How does a team recover from the loss of Roy Halladay? It usually involves a lot of waiting, but this wasn’t the case for the Blue Jays. In fact, it didn’t take long at all for their pitching to get back up to speed.
2009: 4.47 ERA, 4.35 FIP, 4.19 xFIP
2010: 4.23 ERA, 4.04 FIP, 4.18 xFIP
The secret of the Jays’s success came in two parts. First, they saw improvement from two of their 25-year-old starters, Ricky Romero and Brett Cecil. Second, they added a couple of arms. The first was Brandon Morrow, who, despite a middling ERA, produced excellent peripherals and improved as the season progressed. The other was Shaun Marcum, who missed the entire 2009 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Marcum actually produced the lowest ERA, 3.64, on the staff. Yesterday the Jays traded him to the Brewers for prospect Brett Lawrie.
Jack was concise in his coverage of the Brewers’ perspective. They had a need and they filled it with a player who was potentially blocked. For the Blue Jays the trade is a bit trickier. They traded a player who could help them in 2011 for a player whose impact won’t be felt until 2012 at the earliest. That might appear to hurt their chances for contention next season, but as we saw after they lost Halladay, losing a top pitcher does not necessarily mean an overall weakened pitching staff.
With Marcum out of the picture the Jays now have a spot open at the bottom of the rotation. Romero, Cecil, Morrow, and Kyle Drabek are all pretty much penciled in, with guys such as Marc Rzepczynski, Jesse Litsch, and Brad Mills competing for the final spot. Getting 30 starts from Morrow at the level of his second half performance will go a long way in upgrading the Jays’ staff. Drabek’s emergence could help push that further. But a true upgrade of that fifth start could mean even more. Might the Jays have acquired Lawrie with the idea first of moving him, and only second of having his future in Toronto?
We’ve heard for the past week or so that the Blue Jays are interested in trading for Zack Greinke, and we’ve heard that Greinke is ready to put his time in Kansas City to an end. There might be a match here, and Lawrie could be a part of that. He produced quality numbers as a 20-year-old in the AA Southern League, and figures to continue sliding up the prospect rankings. Before the 2009 season Baseball America ranked him No. 81, and before last season he moved to No. 59. He could move as high as the 30s this season. While he alone wouldn’t get a Greinke deal done, the Jays do have a number of other prospects they could send Kansas City’s way.
While Kansas City does have the top farm system in the game, they are deficient in a few areas. One of those is middle infielders. Christian Colon is the team’s best bet there, but he put up middling numbers in advanced-A ball. He is also a year older than Lawrie. By adding Lawrie, along with a number of other prospects from the Jays’ system, the Royals could even further upgrade their impending youth movement. The Jays do have a few non-Drabek pieces, including J.P. Arencibia, Zach Stewart, Travis D’Arnaud, and even Travis Snider, who could be of interest to Kansas City.
Still, it’s tough to pin a player as someone who a team plans to flip rather than keep. The Blue Jays could get plenty of use out of Lawrie themselves. They have Aaron Hill under contract only through 2011, though they do have two reasonable options on him (they won’t be able to exercise the 2014 option, since they won’t exercise all three this off-season). If he recovers they could keep him around, but if he doesn’t Lawrie could be a potential replacement. There are questions about Lawrie’s defense, though, which could ticket him for third base, a currently vacant position. He could also move to an outfield corner to complement Snider.
By trading Marcum, the Blue Jays dealt from an area of relative strength and depth to obtain a potentially useful player. Marcum could have been a useful pitcher for them in 2011 and beyond, but they have enough arms to cover for his absence. He also reached a career high in innings a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, so perhaps there are health concerns on Toronto’s end. In any case, they acquired a top-50 prospect without significantly damaging its short-term hopes. If they can flip Lawrie for Greinke, they’ll be even better positioned for 2011.
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