Arizona’s main need right now is in the bullpen. Before Sunday’s game, GM Kevin Towers reiterated that adding another LHP to Tony Sipp was front office’s main priority right now. Given the continued recent struggles of David Hernandez (0.2 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 3 runs, 2 of them earned), perhaps the search should include some RHP targets as well, but Towers is usually a man of his word. Just ask Justin Upton.
If history is any guide, Towers is likely to prefer a veteran pitcher, like Milwaukee’s Mike Gonzalez or Seattle’s Oliver Perez. If the price is right, he might prefer more of a matchups guy like Joe Thatcher of the Padres or Javier Lopez of the Giants. If you’d like to read more about the lefty relievers on the market, please check out this breakdown by MLB Trade Rumors’ Steve Adams.
But maybe the Dbacks should be less interested in the pieces other teams want to sell, and more interested in the pitchers they don’t want to sell. One of the possibilities I discussed on Friday was trading a package headed by SS/2B Chris Owings for St. Louis’s Carlos Martinez, a starting pitcher prospect who has helped out in the St. Louis pen on two occasions this year. If we’re going to trade assets to make the 2013 team better, I’d much rather have the return be an investment in the future as well.
The Dbacks bullpen issues aren’t likely to be solved for both 2013 and 2014 with a band-aid or some duct tape. I think Toronto could be a strong match for Arizona because if they can be persuaded to move a current major league reliever and a minor leaguer suited for relief, the pen could be a strength both for 2013 and 2014, rather than a continuing weak point.
The Blue Jays made a huge splash this offseason, acquiring SS Jose Reyes and starters Mark Buerhle and Josh Johnson in a bid to make the playoffs in what was perceived to be a wide-open AL East. The investment in this season hasn’t paid off, however, with Toronto currently in last place in their division, 14 games behind the Red Sox and 13.5 behind upcoming Arizona opponent Tampa Bay. Toronto has been widely considered a “bubble” team in terms of whether they’d be buyers or sellers at this year’s deadline, and the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reported today that the Blue Jays “will likely stick with their core players through the trade deadline and hope it works out for them next season.”
The Blue Jays brought in 3B Brett Lawrie after the 2010 season, trading Shaun Marcum to Milwaukee. Lawrie hasn’t lived up to his promise up to this point, but Toronto can’t afford to give up on him. To keep the DH spot free and keep both 1B Adam Lind and 1B/3B Edwin Encarnacion in the lineup, the Jays recently tried Lawrie at second, but that experiment has come to an end. So I would not expect Toronto to be hot after a third base prospect like Arizona’s Matt Davidson; they need help up the middle, with no legitimate SS or 2B prospect in AA or AAA. And, of course, every organization is always on the lookout for more pitching. It could be that they’d be willing to trade a current reliever or a relief prospect to shore up its needs.
Given the desire to add a lefty, any conversation between Kevin Towers and Toronto GM Alex Anthopolous is likely to start with LHP Brett Cecil. Cecil didn’t stick as a starter in the majors, with below average performances in the rotation in 2010 (172.2 IP, 4.22 ERA, 1.33 WHIP) and in 2011 (123.2 IP, 4.73 ERA, 1.33 WHIP). His performance as a starter in 2012 was worse (50.1 IP, 5.72 ERA, 1.47 WHIP), and so Cecil was moved to the bullpen. Cecil dominated from the beginning in 2013, and currently sports a 2.57 ERA with a 1.08 WHIP in 49 innings. He’s not a matchups guy, but he’s as good a bet as there is right now to help a team as a setup man. Toronto is unlikely to part with him easily, but the spotty track record and the fact that his success has only come in a single season may help to keep the price down somewhat.
On the minor league side, RHP Marcus Stroman was Toronto’s first round selection in the 2012 draft. His fastball rates plus, and Stroman’s plus plus slider is maybe the best in the minor leagues right now. The downside: Stroman’s change is fringy at best right now, and if he’s only got two pitches to offer with any regularity, he’s probably best off as a reliever. Toronto will try him as a starter because there’s no reason right now not to give him a chance to work on that change, but if he doesn’t pan out as a starting prospect, a dominating reliever is a pretty great consolation prize. Stroman’s season so far in AA: 69.1 IP, 2.99 ERA, an outstanding K rate of 10.25/9 IP, and a superior walk rate of 2.47/9 IP. At 22, he’s not exactly young for the level, but he could probably hold is own as a major league reliever already.
Toronto’s John Stilson doesn’t have Stroman’s ceiling, but is a little closer to the majors. After two appearances in AA, Stilson has done well in AAA, with a 1.80 ERA, 8.16 K/9, and 4.08 BB/9. Promoting Stroman or Dbacks prospect Anthony Meo right now might be leaps of faith, but Stilson is ready to contribute.
Will Towers trade for some combination of Cecil, Stroman or Stilson? Probably not. But I believe Toronto would be willing to listen, and would be open to bringing in Owings, with the light-hitting Maicer Izturis currently the main second baseman, and with the injury history of Jose Reyes to guard against. Arizona has the raw materials to make something happen. With Owings and David Holmberg (who would become Toronto’s second-best SP prospect immediately), or even Matt Davidson or Tyler Skaggs, there could be a way to shore up the 2013 bullpen for Arizona while making a similar bullpen crisis next year a little less likely.
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