Friday, July 19, 2013

Two Birds, One Stone

Frank Wren has shown a willingness to deal, deal, and deal some more at the deadline.  Twice since being named general manager of the Braves, he has pulled off what is a pretty rare feat.  Acquiring two major league talents from the same team to attempt to answer two perceived holes on your roster.  In 2010, the Braves acquired Kyle Farnsworth and Rick Ankiel to solidify the bullpen and replace the awful Nate McLouth in center.  Last year, Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson were brought over in efforts to provide depth to the rotation and outfield.  Maybe lightning will strike again and the Braves will go the Costco route of shopping for quantity.

What better team to attempt that with than the Toronto Blue Jays.  They even provide credence to this post's title because the Blue Jay is a bird!  Have I sufficiently beat this dead horse enough already?

We all know the story of the 2013 Blue Jays.  After a mega deal with the Miami Marlins and other smaller-scale acquisitions, the Jays were a hot choice for a playoff contender in 2013.  A rough 10-21 start put the Jays in a hole and in a tough AL East, picking up ground has been difficult.  They started to get hot, even climbing to two games over .500 on June 23rd, but followed that up by dropping 13 of their next 20 and entered the All-Star Break 11.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox and 8.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot.

Clearly, it's been a miserable season for a team with incredibly high expectations and a payroll that jumped almost $40M.  There is good news, though.  Their misery could be Atlanta's gain.  Let's take a look at some players that might intrigue the Braves.

Casey Janssen, rhp
2013 Salary: $3.9M
2014 Status: $4.0M club option, no buyout

Janssen has never looked back since taking over as the Jays' closer during last season.  So far this season, Janssen has 18 saves, a 2.55 FIP, and a 50.0 GB%.  His K numbers are a little down and his LOB% has been higher than it probably should be, but Janssen gets it done despite not having an overpowering fastball.  He brings it in the early 90's, but uses a devastating cutter to keep the batters off-balanced.  Plus, he will whip out a good curveball and even an occasional slider or changeup.  Affordable at $4M for his productivity, acquiring Janssen could be a sign the Braves are cashing their chips in for a run this season as the asking price will likely be large.

Dustin McGowan, rhp
2013 Salary: $1.5M
2014 Status: $1.5M

McGowan has been trying this major-league thing since 2005, but has struggled to stay healthy.  After starting throughout his career, this season, McGowan has returned as a reliever and the results are promising thus far.  Since getting activated in early June, McGowan has used a power fastball that can reach 98 mph to help mow down hitters to the tune of 11.6 K/9.  His slider has been tremendous so far.  But it is a small sample because McGowan has only faced 46 batters in 11 games.  McGowan is team-controlled through 2015 with a $4M club option and the Blue Jays might not be interesting in dealing a cheap, potentially devastating arm.

Darren Oliver, lhp
2013 Salary: $3M
2014 Status: Free Agent

Old Man River has been pitching in the majors since 1993.  That's staggering.  My oldest niece was born in 1993.  In 745 games at the major league level, Oliver only has seven career saves.  His career, especially since he transitioned to the bullpen in 2004, has been readily defined.  He is there to get out lefties.  His numbers thus far haven't been anything to write home about against left-handed hitters, however, you just have to go back to 2012 to see Oliver getting out lefties at a good clip.  His "struggles" this season are likely sample size-driven.  He spent some time on the DL earlier this season, but returned June 10th.

Emilio Bonifacio, utility
2013 Salary: $2.6M
2014 Status: Arbitration-eligible for third time

One of the lesser publicized names out of the Marlins/Jays mega-deal, Bonifacio hasn't enjoyed his time north of the border.  He's hitting just .207 and not walking at all after working his BB% over nine percent the last two seasons.  Like many first-year Blue Jays, he seems to scream another change of scenery and a return to the NL East might bring back the guy who posted a 2.8 WAR for the Marlins in 2011, or at least, a semblance of that guy.  Bonifacio has played all three outfield spots, second base, and a game at shortstop this season and also has recent experience at third.  However, he won't replace Ramiro Pena's glove at third.  But considering Jordan Schafer is out till September, the Braves could keep Paul Janish for D and replace Tyler Pastornicky with Bonifacio.

Where would Wren go with these four?  My gut says he would likely grab Oliver and Bonifacio.  A package to acquire the two would likely be minimal as the Jays have to be considering non-tendering Bonifacio and likely won't sign Oliver if the latter returns for his 70th year in the bigs.  Giving up scraps like Pastornicky and a pitcher at A-ball could be plenty to acquire the two pieces.

However, to make a splash, Janssen would be more attractive.  He has a resume, can be team-controlled for another season, and can handle a considerable role in the bullpen.  With Bonifacio hopefully rebounding with a return to the NL East and Janssen handling a high-leverage role deep in the game, the Braves could head into August a much-improved team.

The best value might come from McGowan, but it requires him to do something he hasn't had much luck at so far.  Stay healthy.

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