Sunday, July 07, 2013

SPORTS: A Few Helpful Hints for Alex Anthopoulos

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Time to remake the Toronto Blue Jays before other teams find other solutions or discover they aren't buyers but are sellers after all. Yes, I'm talking about you San Francisco and the bi-polar Phillies.

The first trade is an innocent one that hides the Blue Jays' true intentions. The Jays send Darren Oliver closer to his Texas home by dealing him to St. Louis to put the finishing touches on the Cardinals' post-season roster. In return, the Blue Jays get back Marc Rzepczynski and, I hope, a little sugar in the form of outfield prospect Charlie Tilson. I think St. Louis will have to add their 12th-rated prospect simply to prevent Toronto from shopping Oliver to one of the other contenders. Rzepczynski is having a bad year and is in the minors, not helping St. Louis. And he'd still be in the minors after the trade, buffing up his confidence in Buffalo.

Then comes the still-treading water trade with Philadelphia, with the Blue Jays solving the future Phillie catching problems by packaging JP Arencibia, Emilio Bonifacio, on the mend closer Sergio Santos and top relief prospect John Stilson for C Carlos Ruiz, 3B Michael Young and two prospects, Canadian Phillipe Aumont a righty reliever, and second-sacker Cesar Hernandez, who is a ways away as they say. The Phillies can use Bonifacio at 3B for the rest of the year and have the catcher spot suddenly not be a concern past the end of Ruiz's contract this fall. Stilson is better than Aumont, or at least has more potential at this point. AND the addition of Santos gives the Phillies either a setup man to Jon Papelbon in the place of injured Mike Adams, or his replacement after the trade of Papelbon back to Boston. Or elsewhere. More of that later.

Toronto gets Young to man third for the rest of this season as Brett Lawrie moves to second base upon his return. Ruiz offers up more consistency and defence and less power than the controversial Arencibia and Hernandez is a cover-up for an otherwise thread-bare Toronto pipeline at second base. Aumont represents some pitching depth for Buffalo and a Canadian attraction if he lands as the fourth or fifth righty in the Toronto bullpen.

Having opened up the trading possibilities for Papelbon, Toronto must now move quickly and set up the Detroit-St.Louis World Series by dealing Casey Janssen and fallen pitching prospect Deck McGuire for 3B-OF Nick Castellanos and lefty staring pitcher Jose Alvarez. I would not be surprised to find this trade would require the addition of somebody like Sean Nolin or injured minor league lefty Luis Perez to finish the trade for Detroit. What Janssen would do is to close out the back-end of the Tigers' troubles with the bullpen. Adding Bruce Rondon as the setup man and letting the controllable and controlled Janssen close out games might be just what the doctor ordered for Detroit. Meanwhile Castellanos would immediately fill the injured outfield slot belonging to Melky Cabrera and would transition back to 3B in the off-season. Alvarez is young, left-handed and healthy, all things Brandon Morrow is not. Once Morrow is back, Alvarez would then contend to fill out the starting five with Todd Redmond, Esmil Rogers and JA Happ. The spots of RA Dickey and Mark Buerhle would not be up for grabs.

You noticed a significant missing name. And here's the 'give-up' trade that will either enrage or delight Toronto fans. Time will tell. Josh Johnson and Colby Rasmus would head to San Francisco in return for left-handed reliever Jose Mijares and a package of prospects, including OF Gary Brown, left-handed SP Eric Surkamp and 1B Ricky Oropesa. What San Fran gets out of this deal is as obvious as anything I could demonstrate. The Giants would be able to move Tim Lincecum to the bullpen where he seems destined to star, being replaced by Johnson. And Rasmus would immediately start in CF and resolve all but the Giants' lead-off issues. That would have to come in a second trade. But that's San Francisco's problem to make happen.

Toronto would get a replacement for Rasmus in the form of Anthony Gose in Buffalo as Gose FINALLY gets the permanent call in Toronto. Brown would then act as fourth OF in Toronto next year as Rajai Davis' contract finally expires. After that one-year apprenticeship, he should be ready to replace Cabrera in 2015. Surkamp gets the Buffalo SP job and a spot in the pecking order that is about eighth right now and maybe tenth when the injured Jays finally get healthy. Next year, another year removed from his own Tommy John surgery, Surkamp might be the Buffalo ace. Oropesa would be in the position of Adam Lind's eventual replacement (Edwin Encarnacion will play forever).

In all, Toronto would end up replacing a chunk of the minor league depth it lost over the past 12 months. Castellanos and Brown would be the two big names, but Hernandez, Oropesa and maybe Tilson are all top 20 prospects in Toronto. Surkamp could surprise although Aumont is mainly Canadian and really not a prospect anymore. The actual biggest issue would be getting Ruiz's name on a contract, a 2-year deal with a third-year option, to shepherd what could suddenly be a quite young Toronto pitching staff. Thankfully the Yankees are in a cost-savings mood for next year and Los Angeles and Boston seem happy with their catching staffs.

After the day of all these trades (what, you think Alex Anthopoulos would let moss grow around his feet?), the batting order would probably be Reyes, Bautista, Encarnacion, Lind, Young, Ruiz, Lawrie, Davis and Gose. The bench would be Castellanos, Thole and Izturis. The issue of Mark Derosa would hopefully end in him accepting a coaching job or, if necessary, being traded (I hear Washington would love him back). The need for eight relievers is too acute to afford DeRosa's main job of being Lawrie's mentor/baby-sitter. Cabrera's return would be at the expense of Castellanos on the roster and Davis in the starting line-up. And Cabrera would probably slot in between Young and Ruiz. Bison-bound, to accompany Brown, would be cult-hero Mune Kawasaki. The starting staff would probably go Dickey (which would result in Thole starting and batting eighth), Buerhle, Rogers, Alvarez and Redmond. Morrow would bump Redmond and Happ would result in either Rogers heading to the bullpen or Alvarez going to Buffalo. The bullpen would be backed by Steve Delabar (the new closer), plus Dustin McGowan, Neil Wagner and Brad Lincoln from the right and the lefty squad of Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, Jose Mijares and Juan Perez. Should Rogers end up back relieving, the obvious once, and future, Buffalo Bison is Brad Lincoln. In Buffalo, Rzepczynski and Aumont would await the inevitable injuries or down-turn in performances. The Bison-New Hampshire Fisher Cat line-up of prospective starters would also include Redmond, Surkamp, Kyle Drabek, Chad Hutchinson, Chad Jenkins, Thad Weber, Sean Nolin and Marcus Stroman, most of whom are coming up or back from injury. Maybe even Cheng Mien Wang rediscovers his control in Buffalo. This assumes Luis Perez, and not Nolin, is the extra something Detroit would need in the Castellanos trade.

So, how'd I do in reconstructing the Toronto Blue Jays into contenders for the next two years while giving local fans something to watch out for, come the second half of the season? I imagine Tiger fans want more, even though it's rare (three years since the last one) where a team trades a controlled closer. Castellanos started the year in that conversation as the best minor-league prospect out there and has been passed in a slightly down year. And Detroit needs SOMEBODY's closer or all those life-time (and their great-grand-children's life-times) contracts Mike Illitch handed out, will go for naught. I COULD see possibilities where Izturis makes the trip to MoTown as part of the trade, depending on the health of Detroit's infielders. San Francisco still needs a starting pitcher, even after acquiring Johnson. And would now have fewer chips to push all in on. But if there is a gambler out there, it's Brian Sabean. And maybe he leaves Lincecum starting and replaces Mijares in the bullpen, instead. Acquiring Oliver makes St. Louis look close to complete ... and not at a very big cost. Which leaves Philadelphia and the Phillie impressions of both Arencibia and Bonifacio. Power and speed at the likely cost of defence, for expiring contracts that might be more valuable parcelled off separately. Afterall, the Yankees need AT LEAST catching and as long as the cost doesn't stray into the new year, dollars be damned. And Santos hasn't exactly pitched a lot in the last year and a half. But if Ruben Amaro truly doesn't want to blow up his team, he has to take chances in challenge trades.

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