The mega-deal that general manager Alex Anthopoulos completed with the Houston Astros last Friday suggests the Toronto Blue Jays will be buyers, not sellers, prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline at 4 p.m. ET.
The hard-working Anthopoulos added lefty starter-turned reliever J.A. Happ and right-handed relief pitcher Brandon Lyon to the club's decimated staff at the expense of reliever Francisco Cordero, reserve outfielder Ben Francisco and four decent prospects.
The transaction illustrated just how high the price is for a modestly effective arm like Happ, who's not yet eligible for free agency. Even if the prospects weren't top tier, the trade represents the first time Anthopoulos has sacrificed so much young talent in one swap.
And if this was the cost for Happ, you can bet that the asking price for a more successful hurler that's still under team control - like the Chicago Cubs' Matt Garza - is astronomical.
But according to a July 24 report by FOXSports.com scribe Jon Morosi, this hasn't stopped the Jays from expressing interest in Miami Marlins ace Josh Johnson or from scouting Chicago White Sox right-hander Gavin Floyd.
Last week was a microcosm of the Jays' roller-coaster season. Swept by the New York Yankees, they rebounded to win all three games against the Boston Red Sox. But while their resilience is admirable, they're still a .500 club.
The good news is that with so much parity in the American League, the Jays head into Wednesday's game against the Oakland A's just four games back of the final AL wild-card spot. The bad news is they'll have to leapfrog five teams and play better than the Red Sox, with whom they're tied, in the season's final 66 contests to claim that spot.
So should the Jays go for it and become all-out buyers prior to the trade deadline? Or should they hold on to their blue-chip prospects and wait for slugger Jose Bautista and starter Brandon Morrow to return from their injuries in August?
With the new collective bargaining agreement eliminating compensatory draft picks for mid-season acquisitions that leave via free agency after the campaign, the Jays won't trade their best prospects for a soon-to-be free agent like pitcher Zack Greinke. But there are ways the Jays can improve their wild-card chances without parting with their top young talent.
Here are three trades that would make sense for the Jays prior to next week's deadline:
1. Trade Yunel Escobar to the Pittsburgh Pirates for SP/RP Brad Lincoln and AA starter Kyle McPherson
Just 2 1/2 games back of the first-place Cincinnati Reds in the National League Central, the Pirates are in dire need of offensive help. And while the 29-year-old Escobar is having an off year at the plate, he's signed to a team-friendly contract, owns a .357 career on-base percentage and is infinitely better than current Pirates shortstop Clint Barmes.
Lincoln is finally harnessing the potential that made him a first-round pick in 2006. Chosen one slot ahead of Morrow, the six-foot, 200-pound right-hander - like Morrow early in his career - has been shuttled between the rotation and the bullpen. With his velocity up across the board, Lincoln has made five starts and 20 relief appearances this season and owns a solid 2.81 ERA and 1.09 WHIP (Walks/Hits per Innings Pitched).
Not eligible for arbitration until 2015 or for free agency until 2018, Lincoln is the type of high-ceiling sleeper that Anthopoulos often covets.
After being named the Pirates' minor league pitcher of the year in 2011, the 24-year-old McPherson experienced dead arm in spring training and was shut down. He has posted a 4.19 ERA in seven Double-A starts since his return.
The six-foot-four, 220-pound right-hander boasts a fastball that touches 95 miles per hour and an effective changeup. The Jays would be buying low on McPherson, who projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
If Escobar was dealt, the Jays would call up highly touted shortstop prospect Adeiny Hechavarria, who's an outstanding defender and is batting .305 at AAA Las Vegas.
2. Trade OF Moises Sierra, SP Chad Jenkins and SP Brett Cecil to the San Diego Padres for Edinson Volquez
Still only 29, Volquez has pitched in parts of eight big-league seasons. Recording his best numbers since his 2008 all-star campaign, the six-foot, 225-pound Dominican right-hander has posted a 3.30 ERA this season, while striking 117 and allowing just 96 hits in 128 1/3 innings.
On the downside, he has also walked a National League-leading 73 batters. Volquez isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2013 campaign. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported recently that the Padres are unlikely to trade Volquez, but the right package of young talent might change their minds.
Overshadowed by left-fielder Travis Snider and centre-fielder Anthony Gose, Sierra has belted a team-leading 17 homers at AAA Las Vegas this season. Ranked the Jays' No. 15 prospect by Baseball America, the 23-year-old Dominican possesses a strong arm and could develop into a decent major league outfielder.
After a strong spring, Jenkins, the Jays' 2009 first-round pick, has been hit hard at AA New Hampshire, but some scouts still believe the six-foot-four, 230-pound hurler can develop into an end-of-the-rotation starter.
The left-handed Cecil, a fly ball pitcher prone to the long ball, would fare better in the pitcher-friendly confines of Petco Park.
3. Trade OF Eric Thames to the Seattle Mariners for SP Kevin Millwood
Yes, Millwood is a free agent at the end of the season and he's no longer the 18-game winner he was a decade ago, but the veteran right-hander is inexpensive and still knows how to pitch (4.13 ERA in 19 starts this season). The Jays' staff would benefit from his wisdom and pennant race experience during the season's final two months.
Early-season offensive struggles and defensive ineptitude have combined to bury Thames on the Jays' outfield depth chart.
Last season, the 25-year-old California native showed he could hit right-handed pitching at the big-league level and the rebuilding Mariners are desperate for offence and have an outfield opening after dealing Ichiro Suzuki to the New York Yankees earlier this week.
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