The notion that some teams are buyers and others are sellers is an oversimplification that no longer applies to MLB trade season.
Those narrow definitions will still work in some instances. But since the second wild card team was introduced in 2012, more teams than ever are within reach of a playoff berth.
That means the buyer-seller binary no longer applies as conveniently. Many teams buy and sell simultaneously, dealing from strengths to address weaknesses.
The Toronto Blue Jays have made such trades in recent years, acquiring the likes of Colby Rasmus, Yunel Escobar and J.A. Happ while surrendering players off of their MLB roster.
Yet the 2013 Blue Jays have slipped back in the American League East, and — barring a historic comeback — must soon shift focus to 2014 and beyond. This won’t make them sellers in the traditional sense, since most of their players are expected to return in 2014. Yet it will presumably affect their stance as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline nears.
To determine which Blue Jays players have the most trade value, Sportsnet surveyed executives from rival MLB teams. While no major trades seem likely, it’s clear that a number of Blue Jays relievers would generate interest if they’re available.
Alex Anthopoulos explained Tuesday that he doesn’t expect to make major trades. If he does decide to make a move or two, these players would have trade value to contending teams:
Casey Janssen, RP
Contract status: $3.9 million salary in 2013, $4 million club option in 2014
With impressive numbers and a reasonable $4-million team option for 2014, Janssen has trade value. The 31-year-old has a 2.59 ERA with 30 strikeouts and just eight walks in 34 games this year.
Will any general manager overpay for established relief help? Cashing in on an asset like Janssen would have been easier five or 10 years ago when relievers were overvalued, but may still be possible in today’s game.
Darren Oliver, RP
Contract status: $3 million salary in 2013, free agent after season
Left-handed relievers are always in demand, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see teams such as the Atlanta Braves show interest in Oliver. The 42-year-old doesn’t have no-trade protection, so the Blue Jays have the power to make this decision.
Juan Perez, RP
Contract status: $490,000 salary, under team control through 2018
Perez has yet to allow an earned run in 22 innings with the Blue Jays, and he has averaged nearly one strikeout per inning pitched. The out-of-options left-hander was not viewed as an impact reliever entering the season, and his 35th birthday is approaching.
Even so, he intrigues executives. If Oliver Perez has trade value as a left-handed reliever, why not the Blue Jays’ Perez?
Rajai Davis, OF
Contract status: $2.5 million salary in 2013, free agent after season
Davis offers speed, versatility and the ability to hit left-handers. If relatively recent trades involving Reed Johnson and Scott Hairston are any indication, right-handed hitting outfielders such as Davis have some value on the trade market.
The Blue Jays might be able to obtain a low-level minor leaguer with upside if they do listen to offers on Davis.
Mark DeRosa, IF
Contract status: $750,000 contract includes a $750,000 team option for 2014
The Blue Jays signed DeRosa because of his value as a leader on the bench, and he has contributed on the field with a .233/.320/.444 batting line and six home runs while playing first, second and third. The Blue Jays may prefer to keep DeRosa, who is enjoying his best offensive season since 2008.
Brett Cecil and Steve Delabar, RP
Contract status: Cecil: $510,000 salary, under team control through 2016; Delabar: $499,000 salary, under team control through 2017
Both Cecil and Delabar would appeal to contenders and have significant trade value. Not only are they pitching well in 2013, they’re under team control for many years. That’s precisely why the Blue Jays could just as easily decide to keep them.
In theory these players could clear revocable waivers in August and be traded following the July 31 trade deadline. They are falling short of expectations on the field, but could be viewed as change-of-scenery candidates.
Melky Cabrera, OF
Contract status: $8 million salary in 2012, $8 million salary in 2013
He’s having a poor offensive season and recently returned from the disabled list. Even if you believe his production will improve, there’s the looming possibility of discipline related to his alleged connections to the Biogenesis clinic.
Maicer Izturis, IF
Contract status: $3 million salary per year through 2015; $1 million buyout for $3 million option in 2016
If it weren’t for Izturis’ contract, he would have positive trade value. He has hit .292/.342/.375 since the beginning of June and has settled in on defence. But he has approximately $8 million remaining on his three-year deal, which may deter would-be suitors.
Mark Buehrle, SP
Contract status: $11 million salary in 2013, $18 million salary in 2014, $19 million salary in 2015
Buehrle will earn $18 million in 2014 and $19 million in 2015. That’s more salary than most teams are comfortable adding, so the Blue Jays might have to take on tens of millions of dollars to facilitate a deal.
Josh Johnson, SP
Contract status: $13.75 million salary in 2013, free agent after season
Johnson’s value is tough to peg. He has struggled on the field and admitted his most recent start was ‘pitiful.’ Still, teams wouldn’t have to make a long-term commitment to get him, and his stuff intrigues MLB teams.
There aren’t many 29-year-old pitchers striking out a batter per inning who might be available in trades. Then again, good luck acquiring much for a pitcher with a 5.66 ERA.
The Blue Jays may simply decide to hold onto Johnson in the hopes that he pitches better down the stretch. They could ask for a meaningful return if they find the right suitor.
Emilio Bonifacio, IF/OF
Contract status: $2.6 million salary in 2013, under team control through 2014
Entering the season, Bonifacio was viewed as a super-utility player with enough on-base skills to make use of his game-changing speed on the basepaths.
That’s not the way it has worked out. He has a .251 on-base percentage and has 11 stolen bases in 16 attempts.
Yet it’s possible playoff-bound teams would view the 28-year-old as a useful bench piece. His salary isn’t prohibitive, and interested teams wouldn’t have to keep him in 2014.