Jays Should Hawk a LOOGY
With the trade deadline days away - the first one, anyway - the Jays can't afford to be buyers. It's nice to be above .500 again, and 7.5 games back of the Wild Card isn't an impossible mountain to climb, but it's also not worth trading away any future building blocks.
There WILL be plenty of contenders looking to upgrade, and one of the most sought after commodities among league powers at deadline time is relief help. The Jays are stocked full of relievers with shiny ERAs who would look awfully attractive to a team looking to bolster its pen.
AGE IP ERA
Jeremy Accardo 25 41.1 2.61
Scott Downs 31 38.2 2.33
Casey Janssen 25 52.0 2.25
Jason Frasor 29 38.1 4.23
Brian Tallet 29 42.2 3.59
Brian Wolfe 26 16.1 2.20
Accardo and Janssen are both young and cheap, and while I'm not optimistic about Janssen's long-term viability as a set-up man unless he ups his strikeout rate, he's a serviceable arm worth hanging on to.
Despite their excellent numbers, both pitchers are relatively inexperienced at the major league level and might not be all that attractive to contenders in the heat of a pennant race. As we all know, relievers have to possess that veteran savvy that you only get having been "through the wars." You know, like Cardinals closer Adam Wainwright in last year's playoffs...
Tallet's been a pleasant surprise, dramatically cutting his walk rate - but I can't see his stock being all that high. He's also cheap enough to bring back to see if he can do it again.
That brings us to Downs and Frasor. Scott Downs has the veteran lustre and all the nifty peripheral stats you like to see in a reliever. Less than a hit per inning? Check. More than a strikeout per inning? Check. His walk rate isn't stellar but he is left-handed
. That's a commodity for which teams have generally been willing to (over)pay handsomely. After all, if you find yourself in a tight LCS game against David Ortiz or Grady Sizemore, what are you going to do? Who are you going to call upon to turn Carlos Guillen or Victor Martinez around? You need a L
Trading short-relievers, especially at deadline time, has resulted in some of the most lopsided trades in baseball history.
The Red Sox picked up veteran reliever Larry Andersen for a 3B prospect named Jeff Bagwell.
The same Red Sox later got somewhat even by trading veteran reliever Heathcliff Slocumb for P Derek Lowe AND
C Jason Varitek.
The whiff of a pennant is so intoxicating that teams will fall all over themselves giving up young players for that chance at October immortality. It's hard to appreciate he who might be the cornerstone of your franchise in five years when you're busy trying to win NOW
The Jays themselves shipped Paul Spoljaric and Mike Timlin to Seattle for Jose Cruz Jr., as the Mariners were convinced that shoring up the bullpen was the final piece of their championship puzzle.
What about the last time the Jays dealt a LOOGY? They sent Dan Plesac to the desert in exchange for P John Frascatore and Tony Batista, who would go on to set the Jays' single-season record for most homers by a shortstop AND
a third baseman.
J.P. Ricciardi should cash in Downs while he can. Frasor too, if the opportunity arises. He may not draw the same level of interest, but as a proven major league reliever you can rest assured there's a market for him. The Jays can always find more bullpen arms. Wolfe looks promising, Brandon League has just resurfaced, and there's another pretty decent lefty reliever due back next spring.
Somewhere, a team is ready to overpay. The next Jeff Bagwell may be out there. Or maybe just the next Tony Batista. In exchange for 20-25 more innings of Scott Downs, version 2007, that's a terribly small price to pay.