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Ferguson: Looking at Jays' options before waiver deadline

Scott Ferguson
8/15/2014 11:33:16 AM
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This has been unquestionably the worst season in the history of the Colorado Rockies. They are in last place in the National League, have the worst record in the Senior Circuit and are tied with Texas for the worst record in the Majors at 47-74.

To make matters worse, they lost their two biggest stars, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez this week on back-to-back days to season-ending injuries. Tulowitzki, who turns 30 in October, needs surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. The 28-year-old Gonzalez is a former batting champ and Gold Glove outfielder who needs an operation to repair a partial tear of the patella tendon in his left knee.

While not directly demanding a trade, a couple of weeks back Tulowitzki strongly hinted at one by saying he was sick and tired of all the losing in the Mile High City. With he and Gonzalez in their line-up this season the Rockies were 28-27. Without them they were just 19-47.

Colorado, barring a trade of one or the other or both in the off-season, will be paying them a combined $36.5 million next season or roughly a third of their payroll.

But this story isn't really about Tulowitzki and Gonzalez. It's about their teammate, 35-year-old Michael Cuddyer.

You may have forgotten, as I did, that he won the National League batting title a year ago with a .331 average. He was off to a decent start this year as well when he injured his left shoulder making a diving play at third base.

Right now, he's finishing off a rehab assignment and should be ready to rejoin Colorado shortly.

In the midst of a dreadful Rockies season, Cuddyer will still be motivated. He's in the final season of a three-year, $31.5 million contract. He claims to want to stay in Denver and definitely doesn't want to retire. But he could be the perfect rental player for a team like, say, the Blue Jays. Though primarily an outfielder, he has played third base and first base and could DH. He's also a right-handed hitter who would help the Jays out against left-handed pitching - something Toronto has struggled against this season. Cuddyer would be relatively cheap as well, since he is owed somewhere around $3 million for the remainder of this season.

It's just a thought. But if the Jays aren't motivated to check out any big ticket items before the August 31 waiver trade deadline, they might want to check out Cuddyer in the bargain bin.

Another man the Blue Jays maybe should be interested in is Cubs reliever Carlos Villanueva. The 30-year-old right-hander actually spent two years with the Jays before moving on to the Cubs as a free agent. Carlos filled a valuable role with the Blue Jays as a spot starter and long reliever, but ultimately he jumped to Chicago for a little more money than the Jays wanted to pay and for the chance to be a starting pitcher - something the Blue Jays weren't willing to let him become.

In that regard, maybe the Jays were right. Villanueva hasn't been all that effective as a starter with Chicago, but has been doing a great job since they basically cemented him in a relief role. Villanueva, like Cuddyer, would be a relatively cheap rental. He's only owned around $1.6 million for the rest of the season before he becomes a free agent again.

Both of these guys are character players, and in Villanueva's case, he was a respected confidante in the clubhouse in his former role as the Blue Jays players' rep. I'd wager the Blue Jays could get both of these guys for a couple of lower to mid-range prospects. It sure wouldn't hurt.

I guess you're always rolling the dice a bit when you trade prospects for established rental talent. Take the Texas Rangers. They picked up Canadian-born righty Ryan Dempster from the Cubs on July 31, 2012 to pump up their staff a bit for the stretch run. Dempster made 12 starts for the Rangers, but despite a 7-3 record got hit around a bit to the tune of a 5.09 ERA and needless to say Texas didn't win the World Series. Dempster moved on to Boston, and after a so-so 8-9 campaign for the Bosox decided to take this year off to get away from the game, spend some time with the family and determine whether he wanted to play any more.

So what did the Cubs get in return? Well they landed a third base prospect named Christian Villanueva and a fringe pitching prospect by the name of Kyle Hendricks - not to be confused with the Phillies' Kyle Kendricks.

Two years later Hendricks is the talk of Chicago, at least on the north side. The soft-tossing 24-year-old 6'3" right-hander is 4-1 with a 1.73 ERA. He's struck out 26 and walked only nine while utilizing a Mark Buehrle-like array of off-speed pitches including a great change-up. Texas could certainly use him now with practically their entire rotation on the disabled list including Yu Darvish, who's expected to miss a couple of starts with a neck issue.
 
Speaking of the Rangers, ex-Jay J.P. Arencibia actually got to pitch an inning in a 10-1 blowout loss to Tampa Bay the other night. He threw all fastballs, averaging just over 72 miles per hour and peaking at just above 74. J.P. did pretty well, giving up just an infield single to the four batters he faced.




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