‘Tis the season, Jays fans. No, the holidays are behind us and Spring Training lies ahead but it’s the season (especially this year) when we get so stir crazy for some news, any news, indicating activity by our beloved Blue Jays that we’ll jump on anything just to get our discussion juices flowing.
The tidbit of news that started this discussion on a (relatively) warm winter day in Toronto is the information that Colby Rasmus was being scratched from the Blue Jays’ upcoming Winter Tour.
— Blue Jays-Official (@BlueJays) January 4, 2014
Following this, Tony Rasmsus, Colby’s dad, had a tweet that got speculation swarming.
Now, I’ll have to admit that the Twitter reaction to Colby’s rumoured shopping hasn’t been as negative or as vehement as it was when J.P. Arencibia was non-tendered and, to be honest, it’s refreshing to see Papa Rasmus tweet that he’s happy to see Alex Anthopoulos trying to improve the club. This shows that he understands the business of baseball as well as anyone and knows (unlike some fans) that players are assets for teams to either help the big league club win or enable the team to get other players to help them win.
Through Tony Rasmus, we know that Colby likes being in Toronto and he likes playing for John Gibbons but Colby also understands that baseball is a business. He’s paid very well for his services and stands, in the very near future, to cash in even further, as our friends at the Birds of BABIP have recently written.
If the Blue Jays trade Colby Rasmus, it’s not because they don’t like Colby Rasmus as a person or as a player. If they trade him, it’s because they believe that the return that they get from him can help fill other holes on the team. Our friends at Jays Journal think that this will just open up another hole in center field but if a trade is made, it’s because Alex Anthopoulos and his guys in the front office believe that the return is going to improve the club in a bigger way than losing Colby will hurt the team.
Kyle Franzoni at Jays Journal thinks that Anthony Gose isn’t ready to play every day and contribute with his bat at the major league level. But I don’t think that this is the most important question that Kyle should be asking.
For me, if the Jays trade Colby, they need to get one of two things back. Either they get a starting pitcher who will be a clear upgrade over the multi-headed monster in the #4/#5 spots in the rotation that is J.A. Happ/Todd Redmond/Esmil Rogers/Drew Hutchison/Kyle Drabek/Sean Nolin/Marcus Stroman/Ricky Romero. And when I say clear upgrade, I mean a guy who pushes Mark Buehrle into the #4 spot.
If the Jays can get that kind of return (which, given the price of pitching these days, is highly unlikely), then, by all means, make this deal. If that happens, however, you have to wonder if it’s worth having two potentially dead spots in the batting order with little expected production coming from second base AND center field. The Jays had a solid offense last year and Rasmus was a big part of that. If the Jays want to carry two weak hitters in their lineup, it could be a very rough season if injuries pile up or players underperform (I’m looking at you, Melky).
The second scenario is a little harder to stomach. What if the Blue Jays got a very good hitting (and decent fielding) second baseman for Colby? If they did that, then the Blue Jays would still only have one weak spot in the order and, to be perfectly honest, I’m much more comfortable with Anthony Gose in the lineup than I am with Ryan Goins. In this scenario, you’re not sacrificing any defensive prowess. You’re giving up a lot of power to go along with some OBP.* You’re upgrading from potentially atrocious offense at second base to above average production and now you still only have that one hole in the lineup to carry.
Here’s the problem with the above scenarios: They’re both hypothetical and I don’t think either exists (although I haven’t scoured every team’s strengths/weaknesses to figure that out for sure). The Jays would probably have to add quite a bit to Rasmus in their offer to get a #3 starter and likely, any good pitching that comes back for Rasmus (without the Jays adding anything) would be of the prospect variety. As for the second baseman scenario, the guy we get back would have to be outstanding and fairly cheap and, again, I don’t think that guy is out there.
Will Colby Rasmus be traded? Maybe. I really don’t know. Obviously I’m not the one who has to read the market and make decisions about players who may or may not be ideal candidates to plug into the Blue Jays lineup. I think that there’s a good chance that Rasmus does get traded, not because of what Tony Rasmus tweeted, but because of the financial realities that the Blue Jays are dealing with. They have a proven, productive major league center fielder who is still relatively cheap (albeit with just one year of control without a long-term contract) but stands to make about $6.5 million in 2014.
If Rasmus is traded, the Blue Jays will free up $6 million on the payroll (his replacement on the roster will likely be making league minimum so that covers the other $500,000). Add this to the expected $15 million that the Blue Jays have room to spend before they hit $150 million in player payroll and you end up with about $21 million dollars free for the 2014 season.
What could the Blue Jays do with $21 million dollars? Hmmmm. Sounds about like the going rate for a non-ace free-agent starting pitcher.
* I don’t want to go into a big comparison between Rasmus and Gose here because I actually think that over a full season, Gose could probably give you between two-thirds and three-quarters of Rasmsus’s value and production when all factors are considered.