Infielders overlooking trade talks
McDonald, Scutaro, Eckstein focusing on goals with Jays
ST. PETERSBURG -- A couple of Blue Jays had some fun with a trade rumor that was making its way around Tropicana Field on Thursday. The Angels -- in need of help at shortstop -- have reportedly targeted a trio of Toronto infielders.
In Los Angeles' sights are John McDonald, Marco Scutaro and David Eckstein, who have all spent time as the Blue Jays' starting shortstop this season. While Scutaro discussed the rumor in front of his locker inside the visitors' clubhouse, he stopped mid-sentence when McDonald walked over to listen in.
"You going to Los Angeles?" Scutaro asked McDonald.
"I heard you were," McDonald replied with a grin.
"Let's go ask Eckstein," Scutaro said. "We've got a lot of choices over here."
That's what is probably fueling the speculation, according to Blue Jays assistant general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who would neither confirm nor deny that Toronto had discussed possible trades with the Angels. If a deal were to come to fruition, it would need to be completed before Monday in order for the player to be eligible for a postseason roster.
"Obviously, we're pretty deep there," Anthopoulos said. "We're deep in the middle infield. I think it's only normal that people are going to speculate about our players."
The Angels lost shortstop Maicer Izturis for the season after he tore a ligament in his left thumb on Aug. 13 and shortstop Erick Aybar is currently battling a tight left hamstring. Beyond Toronto's shortstops, a report in the Los Angeles Times also indicated that the Halos are interested in Baltimore's Juan Castro and Cleveland's Jamey Carroll.
Any player involved in a trade would first need to be cleared through waivers, meaning other clubs could potentially block a deal. According to the report, Angels general manager Tony Reagins indicated that the waiver wire hasn't presented a problem.
"At this point, there hasn't been a fit," Reagins told the newspaper. "The waiver aspect hasn't been an issue. The right pieces aren't in place for a deal. Will that change? Maybe. It may not."
Of the three Blue Jays shortstops discussed, Eckstein has become the most expendable. The veteran infielder was signed to a one-year, $4.5 million deal over the winter to be Toronto's starting shortstop, but he's since been relegated to a bench role, with more appearances at second base than at shortstop in recent weeks.
Since Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston took over on June 20, Eckstein has appeared in 24 of 58 games, entering Thursday -- compared to 55 games for Scutaro and 42 for McDonald. Scutaro and McDonald, who are both signed through 2009, began as utility men this season, but have since become regulars in Toronto's lineup.
Eckstein, who suited up for the Angels from 2001-04 and won a World Series with Los Angeles in 2002, hadn't heard about the rumor until Thursday.
"I spent four great years there and I enjoyed playing there," said Eckstein, who is hitting .274 with one home run and 22 RBIs through 72 games with the Jays this year. "It was a lot of fun. But, it's news to me."
Eckstein insisted that his decreased playing time hasn't become an issue that would lead him to say he'd want to be dealt.
"I don't even look at it that way whatsoever," Eckstein said. "We're here to try to find a way to make it to the playoffs. That's all you worry about. I look at it as a team thing -- that's all that I really focus on. It has nothing to do with who's playing and who's not playing."
Scutaro -- acquired by Toronto over the offseason in a trade with Oakland -- has been a valuable player for the Jays, filling in for various injured players at multiple positions all year long. Entering Thursday, he was batting .265 with six homers and 49 RBIs in 118 games -- the third-highest games total on the team.
The slick-fielding McDonald, who has shown improvement on offense since taking over as the Jays' starting shortstop, has hit .222 with one homer and 16 RBIs in 66 games for Toronto this year. McDonald said that, while any player would love to play for a World Series contender like the Angels, his goal is to reach October with the Blue Jays.
"We're all excited to be part of the Blue Jays," McDonald said. "Given the opportunity, you want to win here before you want to go win somewhere else. But, a lot of things you can't control."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.