Thursday, July 28, 2011

What the Blue Jays Gave Up to Get Colby Rasmus


By
To get talent, you have to give up talent ... it's just the cost of doing business. Try as you may, you can't trade a bag of baseballs for a top tier player.

In order to acquire a superstar in the making like Colby Rasmus, the Toronto Blue Jays were going to have to give up some good players to get him. They did unload a lot of players yesterday, but ultimately I think what they got back in return outweighed what they gave up.

In no particular order are my thoughts on each departing Blue Jay involved in the trades to Chicago and St. Louis:

Jason Frasor: the Sausage King was grossly underrated and was one of my favourite relievers to watch. I don't doubt that his success will continue in the AL Central this year within a White Sox bullpen that was in desperate need of a stable relief arm.

I can see the White Sox picking up Frasor's option or maybe another team locking him up to a multi-year contract in the off-season because that seemed to be the trend this past winter with middle to late relievers. Jason Frasor deserves that stability, and I don't think the Blue Jays could have given that to him.

In listening to an interviews a few weeks back after Frasor set the new record for Blue Jays appearances, I got the sense that he knew the writing was on the wall. He just sounded like a man that knew he was on the move.

Maybe it was pitching for nearly eight seasons in the quiet confines of Toronto that made Jason Frasor so unheralded and underrated around the league. Year in and year out, Frasor was good at what he did, and he made a good living doing it.

Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski: piece them together and they're a two-headed relief duo that mows hitters on both sides of the plate. Separately though, Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski were a couple of lefty and righty specialists.

John Farrell will miss Dotel's effectiveness against right-handers, but let's be honest ... Octavio Dotel was just a rental player. At best, the Blue Jays may have turned him into a Type B free agent, but there was no guarantee Dotel would have declined arbitration anyway.

Marc Rzepczynski on the other hand, is a diamond in the rough. Like the gents in Camp Rzepczynski over at GRoF, I believe Zep still has the potential to be a great starting pitcher. I like how the Blue Jays moved him to the bullpen this year, but maybe he's better served going back into the rotation in St. Louis. 

Rzepczynski never really got a fair shake to get a full season of starts under his belt, and his ceiling is the highest of all the players going to the Cardinals in this trade. With just over one year of service time under his belt, he's under team control for another five seasons.

Ultimately, relievers are a dime a dozen and very easy to replace; which is why the Blue Jays could afford to trade Dotel and Rzepczynski. As Alex Anthopoulos proved in the off-season, holes in the bullpen can be easily filled with leftover arms.

Using that strategy may not prove to build the best bullpen in the majors, but one can certainly construct a perfectly competent relief corp with talent from the farm system and a couple of free agent signings.

Corey Patterson: the fact that Alex Anthopoulos managed to package him in a deal blows my mind. Patterson came to Blue Jays camp on a minor league contract, and yet the Blue Jays parlayed him with 3 other players to get Colby Rasmus.

With Scott Podsednik favoured to be the fourth outfielder going into Spring Training, it was a miracle in itself that a career journeyman like Corey Patterson cracked the 25-man roster anyway. Patterson had a great May, but had cooled off considerably and his baserunning and defense left something to be desired.

With Brett Lawrie knocking at the door, I just assumed the Blue Jays were going to designate Corey Patterson for assignment in the next few weeks or so to make room for Lawrie. However, AA built up Patterson's value and turned him into a trade chip.

Zach Stewart: this is the one I fear that might come back to bite the Blue Jays. We saw a glimpse of what Zach Stewart could do at the big league level earlier this year, and he wasn't overwhelming ... but then again it was only three starts.

The Blue Jays may have lost a good arm in Zach Stewart, but with the pitching prospects as deep as they are within the farm system, they could afford to let Stewart go. The great thing is the Blue Jays have so many pitching prospects like Zach Stewart (Kyle Drabek, Henderson Alvarez, Chad Jenkins, Deck McGuire) that Zack Stewart was gravy for the Blue Jays.

Even though he did pitch in the majors this year, Zach Stewart is currently just a prospect. It's always a crapshoot with young guys, and even the most highly touted prospects don't always pan out. At best, Stewart was projected to be a #2 or #3 starter anyway.

We won't know for maybe 5-10 years whether Zach Stewart will come as advertised. Who knows, maybe he will become a solid starter for the White Sox, or perhaps he becomes something even better than that. Stewart's ceiling is high, but so are many other pitching prospects the Blue Jays have.

In conclusion: the Blue Jays did pay a hefty price to bring in Colby Rasmus (and others), but one could argue the only two trade chips they'll really miss are Marc Rzepczynski and Zach Stewart. All the others were expendable and can be easily replaced.

Parlaying relief pitching into position players always seems like a very good strategy as General Manager, as everyday players can have a much bigger impact on the team than bullpen arms or even starting pitchers.

I really like this trade for the Blue Jays, and even if Colby Rasmus doesn't blossom into the superstar that everybody hopes he will, having a solid centre fielder helps shore up the position for at least another three more years.

The bullpen can be replenished with a couple of guys that are coming back from the Cardinals, and in the meantime guys like Luis Perez, Wil Ledezma and Danny Farquhar could become bullpen staples for the Blue Jays moving forward.

What this trade really signals is that the Blue Jays want to be contenders sooner rather than later. Perhaps the timetable is being moved up a couple years for Toronto to be a playoff contender.

Where previously 2013 or even 2014 appeared to be the "go for it year" is suddenly looking more and more like 2012.

11 comments:

  1. Good article. As you said, you can't get a guy like Rasmus without giving something up. Even if Stewart and Scrabble pan out to be starters, the jays still have Romero, Morrow, Drabek, and a combo of Cecil/Alvarez and other prospects moving forward. It would be tough to give such a crowded rotation an equal shot at a full season of starts, which is necessary for development. With the way the year is going, the bullpen isn't really an issue as long as the starters are still impressive. Moreover, Tampa Bay has demonstrated it is definitely possible to build a strong bullpen through the farm, the Jays are right on the cusp of that too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. honours, I think ultimately AA would WANT Stewart and Zep to become successful in St. Louis because he's said on multiple occasions that trades work best when both teams win. St. Louis gets some SP help, and the Blue Jays get the CF they're looking for ... everybody's happy.

    You're spot on with the Tampa Bay thing: people thought they were going to sink with so many RP's heading off to free agency, but they managed to plug those holes fine and nobody there is really missing Dan Wheeler or Joaquin Benoit all that much.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I can't say I'm terribly worried about Stewart causing us much regret. He just seems overrated to me - good, but not great stuff, respectable K and ground-ball rates, decent control - but nothing truly impressive. He could be a serviceable starter, but of all our pitching prospects, he and Jenkins are those who I have been most skeptical about.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Definitely excited about this trade and the future of the Jays. So excited I let loose and took advantage of the MLB.tv remainder of the season package, so that I could watch Rasmus in his first game as a Jay. Sure we gave up "a lot" to get him but as you pointed out the bullpen can be replaced with relative ease. And hey, its not like a bullpen has been stellar this season.

    I think the real kicker is that AA got rid of Patterson (never been a fan of his). Heck, now this makes the Rajai Davis pinch runner idea a legitimate one. As an avid Braves fan as well, I wish Frank Wren would display the same poise, creativity, and balls as AA with the trade deadline closing in.

    I really hope you are right when you say 2012 could be our year. I don't know enough about our contracts to talk intelligently, but I feel like we could still use a little development before we can be a legitimate threat (for an entire 162 games) in the AL East.

    Always enjoy your post. They are entertaining, insightful, and informative for a fan who never quite has the opportunity to be a normal Jays fan.

    ReplyDelete
  5. gabriel, like you I think a lot of people weren't really sold on Stewart anyway. He didn't really bowl anybody over in his 3 starts here, but then again the same may have been said about Shaun Marcum too ... and look at him now.

    AtlantanBlueJay, thanks for crossing over to Blue Jays land! For AA to include Corey Patterson in a trade is nothing short of miraculous. Also looks like Davis will be the defacto pinch runner from now on, he may get the occasional start against a left-handed starting pitcher.

    I think a lot of folks thought the Blue Jays might not contend until 2013 at the very earliest, but now with the Rasmus trade I think they're ready to go for it next year. The bulk of the lineup are all young and locked up for at least 3 years, so the clock is ticking if the Blue Jays are to make it with this group of guys.

    Thanks again for the kind words, and one thing is for sure ... the Blue Jays may not be fighting for a playoff spot right now, but I assure you that money for MLB.TV will be well spent watching them play down the stretch.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Longtime Cards fan here. Nice break down of the trade. I do hope that Rasmus blossoms into a great player now that he's out of St. Louis and away from La Russa. I also hope that he learns that he can't always depend on his dad to coach him out of his slumps and that he needs to grow up and be his own man going forward. That could be the biggest reason why he never develops into anything more than another Corey Patterson.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anon, Rasmus is certainly a candidate to do well - after all, it worked with Yunel Escobar, and hopefully the same happens with Colby in Toronto.

    I think the Blue Jays have already talked to Colby's dad and actually picked his brain for hitting tips, etc.

    It has the potential to be a volatile situation when you have a parent who is extremely involved, but like you said I hope Tony just steps back and lets his son do what he's supposed to.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I know that this is about players but it is worth mentioning that by taking on Teahan, Miller, and Tallet, who all have negative trade value, the Blue Jays did in essence pay about $8 million in bad contracts to get Rasmus. Depending on if the Cardinals take the cash difference or the three PTBN, this could affect the Jays if it came out of a player acquisition budget (less for international FA, signing bonuses in next years draft, etc.). I know that contracts left too but taking the bad ones back is an asset given up (Teahan for 5.5mil next year).

    ReplyDelete
  9. stewart may or may not turn into a solid pitcher. numbers this year arent flattering. however the jays seem to have one of the best problems developing. a lot of pitching depth. personally i think all the other mentioned names in the article have already surpassed stewart in the depth chart. now if only drabek can learn to harness his stuff...

    Rasmus is a welcome addition and well worth the cost of mark teahen. who know? maybe he reverts to the 2006 version? and now that fire is on E5 he is smacking the ball. haha

    ReplyDelete
  10. feels good to be a jays fan again!!!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Anon, that's the first thing I thought as well when I heard Teahen was coming back as well as the guys from St. Louis, that it was merely a salary dump. Both Chicago and St. Louis wanted to shed some payroll, and the Blue Jays were more than willing to so long as it meant Rasmus was coming to Toronto. It will be interesting to see who the 3 PTBNL's are: I imagine they would be a couple of AA prospects and maybe somebody from A ball.

    Anon 2, with Stewart I figure it's a coin toss - he has just as much a chance to be a great starting pitcher than he does not. The Blue Jays have a surplus of pitching right now in the minors, so there are lots of guys who can easily replace him on the minor league depth charts anyway - Henderson Alvarez seems to be the "it guy" right now in the Blue Jays farm system.

    As far as Teahen goes, there really isn't a spot for him on the roster. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Blue Jays cut him loose or just trade him off like they did with Juan Rivera. It was a similar situation as well - the Blue Jays had to take on some money, but ultimately I don't think we'll see Teahen back in Toronto next year unless Lawrie falls flat at third base.

    Anon 3, with the way that management is building this squad, it not only gives a lot to look forward to in the near future, but down the road as well.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...