With the trade deadline fast approaching, your site hosts had a little discussion regarding what the Jays should and could be doing. Let us know your thoughts, as our dialogue here is only intended to be a conversation starter! And all credit for the JP pimp picture (obviously inspired by old friend O-Dawg) goes to Allan (achengy)!
1. What should the Jays do to address the SS position for next season?
Hugo: This is, of course, the tough one. I think the Jays should at least try Hill at SS, because a SS who can hit decently is a much more valuable commodity than a 2B who can. I'd like to see them try it late this season. That way, if Hill doesn't work out there, he can always switch back to 2B for next season. I can't see how it would negatively affect him long-term. Even after the Mets tried to move Jeff Kent to 3B, possibly the most disastrous attempted position switch in recent history, he still was able to get back to normal once he went back to 2B, and Kent was never half the fielder Hill is. I'm definitely not in love with the idea of moving Hill, but I don't see a better option for the Jays. There should be plenty of decent second-basemen that should be obtainable. I also think the Jays ought to give Olmedo and/or Adams a chance to show what they can do. Perhaps Olmedo could be brought up first, to play SS every day for a little while. If he can't hit enough to keep the position, bring up Adams and move Hill to SS to try him out there.
It'd be great if the Jays could find a SS on the trade or free agent market at a reasonable cost, but I just don't see any out there. I know I floated Wilson Betemit's name, but the Braves clearly decided that Betemit wasn't cut out to be a major-league SS. It would be nice to see them pick up someone like Mark Loretta or Kaz Matsui, who can hit decently, play both middle infield positions, and, in the case of Kaz, run as well. But there's no need to give up a trade chip for someone like that, there should be plenty of options in the offseason to pick up a veteran infield bat. If the Jays were inclined to make a big move, they could try to trade Troy Glaus to Anaheim and see whether they could get some combination of Macier Izturis, Erick Aybar, Jeff Mathis, and Brandon Wood back, as all those players could be potentially useful to the Jays but that deal involves a lot of moving parts and is more likely to happen in the offseason. Glaus is way too valuable to the team next season to give him up unless the Jays get back a good starting 3B plus something else, and I just don't see the Jays getting value for him if he's dealt during the season. I'm afraid I don't have an answer for what to do about my old position, but what I don't think the Jays should do is go out and overextend themselves in an effort to solve the problem just so they can say it's solved. Moving Hill to SS is almost certainly the most economical solution.
Allan: I would move Hill to SS because we have no real internal options. Trading or signing a FA SS would cost much more then trading or signing a decent 2B (Castillo or Giles would be a great sign). I am not sure a trade would be good for us as we probably would have to give a high end prospect which we can't afford or a sought after player. I really think this team has the chance to make the playoffs next season so I wouldn't trade any bat like Glaus or Rios as that would feel counter productive.
I don't really look at Olmedo or Adams as having a real future but they are certainly worth a try for the latter half of this year. I would like Hill tried at SS before they attempt to have a duo of Adams and Hill.
2. Who should the Jays be looking to trade? Who/what should they realistically be hoping to receive in return, and who are their potential partners?
Allan: The Jays should be looking to trade Reed Johnson, Jason Frasor and Matt Stairs. I really think a future platoon of Mathews/Lind can work. Frasor could go to the Phillies, Devil Rays, or anyone really needing bullpen help. I would attempt to trade Johnson and make Castillo the #1 free agent target for the off-season. Johnson I could see going to a team like the Cubs, White Sox, or Marlins maybe? Johnson should be sought after due to his ability to play CF and leadoff. For Frasor/Johnson I could see a decent B- to B+ prospect depending on how well JP works the phones. Stairs will probably get an A ball guy with some potential and I could see him going to the Tigers, Mariners or other playoff contenders.
Hugo: You know more about Mathews than I do, but I'm most inclined to move Stairs, Frasor, and Towers, possibly Chacin (but probably not). Stairs is a FA after the year but has been productive this season. The Jays could try to move him for a decent IF prospect and then probably still resign him this offseason if they wanted. I'd expect the Yankees, Twins, Tigers, or Mariners to be interested. Frasor just hasn't worked out and if the Jays can get a similar arm but with less service time, everyone would probably be better served. Towers would be attractive to NL teams who need a back-end starter, although they probably wouldn't get much for him because no contender would really be comfortable with him in a playoff rotation - but he could help for a stretch run. Either way, it seems as if the Jays will not be offering him arbitration, so they won't get anything if he leaves this offseason. They should see what they can get now. I'm not sure if Chacin has any trade value because of injury issues, so I'd probably hold onto him. He could be a good lefty out of the pen and backup starter. I might also consider moving Downs (who will be a FA after 2008) or Tallet, but I'd want back another lefty arm with less service time. The Yankees and many others would be very interested in Downs, I'd think. And Sparky would be on the block as well, although his value is probably not very high - teams don't seem to view him as more than a 4th outfielder, although he might fit in well on the Phillies as a replacement for Rowand (they are somewhat similar players).
Allan: I forgot to mention Towers and it's easy to forget Sparrow sometimes. I think Towers can get a prospect with a lot of question marks and its very unlikely he re-signs with us. He hasn't been bad at all this year but it's just the fans are kind of tired of him and a new situation would suit him well. He does belong and should do well in the NL.
3. Since the Jays seem to have a nice stockpiling of major league arms, should they look to deal from that strength? If so, who should they target in return?
Allan: I wouldn't trade any of the major league arms as of yet as they seem like they will be useful next year. Unless we can get a 2B/SS I would not target any major league players. The young guys are very cheap options as the free agent market exploded on us last year. Having guys like Janssen and Litsch will also be great insurance option for the rotation if there are any injuries.
Hugo: I agree. I wouldn't be looking to deal Janssen, Marcum, or McGowan, League, Litsch, or Accardo. They have been effective and at such a small cost it is difficult to imagine the Jays getting back value. Also, they will probably all be needed next season unless a FA pitcher is signed, and I'm just not sure I see that happening.
I would hold onto the arms unless it was absolutely necessary because there was a huge hole next season. A Jason Phillips-sized hole.
4. What are some other problem areas looking ahead to next season and should/can they be addressed now as opposed to in the offseason?
Allan: If we can lock in our future leadoff hitter like a Luis Castillo why not? If we could somehow give Frasor and Johnson for him I would say do it. As for the SS/2B situation I doubt it will be resolved at the deadline. I just don't see it happening with the few days left.
Hugo: Interesting thought. I'm not sure I covet Castillo as highly as you do, but I definitely agree getting a middle infielder with speed should be a priority. I also agree that it doesn't look like the situation will be resolved by the deadline. So I'd like to see the Jays add some possible future pieces, try Hill at SS to see if that will work, and then try to make a deal this offseason. One possibility is that I think there are some Japanese players coming over this offseason, one of whom is a SS that is an outright free agent (no posting). The D-Rays got a great value with Akinori Iwamura, who they signed well below market value, and he's been decent at the plate (.361 OBP) and excellent in the field. For that matter, I wonder if the Rays would be willing to deal Aki, since they have so many young position players, including Evan Longoria ready to step in at 3rd. The Rays always need pitching and they might be interested in Towers, Chacin, and Frasor, who would be a lot better than what they have now. I'm sure Iwamura can handle 2B and back-up Glaus at 3B, and his OBP and speed would be nice to have in the order. He seems surplus to requirements in TB, so why not try that?
Allan: Iwamura would be great if we could somehow get him. It makes sense for us to get a guy like him since he is very versatile. If we can bring over a Japanese import that would be great as well but that's where we go into unknown territory.
5. How about catcher? How's that spot shaping up for next season, and should the Jays look to acquire a catcher?
Allan: The Jays should not look to acquire a catcher. Thigpen is finally up and playing the backstop. Zaun is a good hitter as a backup and I'd like to see Thigpen get any chance possible. Robinzon Diaz is also a light hitting catcher with great contact skills so he is waiting in the wings as well if Thigpen doesn't pan out. Unless we acquire an old catcher who's lost his power or defensive skills we probably won't be able to trade for a Saltalamacchia. With catchers the best ones are mostly found internally as prospects.
Hugo: I agree with you. Catchers are too expensive on the trade market unless a Barrett situation occurs. Zaun is signed for 2008 and should split time with Thigpen there. If Thigpen is moved to middle infield, I'd like to see the Jays try to get someone who, like Zaun, hits enough to play every day but is stretched as an everyday player, so they can split the time 60-40 or so. Someone like Ramon Castro over on the Mets, who the Mets really should be using more than they are.
6. Do the Jays Still Have a Shot This Season? Or Should They Solely Be Playing for Next Year?
Hugo I don't think the Jays should give up on the season, per se (although clearly playoff chances are remote). That said, I think they need to start thinking about moves that will improve the team for next season. Trying Hill at SS is unlikely to cost them anything this season, and it could have significant benefits next season. I feel the same about giving Janssen a shot in the rotation, particularly if Sparrow is dealt. I actually like J.P.'s strategy of keeping the squad together this season in order to see whether they are good enough to compete next season, but the bottom line is that the Sox and Yankees will always be looking to improve and we need to as well. I definitely think it's time to start thinking ahead, but I think a GM should always be doing that anyway. If we can get a piece that really could help in the future, I don't think that should stop us from dealing a Stairs or Towers because we need them this season. On the other hand, if we can't get anything useful, I don't think we should deal them away just to clear a little salary.
Allan: I agree. We need a 40-20 record and while I believe it is in the realm of possibility with our newly found rotation, it'll be "one of those" seasons where nothing went our way. The batting line up, rotation and starting pitching will look scary just if everything starts to click. We will certainly improve next season with the return of BJ Ryan but we are just a few pieces away from being a force in the playoffs. This is a make or break deadline/off season. I don't want the Jays to throw away this season but unless we go on a ten game winning streak right now it might be worth it to play for next season (again).