The first big off-season splash from Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays has brought with it more questions than answers, so let’s get to the analysis.
Toronto sends veteran starter Shaun Marcum to the Milwaukee Brewers for a Canadian prospect, 20-year old second baseman Brett Lawrie.
This deal has to be approached with two separate frames of mind – as a stand-alone transaction of another building block for the future OR as a step towards a bigger trade on the horizon, widely reported as being a run at Royals ace Zack Greinke. Without knowing the conversations currently taking place within the team’s baseball operations department, it’s worth taking a look at both scenarios.
1) As a stand-alone trade
Under this scenario, the Jays’ focus is on the 2012 season and beyond. Toronto simply cannot expect to contend in 2011 upon losing 13 wins and veteran leadership off a club that couldn’t contend in 2010. Marcum was a true bright spot during the 2010 campaign after thriving in his return from Tommy John surgery and helping mentor a young rotation.
Meanwhile, looking ahead to that 2012 and beyond vision, the Langley, BC-born Lawrie, who has been highly coveted by the organization (reportedly targeted by the club during the 2008 draft, but selected with the 16th pick, one spot before the Jays’ selection of 1B David Cooper) and would fill a need in helping construct the team’s infield of the future. Lawrie would join the ‘wait for 2012/13’ prospect group for the club that already includes Adeiny Hechavarria, Anthony Gose and Deck McGuire, with Kyle Drabek expected to establish his place at the major league level this coming year.
Lawrie, who was considered the Brewers’ top prospect heading into next season, hit .285 with eight homers and 63 RBI at AA-Huntsville. He would offer another consistent bat who could hit out of the two-spot and set the table for power hitters to follow - while also establishing a defensively-sound infield alongside Hechavarria, Aaron Hill and Adam Lind. Still, getting back none of the 13 wins or 195 innings logged by Marcum would be a major risk, something that Anthopoulos has professed a willingness to embrace in rebuilding this team.
2) As part of a bigger move
This is where things get interesting, with reports suggesting that the Jays are poking around regarding the availability of Greinke. Clearly, Kansas City would be foolish to engage in serious trade talks before Cliff Lee is snatched off the market and all the losers in the Lee Sweepstakes come forward with their own trade propositions. The Jays still put themselves in position to offer a competitive package for the 27-year old… but that doesn’t make it the right move.
Assuming Lawrie would be part of any potential transaction for Greinke, it would effectively make Marcum one of the pieces surrendered for the 2009 AL Cy Young. According to some reports, another piece the Royals would be seeking could come from a prized group of Hechavarria, Drabek, Travis Snider or catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud.
Any of those names – with the possible exception of d’Arnaud – would represent a steep price for Greinke, especially when you consider his similarities to Marcum. Nearing his 29th birthday, Marcum is just 22 months older than Greinke and has a career ERA mark of 3.85 that is nearly identical to Greinke’s 3.82. Last season, Marcum had three more wins in two fewer starts and had an ERA that was half a run better. Sure, I’d still rather have Greinke over the long haul, but it’s hard to justify surrendering a prime prospect for a marginally better pitcher.
As it currently stands, the Jays rotation will be comprised of Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil and likely Kyle Drabek and Marc Rcepczynski - barring any further moves. Of course, that still allows for the signing of a back-end guy, or the acquisition of Greinke, who would immediately jump to the top of the rotation.
Other Jays News
Tucked away amidst the Marcum move and Greinke rumours (as well as talks about D’Backs 3B Mark Reynolds) have been a few minor moves of roster shuffling in the past few days. In are a returning Jason Frasor, who accepted arbitration with the team after realizing he was unlikely to command much attention as a Type A free agent and reliever Carlos Villanueva, a 27-year old righty who served as a key bullpen option for the Brewers during their 2008 postseason berth, but has seen his workload decrease in each of that past three seasons.
Out are Fred Lewis, who was deemed expendable with the addition of Rajai Davis (although I question how much of an upgrade Davis represents) and Jeremy Accardo, who had miraculously lasted this long as a Jay after tossing his team cap in the garbage after what he thought was his final stint with the club two years ago.
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Written by Ben Fisher