Hayhurst: Blue Jays not in strong trade position

July 17, 2013, 10:04 AM

Will Matt Garza save the Jays’ 2013 season?

Probably not. One starting pitcher, no matter how good, isn’t going to make this ship stop sinking.

It’s not that Garza isn’t a capable starter, or that he can’t compete in the American League East, it’s that the Jays don’t need to trade a slew of prospects or quality bullpen arms to get a guy who isn’t going to put them back into contention this season.

And this thinking that acquiring Garza makes Josh Johnson a tradable asset… I’m sorry, but, tradable to who?

Johnson will probably bounce back from what is shaping up to be his worst season as a major-leaguer, but potential trade partners aren’t going to be optimistic when playing the statistically supported role of pessimist gives a strong trade position.

Johnson’s lack of 2013 production means general manager Alex Anthopoulos won’t get back anywhere near the value Josh was worth coming into the season, and if I know one thing about AA, it’s that he doesn’t like to go to the trading table with a losing hand.

The Jays will almost have to hold on to Johnson now unless they look for — and can find — a National League team willing to rent a scuffling arm at the expense of a pack of fringe prospects, hoping Johnson will bounce back in time for a post-season push.

Trading while the value is low is also why Brett Lawrie probably won’t get moved.

I thought Lawrie’s return to the majors as a second baseman made a lot of sense if you’re looking to deal. The Jays already have four second base options (Munenori Kawasaki, Maicer Izturis, Emilio Bonifacio and Mark DeRosa) that can hit around .200. Why stick Lawrie there?

How about because he’s a plus defensive player who hits like a second baseman and would probably play there for a team with a power hitting third base option already in service. A successful audition on the right side of the infield would boost his value.

Again, a nice plan on paper, but Lawrie’s continued lack of offensive production makes for another trade from weakness scenario.

And those other four names I just mentioned, well, they aren’t enough to reel in a big name, controllable, third base power bat if the Jays wanted do that deal in reverse. It will take a couple bullpen arms — the Jays’ only real tradable strength at the moment — and then some if they want to do that.

J.P. Arencibia still has value as a power hitting catcher. Not the value he had last season, since, now, after 1200 plate appearances, he’s projecting closer to a John Buck-like career than a bona fide power plant.

While the power he does produce helps teams look past his outrageous strikeout rate, league-worst on-base percentage, low walk rate, and high chase rates, it will render said power a limited impact tool as he’ll find himself near the bottom of the order in all but the most power-devoid lineups.

Plus — and I mean this in the most impartial way possible considering the circumstances — his recent decision to call out the media for criticizing his season will not help garner an interested party concerned about the clubhouse dynamic.

But the lack of tradable assets isn’t only happening in the big leagues. Anthony Gose, Ricky Romero, J.A. Happ, Brandon Morrow, Moises Sierra—it’s everywhere. The Jays are simply not in a strong trade position.

Teams in the hunt don’t want injured, underperforming, bad character players. They want impact players.

Unless the Jays are willing to piecemeal their bullpen, clean out their young prospects, or part with a major offensive cog in their “2013-2015″ World Series window machine, they’re going to have to be satisfied with what they have, or look for small, low impact swaps.

If the Jays do decide to go for a big splash and land an impact talent, they’ll want impact players in the same areas everyone else wants impact players—starting rotation, second base, and third base.

And filling those spots isn’t as simple as saying, “we’ll give you all Johnsons, Bonifacios, and DeRosas for your one proven talent”.

A quantity over quality trade won’t work unless you’re dealing with a rebuilding team whose upside talent is scuffling, and there aren’t many of those around.

The Jays have already acquired almost every one of the Miami Marlins. Before that they picked the bones of the Houston Astros.

Rumours and speculation have had the Jays in talks with the Philadelphia Phillies (who’ve rebounded going into the break) Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, and Seattle Mariners, but I’m afraid it’s a case of too little too late as rumours put EVERY contending team in talks with those same clubs.

If the Jays want to make a trade, fine. But make a trade that’s going strengthen the core characters, keep the window intact, and possibly get rid of any uncoachables. Think respectable finish to 2013 with a focus on 2014.

Yes, the Jays could, numerically speaking, get back into the 2013 race. But make no mistake, it would take a lot more than one or two impact trades to make that happen. A quality starter would help the effort, but the team, as a whole, has got to player better, more consistent baseball or it will all be for nothing.

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