Wednesday, August 21, 2013

August Trade Candidates

When the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline arrived with the Blue Jays realistically out of contention, it was expected that some superfluous pieces (to varying degrees) such as Casey Janssen, Darren Oliver, Rajai Davis and Emilio Bonifacio would be moved for low-level prospects or financial relief.  Instead the deadline came and went with the Blue Jays making no transactions at all.  Since that time, Emilio Bonifacio has cleared waivers and been traded to the Kansas City Royals for a player to be named later (PTBNL) or cash.  While this represents a logical start to moves for the Blue Jays, two more players should be jettisoned for some value as they are both impending free agents and unlikely to return – Darren Oliver and Rajai Davis.

Moving Oliver is the easiest move the Blue Jays can make for the rest of the season.  With a pair of strong southpaw relievers in Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup, Oliver has been relegated to the third left-handed option in the bullpen.  He was also behind Juan Perez until the latter tore his UCL two weeks ago.  Oliver is 42 years old and is likely in his last season, although speculation of his pending retirement has existed for years.  He has had difficulty getting his curveball in the zone versus left-handed hitters, making him unsuitable for high-leverage work, but he could be appealing in a low-leverage role for a team like the Yankees, Tigers, or Orioles who have all dealt with bullpen issues throughout the year.  The Tigers are probably the best fit as Leyland likes having veteran arms in his bullpen and Phil Coke, his lower-leverage left-handed option has battled control problems (9.6% walk rate).  Oliver could be replaced by Mickey Storey in the short term, in whom the Blue Jays could have another arm similar to Neil Wagner, and should ultimately be replaced by Luis Perez, who should return from Tommy John surgery in a couple of weeks.  Trading Oliver would represent a cost savings of $639,000

While trading Rajai Davis would bring back the greater value of the pair, the Blue Jays current roster construction makes it considerably more difficult.  At the non-waiver trading deadline, the Blue Jays had the flexibility to trade Davis, but with Rasmus and Cabrera both on the disabled list and Bautista now nursing a sore hip the Blue Jays outfield depth has been stretched to the limit.  Kevin Pillar and Anthony Gose have both been recalled from Buffalo and were sharing left and centre field with Davis, with Bautista manning right field, but now the Blue Jays have placed Bautista on the disabled list and recalled Moises Sierra.

Davis is an impending free agent and his skill set may be more difficult to replace than would appear at first glance.  Using the list of 2014 Free Agents indicated as centre fielders (a must for a fourth outfielder) by MLB Trade Rumours, I sorted for players more productive than Davis against left-handed pitching (career 112 wRC+ vs. LHP).  There were two – Franklin Gutierrez at 124 and Chris Young at 122 (Andres Torres at 105 was the only other player better than league average).  Of those four Davis has accumulated the same value of BsR – the sum of wSB (linear weights of stolen base in runs above average) and Ultimate Base Running (UBR), which values non-stolen base baserunning events also using runs above average (making UBR similar to UZR) – as the other three combined.  While Gutierrez and Young may provide better offensive value vs. LHP, the speed is a factor that neither can even begin to compensate for, making Davis’ skill set rather unique.

One cheaper option may be an internal fix, where Gose and Pillar platoon in left field, the team to goes back to a seven-man bullpen and the Blue Jays find a right-handed platoon power bat to pair with Lind and some cheap speed.  Of course this would require jettisoning Melky Cabrera on a club that feels his leg issues were turf related.  One year at $8M is a reasonable contract for Cabrera, making it potentially desirable.
The Blue Jays could potentially trade Davis with a handshake agreement to return, but he would be under no obligation to hold to that and Major League Baseball may even consider such an agreement to be tampering as Davis’ new club would have a window of exclusive negotiating rights from the time of the trade until the opening of free agency.

Despite this, I would like to see Davis moved (cost savings $533,000) as he could have value to a potential playoff team.  Cincinnati seems like the most logical landing spot as he could replace Xavier Paul, he of -5 wRC+ in 81 PA vs. LHP.  Heisey edges Paul in wRC+ vs. RHP 103 to 100 and Heisey’s mark vs. southpaws is 82.  Heisey is vastly superior to Paul and Davis would give the Reds a much improved second outfield option off the bench, along with a pinch-runner they sorely lack.

Other teams such as Oakland, Boston and Baltimore either lack room on the bench or need help in the other side of a platoon, but could use him as a pinch-runner if they desired to, although this would be a sub-optimal use of roster space.  Another club could claim him off waivers (thereby blocking Cincinnati from trading for him) and the Blue Jays could work out a trade with them, but a trade to Cincinnati for a mid-level prospect makes the most sense for both parties.  I would be surprised and yet not overly disappointed if Rajai Davis is a Blue Jays on September 1.

No comments:

Post a Comment