It's Been a Long Time, Now I'm Coming Back Home, or What Should the Jays Do Headed Into the All Star Break?


Hi everyone.  Due date has come and gone, but still no baby, prompting today's title from the Beatles song Wait (I like the Ben Kweller version on the very good "This Bird Has Flown" tribute record, which features some great covers)

Anyway, Fangraphs had this very good article about what the Jays should do and I thought it'd be a good jumping off point for our own discussion.  Here's the overview:

At 34-30 the Jays are playing better than most expected. Yet they’re still stuck in the AL East, where they currently reside in fourth place. Their situation is nearly identical to last year, when they were 34-31 through 65 games. By the All-Star break they had fallen to 44-46 and were ready to deal. While this team could play above-.500 ball for a bit longer, their situation remains the same.

Buy?

As the article points out, most teams in the Jays' situation would probably look to add pieces.  The Jays have underperformed at designated hitter, second base, and first base.  However, two of those positions are occupied by Aaron Hill and Adam Lind, who had huge seasons in 2009 and were both locked up to long-term deals.  I don't see the Jays messing with either one, unless someone bowls them over in a trade for Hill, which is unlikely given his performance thusfar this season.  With Brett Wallace on the farm, I don't see the Jays making a big splash at first base either, even if they were to find a taker for Lyle Overbay.  

A fifth starter and some bullpen arms would also be helpful to the Jays in their current situation.  However, with their pitching depth in the minors and a few arms on the comeback trail in Jesse Litsch and Marc Rzepczynski, I don't see the Jays being willing to cough up what it would take to get a starter who was better than what the Jays already have.  Similarly, while the bullpen has been a problem for the Jays, they aren't likely to do much other than continue to shuffle around the arms that they already have.  It's very hard to argue with that line of thinking - the last thing I'd want the Jays to do is to give up a promising young player to get a bullpen arm who will pitch at most 40 or so innings down the stretch. 

Sell?

On the selling side, there are a ton of players the Jays should be willing to deal, but that doesn't mean any of them will get dealt. 

Aaron Hill

Hill is signed to a very team friendly deal and had a monster season last year.  However, his offensive numbers are way down this year and the defensive metrics no longer unanimously consider him an elite defensive second baseman.   With Brad Emaus raking in the minors and steady with the glove, perhaps now would be a good time to deal Hill for some good young players. 

The only problem with this scenario is that if you expect Hill to perform better than he has, he's at the bottom of his trade value.  Aaron has been better with the bat recently and there's a chance his defense has been hurt by the injury he sustained earlier this season.  Hill has shown better plate discipline so if he can put together his 2010 approach and his 2009 batted ball stats, he could even be better than he was last season.   While UZR has never been a huge fan of Hill's and certainly wasn't last year, both Defensive Runs Saved and Total Zone thought his 2009 was superb defensively and have him as about average this season.  I don't expect 36 home runs this season, but dealing Hill now would likely be trading low.  Still, it could be worth a shot. 

Jose Bautista

There's no doubt that Jose Bautista has been great for the Jays so far this season.  He's under team control next year, is cheap, and could be the Jays best option as an everyday third baseman (though Emaus could potentially fill that role as well.)  He's been an everyday player before, but in the past few years he's been a utility guy and this season he has definitely shined returning to the everyday role.  If you think we've seen the best of Bautista, it could be a good idea to move him now for max value.

That said, the bloom has perhaps already started to come off Bautista's rose.  He's 2 for his last 32, with a .555 OPS in June.  He has always been a poor defender at third base (-10.2 UZR/150 over his career, -9 total zone/150, -12 Defensive Runs Saved/yr are all almost perfectly in unison that he is about 1 win below average with the glove over a full season) so he has to hit to be effective and I don't see him hitting enough to justify a corner spot.  He's a great player to have off the bench and he might be the best option the Jays have at third, but I'm not sure that makes him a good option.  A team looking at him might see a guy who had one monster month (his April was only average and basically in line with career norms, and June has been awful).  While I don't doubt that Jose will end up with a career year, his stats the rest of the way might not be out of line with career norms, which could turn teams away. 

Edwin Encarnacion

I don't see a ton of value here.  He's shown power (mostly over one week or so) and an ability to draw a walk which has made his OPS respectable (.767) and the defensive numbers actually look pretty decent (small sample size alert), but he made $5 million this year and his struggles with the glove are well-documented.  The Jays might find a taker if they foot most of the bill, but I still don't see a ton coming back. 

Lyle Overbay

You basically know what you get with Lyle and he's been much better recently (.870 OPS in June) but his overall numbers still look tepid, he makes some money, and he's likely in decline.  While I could see a contender with a weakness at first place (e.g. the Angels) taking a long look at them, I'm not sure what we could get in return.  With Brett Wallace hitting pretty well at AAA, it might be time to move Lyle for what the Jays can get and install Wallace at first base. 

Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil

While any team right in the head would love to get their paws on one of the Jays three young, cost-controlled and effective starters, they are too valuable to a team like the Jays, even with the depth in the system.  I think the Jays would have to be bowled over to even consider dealing Marcum, the oldest, and the others are even less likely to go. 

Vernon Wells

Wells has really bounced back this season, both at the plate and in the field, and most teams would love to have him patroling centre, but not at that deal.  AA shouldn't waste too much oxygen trying to deal VW. 

Scott Downs, Shawn Camp, Brian Tallet, Kevin Gregg, Jason Frasor

Any of these arms should have some value, but it's hard to say how much.  Frasor has been awful this season, Tallet has been hurt and exposed in the rotation, and Gregg has been shaky.  Camp has been the beneficiary of good luck/defense, with a FIP 2 runs higher (and xFIP over 1 run higher) than his ERA, but he has been steady for a few seasons now.  Still, he's not a real late inning reliever with his tepid strikeout numbers.  To me, Downs is the real prize of this group as he is enjoying another fine season (3.14 K/BB, 3.56 FIP (3.58 ERA) and his usual excellent ground ball numbers.  Downs is tough on both lefties and righties and has been doing this act for a while now, so there's really little cause for concern other than what accompanies any reliever.  The only hitch is that Downs is likely to be a Type A free agent this offeseason and so it's not clear the Jays would be able to get back talent that would be greater than the compensation. 

John Buck

Here's an interesting piece. Buck is hitting for a ton of power but nothing else is out of whack with his career numbers, which are generally poor.  The Jays could look to deal Buck and replace him with Jose Molina and/or J.P. Arencibia, who to me is looking more and more like a finished, if imperfect, product.  I don't know what the Jays would get back for Buck, and the Jays might wait to pull the trigger, not wanting to replace a veteran catcher with a young one so early in the season, but I could definitely see him being dealt and Molina and Arencibia splitting the job, with the idea that Arencibia could start next season and Molina (or someone else) serve as his backup. 

Alex Gonzalez

Seabass has been quite good for the Jays so far this season (.356 wOBA, with rock steady defense Defensive Runs Saved is eating up (UZR is not as positive, and Total Zone is in between))  and he has been traded midseason in the past, so it's easy to see how this might go down.  He did a great job for the Red Sox down the stretch last season so you could see another team trying to duplicate that success. 

update:  As dexfarkin points out, and as I meant to mention but somehow forgot, A-Gon has a very team-friendly option for next season.  The Jays don't have anyone ready to step in and play short, so that will be a big part of their consideration as to whether to deal Gonzo. 

What the Jays Would Want in Return

What the Jays need is pretty clear - position players who can hit.  Their system is stocked with pitching and the starters who don't make it are likely to be effective relievers.  Though the Jays clearly love stockpiling pitching, their first request I'd guess will be for position players. 

Overview

While the Jays have been in this very situation many times in the past, and have been relatively quiet, there's reasons to think this season might be different.  Anthopolous is not afraid to make a splash and the Jays have made no secret that this season is a rebuilding one.  Being pretty good just doesn't cut it in the AL East so risks need to be taken. 

What do you all think?  What do you want the Jays to do over the next 6 weeks, and what do you think they will do? 

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