Sunday, July 31, 2011

If we aren't close then we can't be far

I've always resisted the notion that the Blue Jays should be looking to trade off prospects in exchange for potentially costly veterans for the sake of "appearances" and adding a few wins here and there.... but let's be honest. Since about 1993, it would have been mostly for appearances.

The Jays have not been contenders, and those are moves that only contenders should really make. Going one step further, the Jays system, quite frankly, has never really been strong enough to make the strategy legitimate.

Here in the 2011 season, at least one of those points has changed. The minor league system might never have been stronger than it is today, with names like Lawrie, d'Arnaud, Gose, McGuire, etc "cluttering" up many a top prospect list no matter the publication. Alex Anthopoulos' healthy obsession with stockpiling talent and spending (yes, spending) on amateur talent, whether via draft or international signings, has quite clearly begun to pay off handsomely with the Blue Jays prospect list the envy of every franchise, save for perhaps one or two.

And it hasn't been by chance that the organization has found it's way here. If the much maligned Ricciardian Years can be stereotyped with big splashy free agent signings, the AA Era is stamped with smart internal investment and building from the ground up. With more than a few ninja trades mixed in, of course. But this stockpiling of talent ain't for nothin', as the GM himself is quite fond of saying that not all the prospects will wear Blue Jay uniforms; the clear implication being that some will be used as trade chips to fill holes and complete the roster on the slow march towards contention.

Which begs the question..... are we there yet? Are the Toronto Blue Jays close enough to being a championship calibre ballclub that now is the time to start cashing in some of those prospect chips?

If you've been following me on The Twitter (and if you haven't.... you probably aren't missing much - how's that for self-promotion?), you'll notice I've been openly musing about the possibility of the Jays dangling Travis d'Arnaud. It's not that I want to see TdA moved; far from it. But..... IF the Jays decide that Arencibia is their guy for the forseeable future, and IF the club is indeed close enough to contention that it makes sense to add the beef now... then, you know, isn't that the right call?

And I'm only using d'Arnaud as an example. What about Kyle Drabek? Deck McGuire? Henderson Alvarez? A year ago, we'd all shudder at the thought of dealing any piece of our precious collection of prospect porn.... but now? The franchise has depth. Losing d'Arnaud would hurt, but a good enough JP Arencibia with a charging AJ Jimenez (or Carlos Perez, or whomever) means you're dealing from a position of strength. And if that's the cost for acquiring (insert impact major league player at a position of need here), then that's the right call.

Do you know who trades coveted "name" prospects for star major leaguers? The Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Red Sox do. Do you know who the Blue Jays are trying to emulate in terms of success at the major league level? Obvious is obvious.

Are the Jays close enough to start making those kinds of trades? I can't say that for sure, but we'll know what Alex Anthopoulos thinks the answer to that question is soon enough.


The Southpaw said...

I don't think we are quite there unless you are adding a special case, preferably one who's who's 25 or less. Rasmus was such a case but there are not a lot of opportunities like that out there. This time next year, if all develops well, I think we may well be.

Plus - we'll know more about how the development track is going on several of the key guys.

gabriel said...

I think we have to distinguish between high-ceiling prospects and high-reliability prospects. AA loves the former and is not as fond of the latter - which is probably why he traded Wallace for Gose, and was happy to throw Stewart into the Jackson/Rasmus deals. D'Arnaud falls into the former camp, I think; he's got an almost identical ISO to Arencibia same-age year at New Hampshire, but with superior defence and a far better eye at the plate. Arencibia is a potential all-star; d'Arnaud is a potential perennial all-star. I think it would take a Ben Zobrist-level talent coming back for AA to give up one of his blue-chip, high-ceiling prospects.
Of course, we have other good prospects, like Deck McGuire, who we can easily anticipate being a good big-league starter, but who is difficult to picture as an ace. McGuire I think fits the mold of the tradeable prospect far better than d'Arnaud or Gose.

Mark said...

I like Arencibia as much as the next guy but unless you want a 300 OBP catcher, he's the guy you want to flip, and not D'Arnaud.

Olerude Boy said...

It will be very interesting to see what direction this team goes in next season and beyond. Personally, I don't think AA is ready to start selling off prospects, simply because the core of the Jays is so young. Outside of Bautista, every starting position player is under 30 years old, with many (Snider, Rasmus, Lawrie, Arencibia, Thames) being around the 25 year threshold. There are so many question marks that it's hard to make decisions on players. Will Snider find his stroke in the majors? Will Rasmus regain his? Is Arencibia the catcher of the future, or is he a Mike Napoli-type player? These are all reasonable questions that only time can answer.
Until we see what our young core is capable of, I don't think you should start moving prospects for a "sure thing" player. Move Hill though. Please, move Hill.

Anonymous said...

Move Hill and replace him with what exactly? There's not a lot out there on the trade market, and our farm system doesn't have a MLB ready 2B, or a MLB ready SS to push Escobar to 2nd.

Paul said...

Position players maybe it's time, but the Jays still have vary little in the way of quality pitching. Lots of pitchers, yes, but quality pitching? Maybe that's what they trade for.

Anonymous said...

Kelly Johnson is a 4 WAR capable 2B on the FA market next year. He's having a down year so he could be a good cheap pickup.

Also, Chino Vega is the 2B of the future for the Jays!

19 yo in the GCL picked in the 28th round of the 2011 draft! Still has a long way to go but great pick by the Jays!

Grock said...

@Anonymous Glad you mentioned that about Hill. The better second basemen out there are on teams that are hardly going to be giving them up. Do these Hill haters expect the Yankees to trade Cano to us?

2nd base has traditionally been one of the weakest offensive positions. Sure we were spoiled by Alomar, but I don't see a spot for Hill.

As far as contention is concerned, the Jays are a ways off from that. Yes, I love the moves AA has made (though I am not sold on Rasmus, STL fans hated him, even Pujols had a word about him getting out of STL

Yes, we can stockpile picks and that is exactly how to land key players when the push is on, but with the starting rotation we have, and the bullpen we have, I don't see that push anytime soon. Romero still cant win against Boston, Morrow still cant win in April - June, Cecil has been brilliant lately but it took another trip to AAA to get that back.

Watch the other teams, and as much as I love the Jays, these moves don't make us contenders yet.

I would love to eat these words though!

Grock said...

To clarify, keeping Hill is still a part of a good strategy unless we can bring up a better SS and move them or Escobar to 2nd.

With the numbers Hill has this year, he still ranks among the top 15 of 2nd basemen in offensive and defensive stats in the MLB.

Not every single player on a contending or even winning team needs to be a top 10.

People need to do a bit of research on second base before they try to further run Aaron Hill out of town.

Anonymous said...

I like Arencibia a lot, but he's gone when D'Arnaud is ready. However, I can see him playing 1st, and moving Lind instead. But, then again, a monster power bat who is a middling receiver and often a strikeout waiting to happen, I think he will be the one on the block. The Jays will get more dealing him instead of converting him to a catcher/corner infielder utility guy. Traded to where he can start, he would be happier. Make it the National League; with the predominance of little girl arms and cancer bat hitters over there, he'll be a superstar.

Anonymike said...

You have to give to get, and securing resources is the only job a GM has. AA has been successful at acquiring those resources at all levels of the organization, and when the team is in position to make a push, those resources can be used to address needs.

Remember, when the Jays addressed a need at 2nd base by acquiring Robbie Alomar and Joe Carter, it cost them Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez. An HOFer and a productive bat for a player barely beneath the HOF threshold and an All-Star shortstop.

It feels like the best time in years to be a Jays fan. Sure, some of these prospects won't work out, but with a core of talent and an arsenal of trade chips, there is no doubt the Jays are in better shape now than they've been since the halcyon years.