I know it’s coming a day too late but I’ve been snowed under with Top 15 Prospects columns at Grading on the Curve. I’ve already written ones on the Jays, the Rays and the Yankees and the Red Sox prospects column will be out on Thursday.
So the Blue Jays traded out-of-options reliever Brad Lincoln for catcher Erik Kratz and minor league pitcher Rob Rasmussen. Good for them. They needed to clear some of the logjam in the bullpen and at least they got something tangible for Lincoln.
Look, I like Lincoln a fair bit. He throws with decent velocity and I love his hard curveball . . . when he throws strikes. He walked 22 in 31 2/3 innings last year and struck out 25 showing that he’s really struggling to get the ball over the plate when it counts. His 3.98 ERA looks nice but because of the walks, Lincoln really got away with a lot last season, outperforming his 5.48 FIP and 5.91 xFIP for a -0.3 fWAR (-0.1 if you use rWAR). So basically, Lincoln was an extra arm and he’s a guy that I had 10th on my depth chart for the bullpen. The likelihood of the Jays trading enough arms ahead of him just wasn’t there so I’m glad they gave him a chance to play somewhere else and also got something back instead of just losing him on waivers at the end of Spring Training.
What did the Jays get back? A couple of nice pieces when we take a good look at them. Sure, Erik Kratz is not going to be a starter but the 2002 Blue Jays draftee is back in the organization as a catcher with a solid resume as a backup over the past two years. He’s got the reputation as a good defender with a good arm. Kratz has some pop (18 HRs in 417 plate appearances in the majors) and, while he’s no Kevin Youkilis at the plate, definitely takes more walks than J.P. Arencibia.
We’ve even heard that Kratz has experience catching the knuckleball which means that he’s going to give Josh Thole a run for his money to be R.A. Dickey‘s personal catcher next year. The loser’s prize? A five-month sentence in Purgatory, a.k.a. Buffalo. Alex Anthopoulos, speaking to the media on Wednesday, also intimated that the Kratz acquisition might push A.J. Jimenez back down to Double-A to start 2014 giving him some more development time.
Moving away from the catching situation — I’ll deal with each organizational depth at each position before the 2014 season starts — the other part of the deal is intriguing. Rob Rasmussen is a short (listed at 5’9″), left-handed starting pitcher who has had very solid numbers throughout his minor league career. Toronto is also his fifth different organization in his four-year professional career.
Rasmussen will inevitably be compared to Marcus Stroman, mainly because of their statures but they really are very dissimilar pitchers. Rasmussen gets the ball into the low-90s and has a solid changeup, slider and, from the reports I’ve read, a good curveball. Some think that he can remain a starter and eat some innings while others think that he’ll end up in the pen.
Rasmussen had a very good season in Double-A but got hammered when he was promoted to Triple-A Albuquerque which resulted in a demotion back to Chattanooga. I choose not to read too much into the shelling in Triple-A. The PCL does strange things to a pitcher’s numbers and New Mexico is prime hunting grounds. With the hot, thin desert air, the ball flies out of PCL parks and his few decent starts came in better pitching environments like Iowa, Nashville and Memphis.
Rasmussen adds another depth piece to the Blue Jays minor leagues and will create some competition for spots in the Buffalo rotation. With the likelihood that only two of Happ, Redmond, Nolin, Drabek, Hutchison, Stroman and Jenkins have spots in the Blue Jays rotation (provided Esmil Rogers is in the bullpen and the Blue Jays don’t add any more starters), you’re going to have a Triple A rotation of four to five of those guys plus Deck McGuire and maybe Marcus Walden, I can see Rasmussen back in Double-A New Hampshire for a while.
Although he’s going to be 25 next season, the upside on Rasmussen is that he still has all of his options whereas Lincoln had none. In my eyes, this was a very good trade regardless of whether Kratz and/or Rasmussen make the majors next year. The Jays had a guy who was probably not going to make the club out of Spring Training and would have been lost on waivers. They got a couple of decent pieces that can be stashed in the minors and helped give Lincoln an opportunity to make the bigs somewhere else.