Wednesday, December 16, 2009

SPORTS: Is Double-A Going to Remember December Fondly?

Alex Anthopoulos certainly felt sick at the Winter Baseball Meetings. He was contending with a cold AND with the need to give Roy Halladay the Christmas present of a new home address. He left Indianapolis early and all indications were that Doc was going to have to wait until the new year for moving instructions. HE wanted to go to Philly, but the Phillies seemed to have a case of the shorts, both in money and in willingness to empty out the rest of a pretty good prospects holdings.

So, it had to come as a bit of a surprise Monday when the news broke. Halladay to the Phillies, "Almost World Series Hero" Cliff Lee to the Mariners and some prospects to both Toronto and Philadelphia. A LOT of names were bandied about. In fact, a fourth team joined the group hug. Oakland wanted one of the former Philly farmhands. A four-team trade is a pretty good way to break your maiden, although, ultimately, if the trade is as has been speculated for the last 18 hours or so, it's actually a series of three trades. Still, an interesting start. And isn't that an easy segue into the old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times!"

The apparent haul for the Jays stands at uber pitching prospect Kyle Drabek, who's dad Doug toiled for years in the majors, catching prospect Travis D'Arnaud and the peripatetic Brett Wallace, a third baseman, who's a bat wanting some place to hide on the field. First base according to some, no place according to others. A DH in everybody's opinion.

Wallace must share some sympathy with Michael Taylor, the Philadelphia prospect who didn't even cross the border on his way to Oakland. While Taylor's doing his three teams in a single day thing, Wallace did his in less than six months. He originally went to Oakland this past summer in the Matt Holliday deal with St. Louis. Hmmmm, Holliday and Halladay together at last!

Did Double-A get enough for Halladay.? He could have kept Doc, given him 15+M this season to win a lot, tutor his young charges for one more year and then show up in Boston or New York at Christmas, with a freshly signed four-year commitment to beat the Blue Jays about five times a year for the length of the contract. Toronto would get a late first-round draft pick and an extra one between the first two rounds in the 2011 Summer Draft. OR he could save about nine million smackers right now, get the three players he got and forego the anguish over drafting, then signing, then hoping the draftees make an impact before he's shown the door as GM. Hmmm, door number two appears a WHOLE lot more appealing, considering the stock scouts have in the newly-minted Blue Jays.

Drabek might see September in Toronto. My bet is that he comes up mid 2011 for a long stay in Toronto. He's about a year away from arm surgery now, and whatever arm injury-itis that's been floating around town these last three years might need another season to dissipate. He MIGHT be good enough to force his way onto the big league roster earlier than that, but I believe the Blue Jays will be careful with him. Luke Schenn anyone? (For non-puckheads, Schenn is the young defenceman that is looking clueless in his sophomore season with the NHL Toronto Maple Leafs. It's been a historical trend with the Leafs to rush defense prospects to the big league ... almost always being a mistake to do so).

D'Arnaud is the mystery man. I've heard glowing stories and some not-so-glowing stories about him. The Blue Jays signed THREE catchers last week and have (supposedly) top prospects at AAA and AA. So, a catcher at A ball has to be something really special, right? Especially since the Phillies offered either relief pitcher Phillipe Aumont or OF Tyson Gillies to replace him in the deal. Both the former Mariners are Canucks. Aumont has already pitched in the majors AND in the World Baseball Classic where he showed potential closer stuff against the Americans. Gillies has a distinct Juan Pierre rep, but with a better glove. And that's something the Blue Jays need, given their absolute poverty in terms of outfield prospects. But no, Double-A wanted D'Arnaud. It has to be a scout thing, because D'Arnaud's numbers don't back up the claim by more than one wag that he might be the best of the three prospects!

And that includes former top draft pick Wallace, who now presents problems, as well as possibilities. If Wallace is to get onto the field, it has to be at 1B. He can also DH. But DH is something the Blue Jays don't have to offer right now. Adam Lind won the Silver Slugger award at the spot last year. He's a left fielder they were GOING to turn into a first-baseman. That's because LF is the only spot you want to see Travis Snider play 140 games in. He's barely adequate in LF and a no-hoper in right. And there's the one-year, 7M contract-owning Lyle Overbay holding down first base, being the best actual defender of the lot. What to do, what to do? There was some hope of sending him to the National League for a catcher. Seattle were supposedly interested in the Seattle native.

But it says here, the best thing the Jays can do is to leave Wallace to get a year's worth of playing first in Las Vegas. I think Overbay for Atlanta's Derek Lowe would make a LOT of sense, considering the difference between the two's contract is just about that nine million saved on not having Roy around. And old pro Lowe has pitched in the AL East, so he won't melt. And he's an innings eater AND he might have some mentor in him. But even on into 2011, the Jays aren't on track to win and it will probably be best to have his 200 innings to give to young, cheap pitchers. Toronto will have enough. Then, in 2011, Wallace and Lind can share 1B and DH. Lind can then be the emergency fifth outfielder. He's not a LOT worse than Snider.

None of the three is likely to spend more than September with Toronto this upcoming season. D'Arnaud's two, maybe three years away. Given the bandiment at various times of major-leauge names like J.A. Happ, Cole Hamels, BJ Upton, Wade Davis, Clay Buccholts, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, Eric Aybar and more 'top' prospects than JP Ricciardi can say no to, the fact that we'll need the Internet to know how the trade haul is performing this year is really quite astonishing.

It says here the whole deal rests on young Mr. D'Arnaud's shoulders. I assume Drabek becomes a starter, maybe even the number two some think he can be. A solid, cost-controlled middle-of the rotation starter is valuable. Maybe Wallace becomes the second coming of Carlos Delgado, may he becomes Russell Branyan. Somewhere inbetween would be good enough ... IF D'Arnaud is a ten-year starter in Blue Jay Blue and White. Otherwise ...

Five year's hence, just how to YOU think Alex Anthopoulos will be remembering December 2009?

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