Scott Downs Rumors
SATURDAY, 12:24pm: ESPN's Buster Olney says that the Jays will probably not be moving any of their relievers at this point.
FRIDAY, 8:09pm: Blue Jays relievers Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, Kevin Gregg, and Shawn Camp were all claimed off trade waivers according to The Toronto Sun's Bob Elliott (Twitter link). It's unknown who any of claiming teams were.
The Jays made all of their relievers available before the trade deadline, but no one stepped up and met their asking price(s). There has also been no indication that the team is trying to move any of the four, but Downs and Frasor are scheduled to become free agents after the season while there is a club option for Gregg's services. Camp is under team control as an arbitration-eligible player next season as well.
The Blue Jays made most of their relief pitchers available before the trade deadline, but no team stepped forward to meet their asking price for Scott Downs, Kevin Gregg, Jason Frasor, and/or Shawn Camp. There was plenty of interest in each, but nothing came of it.
Yesterday we learned that all four were claimed off trade waivers by unknown teams (or perhaps it was just one team), but we don't know how sincere GM Alex Anthopoulos is about moving his top late game relievers. With Frasor and Downs scheduled to become a free agents after the season, it's possible he'll look to move them for prospects now rather than gamble on compensation draft picks later (both project to be Type-A free agents).
Which relievers will the Blue Jays trade?
Links for Wednesday, after a roller coaster win by Joey Votto and the Reds...
- GM Doug Melvin told MLB.com's Adam McCalvy that the Brewers won't discuss an extension with Rickie Weeks until the season's over. Weeks, who will hit free agency after 2011, recently switched agents.
- Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, Shawn Camp, Kevin Gregg and John Buck all hit waivers, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). There's no indication that the Blue Jays intend on moving any of their players this month.
- Over at RotoAuthority, Tim Dierkes analyzes the seasons some top second basemen are having.
- Number 18 is an 'ace number' in Japan, so Daisuke Matsuzaka has a clause in his contract ensuring that he gets to wear it. Matsuzaka explained to Alex Speier of WEEI.com that a childhood idol of his, Masumi Kuwata, wore the number for the Yomiuri Giants.
- Ben Kabak of River Ave. Blues calls the Javier Vazquez trade a "true disappointment," but hesitates to label it a "true bust."
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post argues that the Mets should make decisions with the future of the organization in mind, instead of "letting a lame-duck manager make choices" to win as much as possible.
- Manny Ramirez isn't the only Dodger on waivers. As Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times notes (on Twitter), Casey Blake, Jay Gibbons and Scott Podsednik also hit the waiver wire today.
As we've seen in recent years, Type-A free agent compensation can be a double-edged sword. The team loses a player but gains two draft picks, though the player's value on the open market may decrease because of that attached compensation, especially if he isn't among the game's elite.
Perhaps the best example is Juan Cruz two years ago. Despite consecutive seasons with a strikeout rate north of 12 K/9 and no worse than a 3.10 ERA, Cruz was unable to land a job until late in the offseason because teams simply did not want to surrender a high draft pick to sign him as a Type-A free agent. The Royals eventually bit, sacrificing a second round pick since their first rounder was protected. Just last winter we saw Rafael Soriano avoid a similar situation by accepting Atlanta's arbitration offer, leading to the salary dump trade that sent him to the Rays.
Aside from Soriano, the best relief pitcher available on the free agent market this winter will be Scott Downs of the Blue Jays, who (you guessed it) comfortably projects to be a Type-A free agent. Performance is not an issue, as the 34-year-old Downs has posted a 2.23 ERA with a 7.9 K/9 in baseball's toughest division since becoming a full-time reliever in 2007. His $4MM salary this season is more than reasonable given his performance, and a raise is certainly in order when he hits the market.
But again, the problem is free agent compensation. Will a team be willing to sacrifice a high draft pick for a middle reliever? Downs does have some closing experience, mostly coming last season, so perhaps there's a club out there that values him in that capacity and is willing to pay the price. If not, it's not impossible that he could be stuck looking for a job come February since everyone wants to keep their first round pick in this age where young players have become more important than ever*.
The Jays claim that they will offer Downs (and his free agent-to-be teammates) arbitration after the season, which makes sense given Alex Anthopoulos' dedication to building from within. When Soriano accepted arb last winter, he received a $1.4MM raise, so an increase to a $5MM salary next year could be possible for Downs if he chooses to take matters into his own hands.
Given the dearth of quality relievers in the game, especially lefthanders, I suspect Downs won't have any trouble finding a job this winter even if the signing team has to surrender a first round pick. If a big market team like the Yankees or Red Sox sign another Type-A free agent (someone like, say, Cliff Lee), forfeiting a second or even third round pick to sign Downs becomes much easier to stomach.
* It's worth noting that next year's draft class is considered to be one of the deepest and best ever, which could lead to teams being even more reluctant to surrender draft picks as part of the free agent signing process.
Links for Sunday, as a handful of players suit up for new teams....
- Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth are happy to be playing meaningful games with the Braves, writes Mark Bowman of MLB.com.
- Will Ohman had a hunch that he would be moved before the deadline, writes MLB.com's Joe Frisaro.
- The Tigers have yet to make a blockbuster deadline deal under GM Dave Dombrowski, writes Steve Kornacki of MLive.com.
- Jim Callis of Baseball America (via Twitter) thinks it's very likely that the Mets will sign their first round selection, pitcher Matt Harvey. However, Callis doesn't feel that the pitcher is worth going over slot for.
- Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban could be putting himself in position to buy the Rangers, writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
- Cristian Guzman initially vetoed a deal to the Rangers, but changed his mind, according to Anthony Andro of the Dallas Morning News. MASN's Ben Goessling notes that the Nationals will pay for the rest of Guzman's salary this year (approximately $2.78MM), but will also receive $1.1MM from the Rangers.
- ESPN.com's Buster Olney looks back on the deadline deals in his latest Insider-only blog, writing that "what in the world was Washington thinking?" was a question frequently asked by frustrated rival executives.
- The Boston Globe's Amalie Benjamin says that the price of bullpen help was too steep for the Red Sox, who made "competitive offers" on Scott Downs, Brandon League, and Brian Fuentes.
- Daniel Paulling of the Kansas City Star reports that Gil Meche won't have season-ending surgery after all, since doctors told the right-hander it would have kept him out of action in 2011 as well.
- The Brewers were never close to making any trades, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Many of the best trade chips in baseball play for the Toronto Blue Jays, but the team held onto all of them when their rivals didn’t meet the club’s asking price. Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, Kevin Gregg, Jose Bautista and John Buck remain in Toronto for one simple reason: in the end, no team presented GM Alex Anthopoulos with an overwhelming offer.
“I don’t think we were that close today,” Anthopoulos said. “There were things we had on the table that were available to us, but not enough to make us make a trade.”
A year ago today, the Jays held onto the biggest trade chip in baseball: Roy Halladay. This season Anthopoulos targeted the same kinds of players that his predecessor, J.P. Ricciardi did.
“The greatest challenge we have is getting those elite players,” Anthopoulos said. “We’re always going to continue to shoot high and try to get those impact players.”
Multiple teams considered Scott Downs an impact reliever. The 34-year-old may have been the best left-handed reliever available, but he remains a Blue Jay. After a few months, the rumors and speculation became a bigger part of everyday life for Blue Jays relievers.
“It started to,” Downs said. “I can’t lie, it started to a little bit, but it’s a business.”
Downs, Frasor, Gregg and Buck could potentially bring the Blue Jays draft picks in the 2011 draft. If the four players maintain their current standings in the Elias rankings and all turn down offers of arbitration from the Blue Jays, the team could be working with as many as six extra picks in next year’s draft. It’s a big ‘if,’ but one the Blue Jays were keenly aware of.
“It’s absolutely part of the criteria,” Anthopoulos said. “You look at players that are free agents that could have compensation attached to them and you have a lot of options.”
Many teams liked Jose Bautista, but the MLB home run leader is still in Toronto. As far as he’s concerned, that’s a good thing.
“There were a lot of rumors out there,” Bautista said. “But the end result is I’m still here and this is where I wanted to be.”
The July 31st deadline means the end of non-waiver trades, but there’s still the potential for deals. Anthopoulos expects to explore trade possibilities next month, but most of his trade chips wouldn’t clear waivers. August will likely be quieter than July, but the Blue Jays are open to making deals.
“I’d say we’d be active in terms of exploring the waiver wire, talking to clubs, but in terms of actually getting a deal done, impossible to say,” Anthopoulos said.
2:06pm: Aside from the Dodgers and Rays, add the Marlins to the mix for League according to Stark. Not a big surprise.
1:51pm: The Rays are unlikely to make a deal today, tweets ESPN's Jayson Stark.
1:41pm: The Dodgers are also in on League, tweets Ken Rosenthal.
1:13pm: The Rays are interested in Scott Downs and Brandon League, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter links). Tampa Bay added Chad Qualls this morning, but lost Grant Balfour to the DL for 4-6 weeks with an intercostal strain (Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times reporting on Twitter).
Downs and his former teammate, League, will not come cheap, according to Sherman, but the Rays continue looking for relief help despite a thin, highly-priced market. The Giants may be in serious talks with the Blue Jays regarding Downs and reportedly have interest in League, too.
The Giants and Blue Jays are in serious talks for either Scott Downs or Jason Frasor, tweets SI's Jon Heyman. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports disagees, saying the Giants have no interest in Frasor and can't find common ground on Downs.
6:51pm: The Blue Jays aren't lowering the asking price for any of their relievers, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (via Twitter). Toronto's front office has told teams around the league that they'll keep their relievers, offer arbitration and receive draft picks if they don't see offers they like, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale (via Twitter).
3:12pm: Rival teams believe the Blue Jays may end up keeping Scott Downs, according to ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark. Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos continues to drive a hard bargain, so the Blue Jays may keep the lefty and offer him arbitration after the season.
At least one team might meet Toronto’s demands. The Twins, who traded top catching prospect Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps, haven’t stopped pursuing Downs, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). However, the Twins are “not likely” to acquire Downs as it stands now. The Red Sox are not at the forefront of the Downs discussions, according to Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com (Twitter link).
Let's check out the latest updates from Jon Paul Morosi at FOX Sports....
- The Giants continue to search for a left-handed reliever, with Jeremy Affeldt and Dan Runzler injured. While we've heard the club had been eyeing lefties such as Will Ohman and Scott Downs, Morosi indicates that, like every other team that has inquired on Downs, the Giants weren't enthused by Toronto's asking price. CSNBayArea.com's Mychael Urban (via Twitter) reports that the Giants are "working hard" to complete a trade tonight, though there's no indication of whether it would be for bullpen help or another piece.
- Starters like Ted Lilly and Brett Myers appear unlikely to be traded to Minnesota. The Twins would need to overpay to pry Myers away from the Astros.
- The Tigers aren't looking to make a blockbuster deal, but could still make minor moves to upgrade their roster. The club doesn't want to "overexpose" their young players, which played a part in their acquisition of Jhonny Peralta. A bullpen addition is still a possibility for the Tigers, who were scouting the Blue Jays on Wednesday night.