The Blue Jays front office has one king hell of a conundrum ahead of them in the coming seasons.
I’m not talking about how to make the 2014 squad a playoff contender. That will be tough in its own right. But the thing is, everyone and their dog knows what needs to be improved: pitching, pitching, catcher, 2B, LF and pitching. For Alex Anthopolous and company it’s just a matter of figuring out what internal options solve those problems and what the best solutions are externally.
The conundrum I see coming up is the battle between now and the future. As Andrew Stoeten pointed out over at DJF (http://blogs.thescore.com/djf/2013/10/01/prospecting-b-a-s-league-by-league-top-20s/), the low minors are looking really solid for the Jays. Led by DJ Davis, Baseball America put seven Jays prospects in the top 20 of the Appalachian League. Those seven prospects are joined by a few others, including 2013 draft picks Clinton Hollon and Rowdy Tellez, as well as Franklin Barreto, who impressed in both the Gulf Coast League and Appy League.
So while the upper minors are pretty bare for the Jays – it seems that outside maybe Sean Nolin and Marcus Stroman there are only pseudo prospects and guys returning from injury – the lower minors are well stocked.
The problem I see is two-fold. First, these players in the minors are so far from the big leagues they have limited trade appeal. Outside of Aaron Sanchez I doubt any of those players are seen as legitimate trade chips. Look at it this way, if you’re a team trading away a premier pitcher and AA comes to you and offers a couple of guys in low A, what are you going to do?
Look at the Halladay trade a few years back. It took three legit prospects, only one of whom remained in the low minors. So if you want Chris Sale or David Price, it’s going to cost Stroman, Sanchez, Davis, Barreto plus plus.
Which leads to the second problem. In the effort of filling the holes for 2014 how far are you willing to go? As it stands right now, the Jays have a good core but incomplete squad for the next two years. Standing pat would be a nightmare from an optics standpoint, but there’s also an argument to be made that a little better health, a little better luck and the team’s a playoff contender as is.
And the beauty of that is that if it doesn’t work out in the next two years it won’t be a longterm total rebuild. If, after 2015, the team still hasn’t made a push for the playoffs, there will be some guys at the end of their careers or end of contracts that will still be able to net some good young players. While two years down the road is impossible to predict, you have to expect the Jays will still be able to get something in return for EE, Bautista, Rasmus (if he’s still around), and possibly Reyes.
So if all goes well in the minors, at the point the Jays could have elite talent in the upper minors, a few young major leaguers who are still cost controllable, and some older players who are excellent trade chips.
But that’s if all goes well from a development point of view. The prospects could all flame out, and then you’re looking at a total rebuild.
It’s going to be tough. As far as I’d say, unless you’re getting David Price with a five year extension, or someone like that, leave the low minors alone. Take your risks with free agents and making trades based around Lind, Gose/Rasmus, the bullpen, and one of the youngish depth pitchers.