Alex Anthopoulos is a shrewd baseball man, plain and simple. The Blue Jays recently added Miguel Olivo for a player to be named later and will immediately buy out Olivo for a cool half million. Why would the Blue Jays make such a move you might ask? The reasoning is simple, yet brilliant – to have the potential to acquire a valuable compensation pick in the upcoming MLB amateur draft.
You see in the draconian MLB compensation system a team can offer a player arbitration and gain a draft pick (anywhere from a first round to an early second round pick) if the player rejects the arbitration offer in the hopes of landing a more lucrative (and longer term) contract. According to Victor Wang’s research from 2009, a 1st round pick is worth about $5.2 million, a supplemental pick around $2.6 million and a second round compensatory pick worth $0.8 million.
The Jays hope that all of their potential arbitration eligible players (Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, John Buck, Kevin Gregg, and Miguel Olivo) will not only turn down the arbitration offer but also net them a draft pick in the process. A calculated risk, read Jack Moore’s excellent piece at Fangraphs for more on this move and the Blue Jays motives for such a move. The 2011 draft is supposed to be absolutely loaded with great talent and promises to be (on paper) one of the deeper drafts in recent memory and ideally the Jays (if things go to plan) could end up with eight picks in the top fifty – huge.
I wanted to dive into the Blue Jays winter plans a little deeper and come up with what I thought would be the absolutely ideal offseason for the team. First, the chances of all of these moves coming to fruition are pretty slim and we aren’t sure what type of budget increase AA intends to try and push to the suits at Rogers Corp or if he even feels the Jays are close enough to contention to make it worth his while.
But let’s assume the Jays were legit in 2010 and really aren’t all that far from being a true contender in the AL East. With the New York Yankees suddenly looking older and vulnerable (though still deep pocketed), the Boston Red Sox seemingly stuck in neutral and the Tampa Bay Rays potentially losing Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford and (rumoured) Matt Garza – the time for the Jays to strike could be and maybe should be now.
Coming off an unexpected (for the most part) 85-win campaign the Blue Jays head into 2011 clearly a team on the rise and I contend had they played in any other division in baseball would likely have made the playoffs. With that, what moves do I feel the team should make if the budget allowed, let’s take a look at one realistic, one hopeful and one long shot potential offseason move.
1) Re-sign reliever Scott Downs. Reliable, tough on lefties and a guy who doesn’t break in pressure situations Downs has been one of the best relievers in baseball over the past three seasons. His FIP during the past three seasons have been phenomenal (3.39, 3.33 & 3.03) and he likely could be signed to a fairly team friendly contract if the team strikes early.
2) Take a run at free agent 3B Adrian Beltre. Beltre would give us instant improvement in infield defense and make our pitching staff that much more effective while providing a solid power bat in the middle of the order. He is an intense gamer who plays hard every at-bat and every inning in the field – a throwback. He will likely see a drop in batting average (.331 BABIP in 2010) and he doesn’t have much patience (6.9% career BB rate) but the combination of his power bat, slick glove while also presumably weakening the rival Red Sox make him a valuable commodity for the Jays. He could command upwards of 4-5 years on a deal that would pay him 14-16 million annually, maybe more, so he comes with a price tag.
3) Trade for Kansas City Royals ace Zack Greinke. Before you laugh this one off hear me out, Greinke is not a New York/Boston big baseball market kind of guy and rumours circulate the team and player both want a potential trade to happen and I say why not Toronto?
We have a near perfect environment for a guy like Greinke (who battled depression and anxiety issues in the past) with a young, improving group of players and ownership’s supposed commitment to fielding a competitive team, no matter the cost. More importantly we have the young pieces to get a potential deal done should the opportunity present itself.
An offer centred on Travis Snider with the potential of adding guys like Zach Stewart, Kyle Drabek, Brett Cecil, Deck McGuire and a host of other intriguing names in the finally viable Blue Jays farm system would at the very least get the Jays “in the mix”. And though the competition for the services of a young and talented arm like Zack Greinke will be fierce and the price very steep I wouldn’t count out the Blue Jays as a potential suitor like most of the baseball pundits, sites and publications – it could happen.
Well that is my ideal offseason and if coupled with a few other minor moves to solidify the bullpen and our bench could go a very long way in turning the Jays not only into a contender but a potential favourite in one of the harder divisions in sports. It might be a pipedream but I think reality is the Jays are becoming closer to a team that could be fighting for division titles and have championship aspirations in the not too distant future.