Don’t be fooled by my name being on this piece, it’s by Stoeten’s good friend Darragh McDonald (@darraghfilm)! Enjoy it, it’s good stuff!
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After a long and painful Blue Jays season in 2018, the offseason has finally, mercifully, arrived, giving us all a chance to wish and hope and dream once again. For with the offseason comes the exciting ability to cast off the dreary realities of the present and ponder the exciting questions of the future.
Will Devon Travis be tendered a contract?
Will Travis Bergen be protected from the Rule-5 draft?
Will Yeltsin Gudino succeed in the Venezuelan Winter League?
Of course, the real excitement will be happening elsewhere. Competitive teams will find ways to try and improve their squad and get their respective fan bases jazzed about the possibility of seeing October baseball in their hometowns. Trades will be made. One team will give 400 million bucks to Machado. Another will do the same for Harper. (Will one of them be the stupid Yankees? Ugh.)
But for the Jays, if there’s anything to look forward to this offseason, it’s trading veterans to bolster an already-strong farm system for the future competitive window, which will probably open around 2021. Unless our beloved large adult son Vladdy can smash it open before then.
So, the questions to be answered this offseason for the Jays are mostly of the insomnia-curing variety that I outlined above.
But there’s one avenue the Jays could explore which could make things a little more interesting. And it’s an avenue they’ve been down before. I’m talking about Buying Prospects By Taking On Bad Money Avenue.
If you’ve followed the Shapiro-Atkins era of the past few years, you may have noticed they have a tendency to use a bit of hard cash in their trades as a way of building up the farm. Pittsburgh gave them a pair of prospects just for taking the Liriano contract off their hands. They then flipped Liriano to Houston a year later. Because they took on Nori Aoki’s contract in the process, the Jays were given Teoscar Hernández for their troubles.
Prospects to acquire him. Prospects to send him packing.
(Note: this scheme is dependent on the Jays actually having money to work with. And they should! Lots of money from 2018 has come off the books. Over 60 million, in fact. So, unless cheap Rogers really cheaps out and slashes the budget significantly, they can still do this. Don’t be cheap, you cheap fucks!)
Okay, so, the Jays have a tendency to take on money. Big whoop. Why Tyler Chatwood? The Cubs don’t need to shed salary. They’re a big market team that are owned by a family of billionaires who probably use elephant tusks as croquet mallets and make asylum-seekers fight to the death for their amusement. (This is hyperbole. Please don’t sue me.)
Well, even billionaires have to watch their budgets, evidently.
Other teams' read on the Cubs' situation this winter: They have very little payroll flexibility, and will have to spend very carefully to affect upgrades for the 2019 season. The days of having a cheap core of young players are over for the front office.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 2, 2018
The Cubs even had to clear salary before picking up Cole Hamels’s option.
#Cubs might make a trade to clear salary before picking up Hamels’ $20M option, sources tell The Athletic. At this point, a long-term deal for Hamels is unlikely. If Cubs decline option and make Hamels a free agent, #Rangers will pay his $6M buyout. But goal is to keep him.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 2, 2018
They did end up picking up the option but had to send Drew Smyly and his meagre $7 million salary to Texas. (Poor Smiley.)
Okay, so, the Jays have a tendency to take on money and the Cubs probably want to shed some. Why Chatwood? Well, the Cubs would surely prefer to unload Heyward or Darvish, each of whom have five expensive years remaining on their contracts and haven’t provided too much value of late. But the Jays sure as shit aren’t going to take those on. They’ve done an excellent job so far of not having any significant dollars on their own payroll after 2019, which is great if you’re a Jays fan, because that means they will have tons of flexibility and spending power once the Vladdy era has truly begun in earnest.
Chatwood, however, has two years and 25.5 million left on his contract. That’s money that the Cubs could spend elsewhere while they’re in win-now mode and money that will be off the books once their ready to be good again. And the Jays need starting pitching anyway. All reports indicate the Jays will probably be looking to add to their rotation, which makes sense given that the current rotation consists of three guys who just debuted in 2018 and two guys who can’t seem to open a jar without damaging their fingers.
And the only guy in the top 50 that they predicted the Jays landing is Trevor Cahill at 2 years and 22 million bucks. Since the Jays won’t be competitive in that time, the idea behind a signing like that would be to let him pitch for a while and then trade him for prospects. But if you took on Chatwood, whose remaining contract is almost identical to that proposed Cahill deal, you would get the prospects up front as a sort of insurance in case of pitcher injury or general shittiness.
And then, if Chatwood can regain some of the form that made the Cubs sign him in the first place, you can flip him for even more prospects. But what are the odds of that happening? Well, it’s interesting you ask. Take a look at this FanGraphs piece from July.
If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, the gist on Chatwood is this. He has better control of his secondary pitches than his fastballs. However, the Cubs were seemingly hell-belt on throwing as many fastballs as possible, throwing fewer secondary pitches than any other team in the majors. It’s as if they gave him 38 million bucks and said, “You know those things you struggle with? Do them all the time.”
The article suggests a change of scenery to a team that is actually trying to throw lots of secondary pitches. The trouble is that the Jays were actually just behind the Cubs at the time of the article, throwing the second-fewest secondary pitches of any team in the league. So, why take a guy that can’t control his fastballs and send him from one fastball-horny team to another?
Well, one team that actually threw a lot of secondary pitches, the third-most at the time of the article, was the Tampa Bay Rays, which is where new Blue Jay manager Charlie Montoyo was employed until very recently.
So, obviously, it’s oversimplifying things to suggest you can just acquire Chatwood, have Montoyo tell him to throw more changeups and curves and have Chatwood say, “Okay, skip!” and suddenly be good again. But maybe?
And the thing is, like I said earlier, by getting the prospects up front, you’re insured in case it doesn’t work out. The Jays could throw some money at a pitcher and hope for the best like they did with Jaime García. Or you can go the Liriano route, taking on prospects from a team motivated to move some money and then possibly get more prospects later.
Prospects to acquire him. Prospects to send him packing. Worst case scenario, you only get the first part.