The trade deadline is only five days away, meaning teams only have a few more days to beef up rosters for the stretch drive.
Generally by this time of year, ball teams can be classified in one of three categories: buyers, sellers, or holders. Some, like the Orioles and Yankees, have already begun buying, picking the corpses of sellers like the Brewers and Cubs.
But for others there is added pressure because they are in no-mans land, stuck in the grey area of uncertainty. If a team is several games out of the playoffs but on a hot streak (such as Seattle), do they sell and risk the wrath of the fan base, or buy and risk missing a golden chance to get rid of guys at the top of their value?
Believe it or not, this uncertainty also exists for the Jays. I’m pretty sure everybody can all agree that Toronto is not a buyer. Sitting 14 games back in the division, and 10 back in the wild card chase, postseason hopes are as good as dead. But are the Jays sellers or holders?
In order to answer that, you have to decide which of the following schools of thought you believe:
If you think the team was overrated from the start and was always going to stink, you’re a seller.
If you think that the pitching staff is really this bad, that guys like Lawrie and Arencibia will always be terrible, and that the window to win is closed, you’re a seller.
But if you think that this year was just an awful, awful year, that so many players are having off years at the same time, and that injury and hype destroyed the team before they could get going, you’re probably a holder.
As far as my thoughts, I am in the holding camp. Call me over-optimistic, but I think that this team still looks pretty good on paper. Yes I realize games are played on the field (that’s what got us into this mess this year), but bringing back the core of this team for 2014 isn’t such an awful idea.
Sure there are some guys that I’ve virtually lost all faith in. J.P. Arencibia has regressed to the point where he may not belong in the major leagues. Of the 155 players in the majors that qualify for the batting title, JPA is dead last with a .256 OBP, his 10 passed balls are the most in baseball, and his .255 caught stealing percentage is in the bottom half. Brandon Morrow and Sergio Santos should not be counted on for anything, ever. They are consistently injured and far too inconsistent.
But look at other players: Brett Lawrie is better than a .208 hitter; Jose Reyes probably won’t miss 60+ games again; R.A. Dickey, while he likely won’t recapture his Cy Young form from 2012, isn’t this bad; Bonifacio will not continue to hit like I did in my house league days; Bautista, Rasmus, and Encarnacion are a pretty decent hitting core. And assuming Josh Johnson re-signs on the cheap, he can’t possibly be this bad again.
But that’s not the only reason why I’m holding steady. If Toronto sells, who can they possibly sell and for what? Let’s look at the roster:
Arencibia, Lawrie, Bonifacio, and Izturis are all at the absolute nadir of their potential value right now. There is no way a contending team will surrender a quality prospect for any of them, with the exception of maybe Lawrie. But if you’re the Jays, do you really trade the guy who you pegged as the face of the franchise after a terrible season? You can’t, at least not yet. Jose Reyes is going
nowhere. Adam Lind might be of interest to somebody, but his ugly hitting habits are returning, especially against lefties. The one player who would bring the most back is Encarnacion, and unless the Jays get back a top prospect who is major league ready now, dealing EE would almost be throwing in the towel for this year AND next year.
Rajai Davis may be of value to a team looking for speed off the bench (a la Dave Roberts from the ’04 Red Sox), but he doesn’t offer much more than that. Neither does the disappointing Melky Cabrera. Colby Rasmus is the one player that might be able to bring something of value back. But with Anthony Gose stalling in the minors (.227 average, .607 OPS) there is no real fallback option. As for Bautista, see Encarnacion above.
There are really only four starters to consider after all the injuries, and Dickey isn’t going anywhere. Esmil Rogers looks promising for a back-end rotation spot next year and wouldn’t bring much back. If you eliminate his first 7 starts, Mark Buehrle has been great (3.36 ERA), and would really help a contender in the playoffs, but his gigantic contract would be tough, if not impossible, to move. Josh Johnson has basically
pitched himself out of a lucrative long-term deal at this point, and would bring back nothing.
A few weeks ago the Jays could have sold high on a number of relievers, including Cecil, Delabar, and maybe Neil Wagner. But overwork, fatigue, and regression have all hit, and the ‘pen is falling apart. Whatever value was there looks to be gone. The only guy that would bring interest is likely Casey Janssen. If Santos looked like he could be counted on for anything, Janssen may be tradeable, but that doesn’t look like it will happen.
Overall, aside from the big guys (Reyes, Bautista, Encarnacion) the only players that I can see contenders being interested in are Rasmus, Lind, and Janssen.
But if all you’re going to get back is 75 cents on the dollar, why bother?
I say hold, tinker a bit in the offseason, and come back strong for 2014.