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Jays acquire Canadian 2B Lawrie in exchange for Marcum

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The Canadian Press
12/6/2010 8:38:52 PM
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos always talks about the need to take some risk in order to get elite-level talent, and he certainly did that in his latest move Monday.

Anthopoulos dealt away solid and reliable starter Shaun Marcum to the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday evening for Brett Lawrie, a Canadian infield prospect who joins the club's stockpile of unproven young players big on potential.

Lawrie, a 20-year-old second baseman from Langley, B.C., has been on the club's wish list since the Brewers made him the 16th overall draft pick in the 2006 draft, one spot ahead of the Blue Jays, who chose first baseman David Cooper instead.

He's exactly the type of player Anthopoulos believes he must build around in order to overtake the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East.

While Marcum represented a steep cost, the right-hander may have already reached his peak, while Lawrie's upside is far higher if he pans out.

"For us it's not only about one year, it's about trying to build a sustainable winner," said Anthopoulos. "If we build it correctly, we should be able to build a sustainable winner for the long-term and it's going to take a patient approach and it's going to require taking some chances, gambling a little bit on prospects, players like Brett Lawrie who have high ceilings but haven't done it yet."

Lawrie has the combination of raw power and speed that Anthopoulos covets. He batted .285 with eight homers, 36 doubles, 16 triples and 30 stolen bases for double-A Huntsville in 2010, just his second professional season.

He joins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, outfielder Anthony Gose and catcher Travis D'Arnaud as part of a wave of talent behind the more big-league ready likes of starter Kyle Drabek and catcher J.P. Arencibia who could break with the Blue Jays next spring.

But unless there's a corresponding move to be made -- and the Blue Jays have been linked to interest in Kansas City Royals ace Zack Greinke -- there's a big hole to be filled in the 2011 rotation.

Marcum stepped into the No. 1 starter's void created by the trade of ace Roy Halladay and went 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA. He made just US$850,000 this past season and is two seasons away from free agency.

The starting staff now features Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow and Brett Cecil, and possibly Drabek. Other candidates include Jesse Litsch, who is coming back from surgery, Marc Rzepczynski, who may also end up in the bullpen, and the touted Zach Stewart.

Marcum gives the Brewers a badly needed complement to ace Yovani Gallardo. He turns 29 next week and missed the entire 2009 season after having Tommy John surgery.

"We feel we have some depth with our starting pitching," Anthopoulos said. "Contrary to the Brewers, we're lacking in position players."

Lawrie is unlikely to be big-league ready next year given his age and lack of experience, but he's always been considered an advanced talent.

Scouts have long admired Lawrie's tenacity and fearlessness, two traits that helped him get named to Canada's Olympic team in 2008 and World Baseball Classic squad in '09 despite his age.

His presence may mean that second baseman Aaron Hill may eventually be moved to third base to make room for Lawrie. But he was drafted as a catcher and can also play third and the outfield, giving the Blue Jays lots of flexibility.

"He was excited," Anthopoulos said of Lawrie's reaction. "Very driven, focused, motivated, confident young man, and when you combine it with his ability, that's what makes him a great player and gives him the upside and ceiling to be an all-star calibre player, at least from the way our scouts talk about him."

The teams also swung a deal Friday, when the Blue Jays picked up reliever Carlos Villanueva for a player to be named.

Besides filling out the starting rotation, the Blue Jays also have holes to plug in the bullpen, both infield corners and behind the plate.

They've been linked to interest in free agents Carlos Pena and Russell Martin of Chelsea, Que., among other players.

Brett Lawrie (Photo: Langley Blaze Baseball Club)

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(Photo: Langley Blaze Baseball Club)
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