rat race that is an open market. The A’s, meanwhile, get a heck of a return on investment from Davis’ tenure. Two and three-quarter seasons resulting in more than five and a half wins as well as two relief prospects for the cost of a waiver claim.