Who are Anthopoulos’s best trade options?

It would be extremely difficult to convince Alex Anthopoulos to part with some members of the Toronto Blue Jays. The general manager has repeatedly said that his best players are almost certainly here to stay.

“You never know where discussions will lead, but we’re very reluctant to move our better players and you would do everything you can to make deals without having to talk about those guys,” Anthopoulos said on Sportsnet 590 The FAN earlier this month.

But Anthopoulos stops short of identifying them as “untouchables,” since he doesn’t believe in making any of his players off-limits in trade talks.

So how much trade value does each one of the Blue Jays’ players have entering the 2013-14 off-season? There’s no simple answer to that question – it depends on a number of variables including a player’s skill set, his age, his salary and his proximity to free agency. It’s a moving target.

With just five games remaining in the regular season, here’s a closer look at Anthopoulos’s hand:

(*Mark DeRosa, Josh Johnson, Darren Oliver, Rajai Davis and Ramon Ortiz are not included on the list, as they are pending free agents who will not be eligible for trades.)

Significant trade value

Edwin Encarnacion, IB – Would be among the 50 most valuable trade chips in baseball if the Blue Jays were to consider moving him. Established as a legitimate middle-of-the-order hitter, he won’t earn more than $10 million in any of the next three seasons.

Jose Bautista, OF – There was a time when Bautista would have ranked among the most sought-after players in the game. After ending the season on the disabled list for the second consecutive time, his trade value is very good rather than exceptional.

Colby Rasmus, OF – Now just one year removed from free agency, Rasmus is an appealing asset. Teams regularly spend $13-15 million per season on centre fielders who add value on offence, and Rasmus figures to earn about half that in 2014.

Casey Janssen, RP – Would be coveted by other teams given his success as Toronto’s closer.

Brett Lawrie, 3B – Has a promising bat, an elite glove and a modest salary. But there’s no reason to believe his name will surface in trade talks, since the Blue Jays need him at third base.

Pitching trade chips

Brett Cecil, RP – Had a breakout season that included a trip to the All-Star game. However, keeping both Cecil and Aaron Loup means the Blue Jays wouldn’t have to overpay for lefty relief in free agency.

Steve Delabar, RP – An all-star in 2013, Delabar would have considerable trade value after striking out 82 in 56.2 innings, though his shoulder issues would be a concern for interested teams.

Neil Wagner, RP – Has pitched well in his first extended stint at the MLB level. He also has options remaining, which provides the Blue Jays with flexibility.

Aaron Loup, RP – Generates ground balls in bunches while limiting walks as well as anyone. The Blue Jays aren’t likely to want to move him.

R.A. Dickey, SP – Toronto didn’t get an ace-level performance from Dickey this year, but he adds value as an innings eater. He’ll earn $12 million per season starting in 2014, so there’s no longer much surplus value here.

Sean Nolin, SP – Has options, and the Blue Jays need pitching depth, so there doesn’t appear to be much reason to trade the left-hander.

Todd Redmond, SP – Had a series of strong performances in the Blue Jays’ rotation. Yet Toronto may prefer to keep him – John Gibbons has mentioned Redmond as a possible swingman. The right-hander is out of options heading into 2014, which will force the Blue Jays to make a determination on his future next spring.

Esmil Rogers, SP – Arbitration-eligible for the first time, Rogers will obtain a raise heading into the 2014 season. He adds value as a swingman and would appeal to other clubs. However, there’s not tons of surplus value here.

Chad Jenkins, RP – Has options remaining and a 3.07 ERA, so the Blue Jays could simply retain him as a depth swingman. Low strikeout rates limit the former first rounder’s value on the trade market.

Controllable position players

Ryan Goins, 2B – Would have positive trade value because he’s a strong defensive player who will be affordable for years to come.

Anthony Gose, OF – After a disappointing season spent mostly at triple-A, Gose may be more useful to the Blue Jays as a fourth outfielder than he does as a trade chip. Still just 23, Gose has enough time to develop into an above-average big league player.

Kevin Pillar, OF – Has value as a triple-A outfielder, but it’s limited by his below-average performance at the plate.

Moises Sierra, OF – Out of options entering the 2014 season, Sierra could be viewed as a trade chip this winter. He has hit well since being promoted to the big leagues.

A.J. Jimenez, C – Though any MLB-ready catcher has trade value, the Blue Jays figure to keep Jimenez.

Debatable trade value

Mark Buehrle, SP – On the one hand, Buehrle has 13 consecutive 200 inning seasons and a 4.09 ERA. But his salary spikes to $18 million in 2014 and $19 million in 2015. It’s likely a moot point, as the Blue Jays need his innings.

Sergio Santos, RP – Has pitched well when healthy and may have more value to the Blue Jays as a setup reliever than as a trade chip.

Adam Lind, 1B – Conceivable that the Blue Jays could exercise Lind’s option and then trade him. However, it’s difficult to imagine they could sidestep Lind’s $7-million salary while also getting much of a return.

Jose Reyes, SS – Unlikely that the Blue Jays would consider moving Reyes. His upcoming raise would make him less appealing as a trade chip than he was a year ago this time.

J.P. Arencibia, C – Will earn a raise as a first-time arbitration eligible player. Arencibia is not viewed as a strong defender and reaches base at a rate that’s well below average, but he has power and plays a premium position.

J.A. Happ, SP – Would rival teams have interest in a player whose salary is set to rise to $5.2 million in 2014? On the plus side, he’s left-handed and generates strikeouts. But he has a 5.03 ERA since 2011. There doesn’t appear to be much value here.

Trade value limited by injury

Brandon Morrow, SP – Spent the final two thirds of the season on the disabled list.

Luis Perez, RP – Out of options entering the 2014 season, Perez is coming off of Tommy John surgery. He has appeared in just five games since re-joining the Blue Jays, limiting his market value.

Kyle Drabek, SP – Now is not the time to trade Drabek. He underwent major elbow surgery last year and has options remaining.

Drew Hutchison, SP – There’s no urgency to deal Hutchison. Like Drabek, he has options remaining after spending much of the last year recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Juan Perez, RP – Wouldn’t have trade value after sustaining a serious elbow injury and may simply be removed from the 40-man to create roster space.

Trade value limited by performance, experience

Jeremy Jeffress, RP – The hard-throwing right-hander could intrigue teams despite his command issues. But he cleared waivers earlier in the year, an indication that his trade value is negligible.

Brad Lincoln, RP – Could be part of a roster squeeze if he’s still on the Blue Jays next spring. The 28-year-old is out of options, so he’d have to clear waivers to be assigned to the minor leagues again. After walking 22 of the 148 batters he has faced, Lincoln’s command seems questionable.

Mickey Storey, RP – Has dominated the opposition at triple-A, but finding relievers who have had success in the minor-leagues is not difficult.

Thad Weber, RP – Was on waivers earlier in the year, an indication his trade value is limited.

Mike Nickeas, C – Hasn’t hit enough to have substantial trade value.

Josh Thole, C – Maximizes his value in Toronto as a catcher who can handle Dickey.

Munenori Kawasaki, SS – Popular though he may be with Toronto’s fans, Kawasaki likely wouldn’t be of much interest to other teams.

Trade value limited by salary

Ricky Romero, SP – Is expected to be removed from the 40-man roster again this winter. He does not have trade value.

Dustin McGowan, RP – Though McGowan has pitched effectively in 2013, he’ll earn $1.5 million next year – far too much for other clubs to justify absorbing.

Maicer Izturis, IF – Has two years remaining on his contract and he finished the season on the disabled list after a poor performance on the field. Though the Blue Jays could consider moving him in a larger deal, it’s difficult to imagine Izturis having trade value on his own.

Melky Cabrera, OF – Set to earn $8 million in 2014, Cabrera has no trade value. He played poorly before ending the season on the disabled list and he has a history of performance-enhancing drug use.

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