Photo Credit: Isaiah J. Dowling-USA TODAY Sports

What If Donaldson Can Help Get You Yelich?

The price to get Christian Yelich out of Miami is going to be astronomically high. Higher than what it took to get his now-former teammate, Marcell Ozuna — who, at least according to Steve Phillips, the Marlins wanted both Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette for. And higher than what the Blue Jays would get for Josh Donaldson, should they choose to move him.

But let’s think about these pieces a little bit, shall we?

The Jays are obviously loath to move their either of their two best prospects. They are also, understandably, not terribly interested in moving Donaldson either — to wit:

If you’re trying to compete in 2018 — and you are, and are still firmly enough in the Wild Card tier of AL clubs, with enough paths to still improve, that you should be — the only thing you can stomach receiving in return for Donaldson (if you’re trading him before July) is controllable help for the here and now.

Other teams may see the situation the Jays are in, what they’re trying to do, and can try to tailor an offer to their needs, but it’s going to be tough. How do you maintain your status as a contender while trading pieces off your big league roster that are good enough to satisfy the Jays and help keep them a contender, too? Last month Dave Cameron of FanGraphs took an interesting stab at doing so, suggesting the Jedd Gyorko and Matt Carpenter as a possible return. That deal, however, doesn’t look quite as good as it once did, with Aledmys Diaz — himself having been acquired from the Cards — checking a lot of the boxes that the versatile Gyorko would have. And the deal wasn’t quite perfect in the first place, because Carpenter probably isn’t the versatile defender you’d have to believe he is to make it worthwhile. His numbers at third base in his career have been OK, but he only played 100 innings there in 2017 and 400 in 2016, and he really can’t play anywhere else but first base or DH.

An incredible fit for the Jays, though, would be somebody like Christian Yelich of the Marlins. He’s got all the tools that made Colby Rasmus so exciting when the Jays acquired him back in 2011, with far less baggage, and less of a tendency to strike out. He just turned 26. He’s produced 4.5 WAR in three of the last four seasons, dipping to 2.4 in 2015, which can probably be chalked up to injury. And he makes just $7 million this year, and is under contract for a very reasonable rate through 2022 (including a club option for that season).

There has been much talk out there today about whether Yelich would be worth the Jays giving up Bo Bichette. It’s a completely baffling question, because yes, of course he is.

That’s not to say that Bichette isn’t a great prospect or that we shouldn’t be tremendously excited about him. But Yelich is already the kind of player we hope and dream Bichette can be. And he’s under contract still for five years. If the Jays could have flipped Bichette for Yelich they would have done it already. The only reason they haven’t is that Yelich — if the Marlins do eventually move him — will cost a whole lot more than that.

I think the Bichette-and-Guerrero price tag that Phillips said was floated for Ozuna is way off — and I think that what the Cardinals eventually received there shows as much — but, I think as the example of last winter’s Adam Eaton deal shows, it’s going to take a hell of a lot. Eaton, a little older than Yelich, but a similar player with a similarly team-friendly contract, netted the White Sox three top 100 prospects, including Lucas Giolito. The price will be high. Too high for the Jays, I think. As desirable a piece as Yelich is, when you’re talking about Bichette and Nate Pearson and something else, that seems like it’s going to just be much too much.

But what if you could move Donaldson to St. Louis for a more prospect-oriented package, then flip those prospects — prospects the Marlins have been looking at hard over the last few weeks, as they worked out deals with the Cardinals for Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton (which was obviously rejected) — to Miami for Yelich? Or at least flip key ones out of that package, and key ones out of your own system, thus keeping quite a bit more of your own system in tact?

Hell, get Miami to include Starlin Castro, take all that salary back, and you’re still looking at $17.85 million in payroll for 2018. That’s $3 million less than Donaldson is projected to earn, which can then be put into the payroll elsewhere. That’s 5.1 projected WAR between the two players, as compared to 6.3 for JD, but it’s also eight years of control, and a much brighter outlook for 2019 and 2020.

A move like that would definitely cost significant secondary prospects. If St. Louis could add Yelich for a similar package to Donaldson, even with their outfield strong as is, they’d do that, so the Jays would have to pay more than just what Donaldson would bring back. But if you can get enough from the Cardinals for Donaldson to be able to pull it off without moving Vlad, Bo, Alford, and Pearson? That could be a hell of a thing.

I mean, I don’t know if you can do that. And I don’t know if you could stomach moving Donaldson and one of those big four in order to do it — maybe Pearson, or maybe you could take back shitty Martin Prado and his $13 million, too, or instead, and lower the prospect cost that way? — but their loss could potentially be offset by keeping a key prospect coming back from St. Louis. So it’s at least something worth thinking about.

Plus, unless you do the Prado+Castro thing, it ought to leave enough in the budget for the club to go out and still get an outfield bat, and probably still a pitcher, too. I mean, I hate the thought of trading Donaldson, and I don’t think they in any way have to do it, either. I still think they should just extend him. But if you could find a way to make it work like this, the merits are pretty clear. You could honestly say that you’re not much worse off in 2018, and much better positioned to be good in 2019 — especially if you make the choice to sell at the deadline and start moving out guys like Happ and Estrada for 2019 pieces (as opposed to pieces for merely the nebulous future). It’s a much more comfortable July that way, and a much better 2019. Then again, thinking back to that Eaton trade, getting from here to there is probably a whole lot easier said than done. Maybe though!

  • Cecilrosa

    What’s with the Prado hate? He was worth 3.3 and 3.4 WAR in 2015 and 2016 and only played in 37 games last year due to injuries. Steamer even has him projected to 1.5 WAR next year which might be a bit conservative if he’s healthy.

    That said, if the Jays were to move Donaldson this would probably be the scenario to sell ownership and the fans. Trading 1 year of a star to get 4 years of a star would make it easier to stomach, especially as you said, if you can keep all of the big 4 prospects.

  • Tom Flawless

    I like this line of thinking, Stoeten. I hope the Jays FO gets creative. One of the big questions here is this: if the Cardinals put together a big enough package to convince the Jays to part with JD, wouldn’t the Jays simply fall in love with Alex Reyes, Tommy Pham, or whoever else were involved? I don’t think I could blame them if they did. On the other hand, if you spread out the view to potentially available players on teams seeking a deal for various reasons (e.g. the Pirates looking for a soft reset (maybe they’d move Marte!), the Cards looking for a superstar bat, the Marlins looking to empty out all of their talent, the Orioles looking to add any kind of starter, the Mets needing various pieces, etc.), I’d like to think a three-way deal could work with any number of permutations.

    • ErnieWhitt

      If the Cards are sending me Alex Reyes and Tommy Pham I’m not turning around looking at Yelich. I’m saying “Sold!”, and sprinting immediately for my car to get away before they realize what just happened. I’m moving on with one of the best young rotations in baseball and figuring out which stop-gap decent solution I can plug in to hold Vladdy’s spot for a year or two.

  • breasteve

    Don’t see Cards moving top 5 prospects for Donaldson after acquiring big bat Ozuna.
    Funny, in a somewhat related vein, Blair and Wilner talked to Passan about wild rumours WSox were in on Machado only to flip him to Yanks because O’s would never deal in-division.

  • Nice Guy Eddie

    Steve Phillips is reporting that the Marlins needed both Guerrero and Bichette, and others, for Ozuna. Price for Yelich will be much higher, something like Guerrero, Bichette, Alford and Pearson. No thanks. Tear it down please. Deal JD. The Tulo and Martin contracts are untraceable so we’re not moving them. Trade Justin Smoak. Trade Osuna. Let’s get some youth to rebuild the farm system that Alex traded for Dickey, Reyes, Tulo and the short term rentals.

      • Nice Guy Eddie

        Because relief pitchers are replaceable and the value of closers is generally overrated and because it doesn’t make a lot of sense to enhance the value of last place team in 2017 with that type of asset.

        • The Humungus

          After seeing the contracts that “reliable” relievers have gotten the past couple years, it’s almost as if good relievers aren’t necessarily “replaceable” . At least, when they’re still just at the beginning of arbitration.

      • Teddy Ballgame

        Depends on the return. Given the short shelf life for the vast majority of closers, I’d include Osuna in a trade if it landed a solid starter or position player.

  • GrumblePup

    This is all well and good, but at no point did you bring up trading Pillar. And, it’s been made pretty clear in the comments here that the only possible way to improve the Jays is by trading Pillar.
    So like, just trade Pillar and then we can keep JD.

  • Terence

    Hate to see JD go but if some 3 way with Cards and fish could be pulled off and the Jays end up with Yelich and Castro…..Do it. Younger..check More Athletic…check Able to stay a contender now and beyond….check

  • lukewarmwater

    In reality in the cold of winter, well not that cold in God’s country, dreaming about wheeling and dealing and dreaming and fantasising about this player, that player etc. etc. is indeed fun. Because come April in the Jays opening series, reality sets in with the powerful Yankees showing up. Yep close to one quarter of our schedule against the power house Yankees and Red Sox , while weaker divisions top teams feast on bum of the month clubs 19 times a year. Sure puts you 10 yards back in the ultimate 100 yard dash for the one remaining wild card spot.

  • Voidhelix

    What a heap of cr*p. This bird in the hand stuff is traditionalist baseball nonsense. And leads to ( I don’t know) trading Noah Syndergaard for RA Dickey. Bichette is ONE YEAR AWAY, and has a higher ceiling than Yelich. Just no.

    • Boy5

      I feel the room swayin’
      While the band’s playin’
      One of our old favorite songs from way back when
      So, take her wrap fellas
      Find her an empty lap, fellas
      Dolly, never go away again

    • Torontoguy

      And Bichette still has a huge variety of outcomes among which “not being good enough for the majors” is one. Prospects fail all the team. A year ago, people were on about how much better Tellez was than Smoak. I wouldn’t do the trade either because it doesn’t make sense for me from where the Jays are currently, but for a contending team, they would do this in a second. Getting a 4-5 WAR player for pretty cheap for 5 years versus a great prospect in A ball?

      • Teddy Ballgame

        Absolutely. We’d like to dream on what Bichette might be…if he turns into what Yelich already is, we’ll be thrilled.

        “Potential” is a four letter word. I mean, it wasn’t so long ago we were mentally hanging banners with our core of future all stars Brett Lawrie, Anthony Gose, Kyle Drabek, Ricky Romero, JP Arencibia…

      • Nice Guy Eddie

        I think that outsiders go by generalities like “prospects fail all the time” but I would expect the team’s response to be more nuanced and informed than that. I would expect they would be better able to project a player’s likely future after a couple of years of close observance.

        In any event, it’s somewhat moot. The Marlins want Guerrero too, and more, and I think everyone should be able to agree that that’s not on.

        • Teddy Ballgame

          For sure…and I think that the good teams fully understand how bloody hard it is to make AA and succeed, let alone the majors, and take that into consideration when looking to trade for a player with major league pedigree.

          This is one area where I hope the investments in player development are going to be effective. It seems the Jays have lagged behind in turning minor league talent into viable big league players. Maybe the Jays “hit rate” improves – it’s going to have to if the Yankees/Red Sox arms race is heating up again.

    • The Humungus

      A higher ceiling than an athletic, former gold glove winning corner outfield bat who’s 26 and a career .290 hitter, with a body that leads some to believe he’ll hit for more power than the 20 he’s already hit in a single major league season?

      Ceiling is great. But high floor certainty is better than high ceiling potential when that high floor is signed through his “prime” for 5 years and $58.25M

  • Kristen Sprague

    Fuck Stoeten. Why do you always have to put logic into the mix? In my world, Donaldson signs and extension, Joey comes back to us and is the real Joey and Roy didn’t crash his plane

  • Steve-O

    I guess? I would prefer the Jays extend Dosh and still trade for Yellich anyway. Give the Marlins anyone not named Guerrero.

    Christ, if we can trick Jeets into thinking he’s dealing with the Yankees we can probably get Yellich for …[stares at depth chart] … Max Pentecost and a gently used batting cage.

    • lukewarmwater

      So true Teddy, they definitely have improved defensively and have added offensive power. Now there is an owner determined to wrap up that second wild card spot. The Jays nahhh not so much. But we can be pretend contenders.

      • Teddy Ballgame

        It might not work long term (Cozart, Pujols and Kinsler aren’t spring chickens, and who knows what Ohtani looks like in the bigs), but it’s sure interesting. Remember, though…everyone thought the Jays won the 2013 offseason handily, and the Jays ended up in last place. No guarantees.

        • lukewarmwater

          The key Teddy is they are going for it and that is the difference. Indeed it could fail as it did for the Jays but I’ll take their approach over looking for the next 106 game man who supposably can play numerous positions. Yep another 6 million for broken down Steve Pearce.

          • Teddy Ballgame

            Eh, Pearce’s contract is not big enough to really impact things. And the Sunday morning to 2015-2016’s Saturday night was bound to happen…I’d rather try and build long term than go for quick fixes. Obviously Stanton and Ohtani were never coming here, and to be honest I don’t think many of the other free agents would move the needle…and that’s if Toronto was a premium free agent destination, which it rarely is.

          • lukewarmwater

            Teddy I always enjoy your astute postings. I’m not sure if you have heard of Matt English’s REAL TIME 93 JAYS. David Singh in Sportsnet has an excellent article of a guy doing a season long recap of 1993. Today as an example it was suggested that rumours indicated that Paul Molitor was interested in playing for the World Series champion Jays, but Joe Carter was giving some consideration to K.C. Barry Bonds rejected the struggling Yankees and other players were favouring Atlanta in order to win a World series. It should be a fascinating site to follow each day as Jay fans can relive WHEN GREAT PLAYERS WANTED TO COME TO TORONTO. Hard to believe that 25 years have passed.

          • Teddy Ballgame

            Thanks Luke. I do think that Toronto can become a destination for free agents again, but during the very early 90’s the Jays had built (and built slowly and patiently) a foundation that led to year after year of playoff contention. If you combine money and winning, well, that’s the ultimate free agent attractor.

      • Steve-O

        I realize it can be a little frustrating, what with the lack of big moves so far and all, but given everything the club (and ownership) have done in the past 4-5 years, from trades to signings to payroll, I find it amazing that you – or anyone – could think they aren’t “determined to wrap up the second wild card spot”.

  • Knuckleballs

    Talk on the fan today kinda confirmed my ideas the jays have for this off season activity, which is to do a lot of work to just patch the holes temporary for next summer without trading the youngsters. So the jays will be better than last year if the injury bug is kept at bay. So the jays will sign players on short term contracts to bridge for 2019 for youngsters to come and the best free agent pole next winter