Blue Jays likely to stand pat -- for now
GM Anthopoulos has potential assets in corps of veteran relievers
TORONTO -- There are still two weeks to go until the non-waiver Trade Deadline, but as of right now, it appears the Blue Jays will take on the role of casual observer as opposed to active participant.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos remained relatively inactive at the Deadline in 2010, and it's very likely that will be the case again this year.
Anthopoulos has been engaging in more serious trade negotiations in recent weeks, but he still doesn't expect to make any major moves.
"Every GM is in trade mode, if you want to call it that," Anthopoulos said late last week. "That's not always the case at certain times of the year. I find that exciting because you know there are opportunities to make trades.
"At this point, though, [it's the] middle of July and I don't think we're close to doing anything. If I had to handicap it right now, I'd say I don't expect us to do anything, but that could change quickly and I hope I'm wrong."
The Blue Jays do have some attractive trading chips if they feel inclined to make a move. This is precisely the time of year when a lot of contending teams look to improve their bullpens.
Toronto has veteran relievers Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Jason Frasor, Octavio Dotel and Shawn Camp, who are set to hit free agency at the end of the year and could be made available.
If the season were to end today, though, the five would all be ranked as Type B free agents and would each net the Blue Jays a compensation pick in next year's First-Year Player Draft if they signed with other teams.
That provides Anthopoulos with the luxury of being able to stand pat if he doesn't receive an offer to his liking. Anthopoulos likely will continue working the phones to see which teams need help in the bullpen but will need value close to, or equal to, a top Draft pick in return.
The most likely player to be dealt is Dotel, who is making $2.75 million with a $750,000 buyout looming at the end of the year.
Toronto would need to offer salary arbitration to him in order to receive the Draft pick compensation, but at age 37, it's almost guaranteed Dotel would accept that offer instead of opting for free agency.
Anthopoulos wouldn't comment on any specifics leading up to the Deadline, but did admit he's trying to be as proactive as possible when it comes to improving his roster.
Potential Trade Deadline Chips
|Though the Blue Jays don't currently plan to be major players at the Trade Deadline, GM Alex Anthopoulos said that "could change fast." Here are assets Toronto has that could draw interest from other clubs.|
|RHP Frank Francisco (1-4, 5.40 ERA) -- The numbers haven't been pretty this year, but Francisco still has the type of arm that would intrigue a lot of teams across the Majors. He likely will qualify as a Type B free agent, so Toronto would need to receive value close, or equal, to that of a sandwich pick in the First-Year Player Draft. Francisco makes $4 million this season.|
|RHP Jon Rauch (3-3, 4.23 ERA) -- The Blue Jays have a team option on Rauch for $3.75 million. If he isn't dealt before the Deadline, a likely scenario is for Toronto to buy out that year for $250,000 to become eligible for a compensation pick if he signs with another team.|
|RHP Octavio Dotel (2-1, 3.46) -- Dotel is the most likely candidate to be dealt before the deadline. The 37-year-old is making $2.75 million this year and would almost assuredly accept arbitration if it were offered during the offseason. That means Anthopoulos would have to deal him or risk losing Dotel at the end of the year for nothing.|
|RHP Jason Frasor (2-1, 3.08) -- The longest-tenured player on the Blue Jays appeared set to leave via free agency in 2010 before accepting arbitration. His Type A status scared off teams who weren't prepared to part with a top pick to sign him. Frasor likely will qualify as a Type B this year, which should generate more interest in his services, but the Blue Jays could still deal him before then.|
|RHP Shawn Camp (1-1, 4.31 ERA) -- Camp is set to hit free agency for the first time in his career and is expected to qualify as a Type B free agent. He could become a welcome addition to a club in need of a veteran right-handed reliever but teams would have to match compensation-round value in order to entice Toronto to deal him.|
|Call to arms -- Carlos Villanueva (5-2, 3.31) or Jo-Jo Reyes (5-7, 4.94) likely could be available for teams looking for help at the back end of their starting rotations. But contenders likely would want to acquire pitchers with more proven track records.|
|Help off the bench -- Corey Patterson could be available for teams looking to acquire a veteran fourth outfielder who can provide speed off the bench. A less likely candidate would be backup catcher Jose Molina, who has earned praise for his ability to work with Toronto's young pitching staff.|
"There's a lot more dialogue," Anthopoulos said. "There's the window, it's the time of the year, there's a lot more discussions amongst GMs. I was just in my office before I came down [to the field], scanning my board with all of the teams and making sure I had spoken with every GM and if I needed to make any follow-up phone calls.
"GMs are much more engaged and there's much more talk because one way or the other players will get moved, and there's a lot of teams that are motivated to either buy or sell."
Toronto doesn't have any other obvious trade candidates besides its five relievers. The club has a core of young players locked up long-term, and unless teams start calling about the likes of veteran bench players such as Corey Patterson or Jose Molina, it's doubtful there will be much in the works.
But it's also impossible to completely count out Anthopoulos. Last year, the third-year GM surprised many around the league by pulling the trigger on a deal to acquire shortstop Yunel Escobar from the Braves.
Escobar fit the mold of an up-and-coming player who was still under contract for multiple years. Anthopoulous will continue to scour rosters in an attempt to find similar players who have fallen out of favor with their current teams but still possess a lot of upside.
Anthopoulos admitted as much, and he also wouldn't completely close the door on acquiring players who are set to become free agents at the end of the year.
"If we can improve the club, we'll always look to do that," Anthopoulos said. "It always comes down to the assessment, or the value, and what you're giving up.
"Even if you get someone here for two months, maybe you get to know them for a little bit. Maybe they get to know the city, their teammates and maybe even if it's a prospective free agent, you get a chance to sign them back because you do have that window of exclusive negotiating rights."
Toronto might not make any major additions prior to July 31, but either way there will be some new faces in the lineup in the coming weeks. The Blue Jays continue to put an emphasis on their youth movement and another wave of talent is on its way.
Before the end of the year, Minor League right-handers Zach Stewart and Kyle Drabek could make their return, while top prospect Brett Lawrie should be ready at the beginning of August.
Lawrie was on the verge of making his Major League debut in early June before he was sidelined with a fractured left hand. The 21-year-old just wrapped up three rehab games with Class A Dunedin and will move up to Triple-A this week with an eye on getting ready for a callup to the big leagues.
The British Columbia native was hitting .354 with 15 home runs and 49 RBIs in 52 games for Las Vegas prior to the injury. He is expected to start at third base, which would allow slugger Jose Bautista to move back to his preferred position in right field.
Blue Jays manager John Farrell is focused on the imminent arrival of Lawrie and the continued development of his young core. The Trade Deadline talk will be left up to Anthopoulos.
"We fully anticipate Brett getting here," Farrell said when asked what he was looking forward to in the second half. "We want to see how guys continue throughout the course of the season and maintain durability, maintain strength.
"It's the first-year guys and those in their second year in their current role as you see their advances being completed and their continued performance remaining at a high level."
Anthopoulos hasn't taken his eye off this year's squad, but the 34-year-old GM is attempting to build the Blue Jays into a contender that can sustain its success over the long haul. In order to do that, the club is attempting to acquire as many assets as possible.
That could open the door for an unexpected move or two before the end of the month. Anthopoulos said it doesn't even matter what position it is. If the price is right, then he would pull the trigger on just about anything.
It's not going to be easy, though.
"It's hard to make trades," Anthopoulos said. "It's hard to line up with a team, it's rare that you line up with a team.
"There might be an opportunity where the player might not be a great fit but there's value for what we have to give up, so you make room. At the same time, you're trying to build a team, a contending team, but you also need assets to do that and sometimes you need to try to collect as many as you can."
Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB b>. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.