If Alex Anthopoulos’ time as general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays has taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected. This is especially true in trade scenarios. You only have to look back to this time last year when highly-regarded prospect Brett Wallace was surprisingly flipped to Houston in acquiring Anthony Gose, a player on Anthopolous’ wish list for a long time.
Most of the trade speculation so far surrounding the Blue Jays as sellers has centered on their relief pitchers. While the likes of Jason Frasor, Jon Rauch and Octavio Dotel are decent Major League players, they are not likely to get a big-name player or prospect on their own.
With the depth of the Toronto farm system, it might be time to use some of the minor league prospects to net another player who will help their push for the playoffs in the next few years. Here are five players that may help do this.
I’m not sure what to make of Brad Mills. In his limited time in the Major Leagues, he has looked completely out of his depth, struggling to a 7.80 ERA and a 1.77 WHIP.
While this is clearly far too small a sample size to make an accurate judgement on a player, the fact that his fastball tops out in the high 80s and his tendency to throw up in the zone would suggest that he probably would struggle at the Major League level, especially in the AL East.
But his minor league stats suggest otherwise. Mills leads Triple-A Las Vegas starters in both ERA (3.99) and WHIP (1.29). While these numbers may not look that impressive, he is pitching in the Pacific Coast League, a notoriously hitter-friendly league.
Mills does not seem to figure in Toronto’s current or future plans, and with a number of young pitchers coming through the system, Mills would make an attractive back end-of-the-rotation starter for another team.
Like Brad Mills, Cooper is another player who probably does not have a long-term future with the Blue Jays.
In his brief spell in the Majors, Cooper hit just .121, albeit in just 33 at-bats. The trouble with Cooper is that he is a left-handed first baseman, the same as incumbent Adam Lind. Cooper hits for considerably less power and he can’t play any other position, leaving him surplus to requirements in Toronto.
He may, though, be a useful addition elsewhere. Cooper has hit .372 in Las Vegas with a team-leading on-base percentage of .442.
While he may not be an everyday player, Cooper could be useful as a left-handed hitter coming off the bench or even as a platoon at first base.
After all of his injury woes, it would be wonderful to see Loewen make the Major Leagues as a hitter. In some ways, it extra special if the Canadian managed it with the Blue Jays.
What will probably prevent Loewen from reaching the Majors with Toronto is the current outfield depth in the organisation. Travis Snider, Eric Thames, Rajai Davis, Corey Patterson and, when Brett Lawrie is called up, Jose Bautista currently stand in his way. What won’t help is that he has struck out 97 times, 38 more than any of his teammates at Las Vegas.
Loewen may provide some value as a bench player for another team, though. He has hit 14 home runs this season and has set career highs in average, on-base percentage and slugging, continuing his improvement through the Blue Jays' Minor League system.
In his minor league career, Loewen has played all three outfield positions and first base. His versatility potentially makes him useful as a trading chip.
If Alex Anthopoulos wants to go for a high risk/reward trade, then he may have to give away a prospect with a higher ceiling. Zach Stewart would be tempting to many teams around the league.
Stewart has briefly featured for Toronto this year. In three starts, Stewart compiled a 4.86 ERA and looked promising. At Double-A New Hampshire, Stewart has posted a decent 4.20 ERA. He is still very much a work in progress as he continues to work on his change-up to add to his strong fastball-slider combination.
It is very unlikely that Toronto will involve Stewart in trade discussions. Stewart is very highly thought of by the Blue Jays management, and they have invested a lot of time in trying to make him a starting pitcher.
However, if a really outstanding offer came in from another club, Toronto may consider moving Stewart.
Admittedly, including Perez in this list is a bit of stretch. The 20-year-old catcher currently at Class-A Lansing is ranked at six in www.MLB.com’s list of Blue Jays top 10 prospects.
The reason Toronto may be tempted into trading Perez is down to the amount of depth they have at catcher. The Blue Jays currently have rookie J.P Arencibia, who has hit 14 home runs this year. At Double-A, Travis D’Arnaud is playing as well as anyone in the organisation, hitting .320/.389/.538. Add to that that he is an excellent defensive catcher. Perez also has to compete with A.J. Jimenez, who is hitting better at a level above.
Perez has also seen a sharp decline in his on-base percentage. From .396 at Auburn last year, he has fallen to just .332 this year.
As with Stewart, it would take a very special package to include Perez in any kind of trade.