1:50 AM Eastern

Full disclosure – I didn’t expect to be posting tonight.  I figured I’d just fly into Orlando, check into my room in beautiful Downtown Disney and get a good night’s sleep before heading to the Swan And Dolphin tomorrow to begin coverage of the Winter Meetings.

Now, though, when I get to the meetings, there’s going to be a note on the board saying “Blue Jays and Brewers News Conference” scheduled for some time in the morning.  The Jays have traded their Opening Day starter in 2010, Shaun Michal Marcum, to the Milwaukee Brewers straight up for young stud prospect Brett Lawrie.

Though I have a feeling this trade will garner all sorts of reaction from the Jays’ faithful fans, ranging from hugely positive to garment-rending negative, at the very least, this deal should dispel the notion that the Jays feel as though they’re one piece away from being contenders in the A.L. East and therefore will throw the farm at Kansas City to deal for Zack Greinke.

Trading Marcum is a surprise, but not a huge one.  He made a tremendous impact this season after missing a year and a half recovering from Tommy John surgery.  Marcum took a no-hitter into the 7th inning on Opening Day against the eventual A.L. Champs and wound up 13-8, 3.64 with a career-best 1.15 WHIP.  He also set career highs in starts (31), innings pitched (195 1/3) and strikeouts (165), but not in walks and home runs allowed, which is pretty cool given the additional workload.  He fielded his position like a champ – he’s the rare pitcher who is actually a fifth infielder and the Jays will miss that every fifth day, for sure.  And he took on a position of leadership with the young rotation from day one of Spring Training.

Did Marcum HAVE to go?  Were the Jays actively shopping him?  Not at all.  He was the anchor of a great young pitching staff that includes Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil and Kyle Drabek.  He was their leader, inspiring them to each “pitch like a man”, but he is also going to be 29 years old next week, making him three years older than the next-oldest member of that rotation, even if you include Jesse Litsch and Marc Rzepczynski, his two likeliest replacements.  Marcum will also be a free agent following the 2012 season.

I’ll tell you this – they are absolutely going to love Shaun Marcum in Milwaukee.  He’ll pitch great, with that fearless attitude and incredible change-up, he’ll likely win a Gold Glove or three in the National League, and he immediately becomes one of the league’s best-hitting pitchers – right there with his new teammate, Yovani Gallardo.

So why did the Jays deal the leader of their young pitching staff?  Well, age and service time definitely made it easier for them to make this kind of a move, but the true reason is the same reason Alex Anthopoulos has made most of his trades, like the deals for Morrow, Yunel Escobar and Anthony Gose – the chance to acquire stud talent.  Young, controllable, elite-level talent.  That’s what Brett Lawrie is, and the fact that he’s Canadian is nothing more than a lovely bonus.

The Jays were drooling over Lawrie back in 2008, when he was in the draft, and he went the pick before the Jays would have had the opportunity to grab him.  Dismayed, they chose David Cooper (oops – for now), but Anthopoulos has been trying to reel Lawrie in ever since he got the job.  This past season – as a 20 year-old – Lawrie handled the AA Southern League, hitting .285/.346/.451 with only eight home runs but 36 doubles and 16 triples.  He also stole 30 bases.  The numbers don’t explode off the page, it’s true.  But then you remember that he was only 20 years old, and they do.

He’s been exclusively a second baseman in his career as a pro, even though there were ideas that he might catch in the majors.  The Jays see him more as a third baseman of the future, which means (assuming Rajai Davis plays) the move of Jose Bautista to third base could just be a one-year thing.

Lawrie will go to Las Vegas this year, and see if he can tear it up there.  Lesser talents have done exactly that.

This trade, which is most assuredly a step back in the hopes of moving a couple of steps forward, now gives the Jays young elite-level controllable position-player talent in Escobar and Snider at the major-league level, Gose and d’Arnaud in the low minors, and Hechevarria and Lawrie in the high minors.  These guys – along with Romero, Morrow, Cecil, Drabek and Stewart – are the building blocks of the teams the Jays will have when they become perennial contenders.  Shaun Marcum wasn’t going to be one of those guys, by the simple matter of his age.

I have a feeling that the fan reaction to this deal will be more negative than positive, but this is Alex Anthopoulos’ style – don’t get sucked in by an 85-win season in which SO much went right (Bautista, Buck, Alex Gonzalez, no pitching injuries), don’t feel that since 75 wins led to 85 then 85 will naturally lead to 95.  Stay the course, continue to build with those studs who are so difficult to acquire and who wind up being worth bazillions of dollars when they hit free agency.

Will Lawrie achieve that potential?  Will Gose?  Maybe, maybe not, but both are big-time talents and worth the gambles.  Marcum will most certainly be missed, and Morrow may not be ready to move up into the number-two spot in the rotation behind Romero, but it’s going to be very interesting to see the two of them, plus Cecil, Drabek and likely Litsch or Rzepczynski, and see how much the on-field results actually differ.

The meetings begin in the morning, and I’ll be doing a couple of live chats with you while I’m down here.  Likely one Monday afternoon, though it’s going to be a busy morning with the trade announcement.  We’ll keep you posted as plans get more clear.

26 Responses to “Starting The Meetings With A Bang”
  1. 1.

    Great blog post Mike.

    You think the Blue Jays are done, or are there other possible deals out there that Alex is looking at?

    - GCM1979
  2. 2.

    Hey Mike,

    If the Jays see Escobar and Hechevarria as the middle infielders of the future and now Lawrie as the third basemen, where does that leave Aaron Hill? (pending that both Hechevarria and Lawrie reach their potential)

    - Kevin
  3. 3.

    25 errors and a fielding % of .961 are not going to make anyone forget Nellie Fox (assuming anyone remembers Nellie Fox. Maybe the grounds crew in Huntsville were on strike last summer?

    - Alex Gray
  4. 4.

    Nice. But I don’t like and don’t understand why Snider is appearing in trade rumours given the kind of talent Anthopoulis is trying to acquire. Seems Snider already possesses it and more.

    - Will
  5. 5.

    Hey Mike……good article for almost 2am. I’m not negative on this deal like you think many Jays fans will be. I trust AA and I think he is heading in the right direction with this team My concern is depth of Major league ready pitching. Last year the pitching staff suffered no major injuries, you cannot assume that will happen again this season. Should Romero or Morrow get injured in Spring Training and now we’ve traded Marcum, what will our pitching staff look like against the AL East? I’m high on Brett Cecil but is he really a #2 or #3 in the AL East? Its alot to swallow, I really hope this works out I just hope we don’t get the injury bug this year and then all of a sudden a position of strength in pitching, could become a major weakness.

    - Adam
  6. 6.

    This deal makes sense. Controllable grade-A talent, like Lawrie, is difficult to acqurie.

    The Werth contract, on the other hand, is absurd. If one would not sign Luke Scott to the same pact (which they probably wouldn’t), then one must not like this Werth agreement.

    - Jake Roth
  7. 7.

    Good riddance to Marcum. I got sick & tired of his carping on Halliday this season. If he had problems with Doc, he should have spoken to Roy in private
    instead of waiting until he was traded & whining behind Doc’s back.
    Another reason to like this
    trade is Lawrie being younger & is still a prospect while Marcum is 29
    & coming off TJ surgery.
    I hope the Jays didn’t acquire Lawrie merely because he’s Canadian. I hate it when
    Canadian teams do this.

    - Lobo
  8. 8.

    My first reaction was indeed negative. There were many times last year where I thought we needed a stud veteran pitcher to mentor all this yougn talent; someone like Roy Halladay lol

    Shaun Marcum stepped in to fill the role.

    I think the Jays have admitted here that they don’t feel they are ready to compete for a wildcard in either 2011 or 2012. If not, Marcum’s age is not a factor.

    This kid had better be a stud because you don’t trade the “leader” of your staff and a potential 15 game winner away for hope imo.
    Maybe Lawrie will be our new Alomar (Blue Jay edition; sans the spit).

    Now PLEASE don’t send another young pitcher away for Greinke…

    - Gary
  9. 9.

    First of, I’m a big Shaun Marcum fan. But I also thought that logically he was the guy who would get moved this off-season. I think there would be more of an uproar if one of the other young guys was moved. The Jays aren’t quite there yet to compete and Marcum was going to be too old or gone through free agency when we are. Sorry to see him go but it’s probably a move that makes some sense. Unlike Mike, though, I still think AA will add another starter either through free agency or trade. Not saying it’s going to be Greinke but I think he will add someone.

    - Craig M
  10. 10.

    This trade obviously shows how highly AA thinks of Brett Lawrie. Personally i would liked to have seen another low level prospect come the Jays way too but Lawrie is definately a keeper and will star for the Jays.

    Sportsnet reported this morning that AA is offering up Snider and Drabek for Greinke. I’m not very high on Drabek but I think that given a fair shot at everyday ABs Snider would realy blossom.

    - Chad
  11. 11.

    Lets hope Litsch comes back from an injury filled year and have a year similar year to Marcums. We saw the potential he has a few years back and the hand full of starts he got last year were not amazing but he definitely took some big strides. Remember he went into the 09 season as the #2 starter behind Roy before he was injured. If he gets back to form this coming season maybe we can see him turned into a similar trade for a top prospect. Just so many options for the Jays with all the great young pitchers they have.

    - Steve Martin
  12. 12.

    Great to read your reports from the winter meetings, Mike.

    I personally like the trade, and appreciate the risk of it. There is a reasonable chance that Lawrie becomes a star and to get talent like that, you need to give up talent as well. You can’t get Lawrie using B level talent. Maybe it works out, maybe it doesn’t, but when you have a surplus of above average starting pitching, you have to take advantage of it in order to shore up the rest of the team.

    I would also like to point out that this is really no different than what the Rays did building their team. They acquired top talent through the draft, we are doing it through trades. In adidtion, we didn’t have to suck royally for a decade.

    - John
  13. 13.

    I don’t mind trading marcum but I would rather have traded him for a young player clsoer to the majors.
    Someone ready to step into the major leagues.
    LAwrie is too far away and risk that he will never make it is there.

    - rubeus
  14. 14.

    michael,
    it’s looking pretty evident in my estimation that there’s a prevailing conspiracy going on right now to have the blue jays gather up all the upcoming stars & a-list prospects from other teams in mlb in order to overtake the yanks & bosox in the a.l. east.
    how else do you explain all these deals falling into our collective laps, i ask you?
    and you just watch, greinke’s next…..
    the jfk assassination wasn’t this overtly conspicuous.
    i tell you the warren commission would be proud michael…
    proud indeed.

    - darrell bishop
  15. 15.

    For all the talk about the Blue Jays pitching depth, where in the system do we have a major league ready replacement should the starting staff start dealing with injuries?

    - nixon
  16. 16.

    Lawrie put up a .797 at Huntsville of the Southern league. Is that good for a 20 year old? Probably – but how much harder is it in the Southern League than say the Florida State League. I’ve never seen any stats on that.

    I like the idea of trading veteran pitchers for prospects. I’m just a little concerned that the guys Anthopoulos has acquired don’t have a great command of the strike zone. Wallace doesn’t. He traded him for Gose and he doesn’t. Lawrie certainly hasn’t shown that he has such skills at any level.

    Like I say I love the concept but I’m just not seeing the kind of stats I’d hope to see in a young player when you trade away a guy like Marcum.

    - jmaron
  17. 17.

    It’s always hard to tell, but it seems like this off-season has been pretty active before the Winter Meetings have even started. Looking forward to your reports, Mike!

    - Xave
  18. 18.

    I’m sick of the Jays always building for “next year.” Every time this club develops some good talent he’s traded for yet another “prospect.”

    Note to Rogers–I won’t spend one penny on the Jays next year. By trading Marcum they’ve already thrown in the towel, and it’s only December!

    - Paul McDougall
  19. 19.

    Hey Mike:
    Post was good, i hope AA doesn’t do something stupid and give up snider and dreabeck for greinke. Also I meant to ask this earlier in the year. Why was Cito not forced to play Snider, JP more at the end of the year. And why did they not have Lind playing first every day to get a better look and see if he could handle it. Still scatching my head on that one.

    - SCOT
  20. 20.

    One cannot evaluate a trade out of context. We will be pleased if the Jays pitching staff has more wins next year. If not hold us back! Lets wait for the rest of the AA story!

    - Ken Corcoran
  21. 21.

    Hopefully not alot of people get mad about this deal. All the moves that aa have done have so far made sense unlike the last gm (who’s name will not be mention) remember bobby kielty? justin miller? how those deals work out? besides if you think about it in return were getting a guy with huge potential. But theres one thing I don’t get is and this might sound like a criticism but I don’t mean it like that at all but why are the media saying that the jays have a deep farm system all of a sudden after one year? don’t you need at least 2 or 3 real good drafts before you can say that? thank you

    MW: Interesting that you’d pick out those examples. Bobby Kielty came over to facilitate trading Shannon Stewart for Ted Lilly, which was a great deal. Justin Miller was the player the A’s threw in to the trade that sent a declining Billy Koch west for Eric Hinske, who wound up being the A.L. rookie of the year. Seriously, did you just pick a couple of random Ricciardi-era names?

    - steve
  22. 22.

    if this deal is about value for value than fine. But I don’t want to hear about Marcum’s pending free agency as any impetus at all. If that’s case then we’re just a farm system for other clubs and as a fan I’m gone.

    - Anthony
  23. 23.

    I’d like to see the Jays sign a more veteran pitcher as a free agent. Someone that could pitch in the bullpen or starting rotation. Someone to help the young pitching staff. I’m thinking along the lines of a guy in his mid-30′s that may have fallen out of favour with his current team.

    - Darren
  24. 24.

    Same was said when jays got Brett Wallace from Oakland. Since pitching is more demand this offseason, Jays could have got more one talented MLB ready prospect. Alex should not be influenced by Canadin prospect..I think Gordan Becham (White Sox), Brendon Wood plus peospect from Angels would have been better deal than this.

    - Nesan Thambi
  25. 25.

    THANKYOU !

    For not being another one of the Greinke or bust dispondnics. Listening to Bob McGowan and Bob Elliot you’d think the world was going to fall apart if we don’t get Greinke for two seasons – all the while ignoring the more obvious questions the Jays fans need to be asking.

    As always Mike, thankyou

    - Ben
  26. 26.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Wilner’s analysis. I will add two things:
    1) No one has mentioned Marcum as an injury risk. I think that is the primary motivation to trade him, though his relative age is also a valid consideration. Marcum has the stuff and mentality a team desires but his mechanics put extreme strain on his arm. Trade him now at the top of his value, after a healthy season. The next two years he won’t make more than 40 starts.
    2) I suggest 16 triples does jump off the page!

    - terry the censor
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