Possible trade target: Toronto’s bullpen


We’re a little more than halfway through the season, and it’s now painfully obvious that the Yankees need some help at the back of the bullpen. The setup crew that helped the team to the World Championship last year has been largely inconsistent (or hurt) this year, and even the depth pieces in Triple-A have been unimpressive. Jon Albaladejo might be able to help, sure, but when three-sevenths of the big league bullpen is Chad Gaudin, Chan Ho Park, and Dustin Moseley, it’s going to take more than one move to right this ship.

The trade market for relievers is usually full of retreads or one year wonders, but there’s one team out there with three effective bullpen arms to market before the trade deadline. That team is the free falling Toronto Blue Jays, who have gone 11-20 over the last month or so.

Photo Credit: Mark Duncan, AP

Let’s start in the 9th inning and work our way back. The Jays have made closer Kevin Gregg available, re-routing a scout to Seattle to over the weekend, perhaps to check out the Yanks. I’m not sure who Toronto would want off the Yanks’ big league roster, or perhaps I’m better off saying I’m not sure who Toronto thinks they’ll be able to get off the Yanks’ big league roster, maybe Colin Curtis or Ramiro Pena. It won’t be anyone more than that, I think we can safely say.

The 32-year-old Gregg is a capital-C closer, meaning that he occupies the high profile role without the guarantee of being effective. He’s actually been better than ever this season, with a 3.67 FIP and 3.88 xFIP through 34.1 IP, better marks than what he posted during his best years with the Marlins. Gregg has always missed bats (8.91 K/9 since 2007) and his strikeout rate is a career high 9.70 K/9 this year, but his walk rate is far too high for an end-game reliever at 4.72 BB/9, a full walk over his career rate. We really don’t have any reason to expect Gregg to be any better than that going forward, and his skill set screams a more experienced version of David Robertson. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

Photo Credit: Chris Gardner, AP

Setting up Gregg has been the lefty-righty tandem of Scott Downs and Jason Frasor, both of whom have served as Toronto’s closer at one time or another in the past few seasons. Downs is enjoying yet another fine season in a career full of them, locking things down to the tune of a 3.14 FIP and 3.58 xFIP. He’s not just a LOOGY either, and believe it or not he’s actually performed better against righties than lefties over the last season and a half. With a walk rate that has gotten progressively better over the last four seasons, Downs has limited the free passes to just 1.93 BB/9 this season, though it’s worth noting that his swinging strike rate is down to 6.7% (lg avg is 8.4%), a career low.

Frasor, on the other hand, is having the worst season of his career in terms of ERA, but we all know that’s no way to judge a reliever. His strikeout rate is at an all-time high (9.87 K/9), ditto his ground ball rate (50.5%), though the walks are abnormally high at 4.67 BB/9. The 32-year-old righty has run into some bad luck in terms of BABIP (.376) and  strand rate (65.8%), which explains the high ERA, but at the same time we have to acknowledge that as a reliever, he simply might not accrue enough innings to have those totals regress to the mean. He simply might be in the middle of one of those bad luck relief years. It happens.

Contractually, these guys are pretty much all in the same boat. All three can become free agents after the season, though Gregg’s contract has an option for 2011 and 2012. Downs is owed $1.8M the rest of the way and the only projected Type-A free agents of the bunch, while Frasor are Gregg are projected Type-B’s and owed $1.19M and $900,000 (with a $750,000 buyout of the option), respectively. Even if you’re assuming a half-a-win performance after the trade (pretty darn good for a reliever), you’re looking at about $3.5-4M worth of trade value according to Sky Kalkman’s trade value calculator, which is worth slightly less than a Grade-B position player prospect according to Victor Wang’s research.

Photo Credit: Steve Nesius, AP

The Yankees have plenty of depth behind the plate and in the middle infield, as we learned in the Cliff Lee non-trade, so they could surrender someone like David Adams or Corban Joseph or Reegie Corona without missing a beat. The last time the Yankees and Blue Jays made a trade was the George Steinbrenner mandated Raul Mondesi swap, but of course Brian Cashman is in charge now and Toronto is under a new regime. Whether or not Alex Anthopoulos would be open to trading one of his bullpen pieces within the division remains to be seen (he reportedly wanted more in return to deal Roy Halladay to an AL East team, but that’s an extreme circumstance), but frankly he’d be foolish not to. It’s just a reliever, and his priority should be getting the best return possible.

I’m a big Scott Downs fan, so I’d prefer him over either Gregg or Frasor, but I’m not sure if Joe Girardi would be open to using him as a normal reliever instead of just having him face lefties. Gregg is the better of the two righthanders, given his long track record of missing bats. I’m always skeptical of trading for relievers given their penchant for sucking at the drop of a hat and for no apparent reason, but if the Yanks are going to make a move for bullpen help, these three probably represent the best available options.

Categories : Death by Bullpen


  1. Jose the Satirist says:

    I’d prefer Downs over Gregg and Frasor. He could definitely be an effective piece in the bullpen for the Yankees. Only thing is the Phillies may be in on him. I think if the Phillies are interested, the Blue Jays would once again prefer to trade outside the division, even for a reliever.

    • I think if the Phillies are interested, the Blue Jays would once again prefer to trade outside the division, even for a reliever.


      It’s not that I don’t think the Jays would trade a non-Halladayesque player to us; they would. But I think the prices we’d pay for a non-Halladayesque player from the Blue Jays are so low, other teams would easily match them, and they Jays would take an equal marginal prospect from a non-Yankee team over a marginal prospect from a Yankee team.

  2. Mike HC says:

    I’m a big Downs fan as well. I always seem to end up with him on my fantasy teams only for Toronto to go with a lesser reliever as a closer (maybe they are smart).

    I would love Downs on the Yanks.

  3. I’ve always liked Scott Downs, but could he immediately jump into the Set-up role if we were to acquire him?

  4. A.D. says:

    believe it or not he’s actually performed better against righties than lefties over the last season and a half.

    Sometimes I wonder how much this is due to lefties being allowed to pitch to weaker righties, while not necessarily being left in for strong righties.

  5. Captain Jack says:

    I’d hold on to Corban Joesph and David Adams, they could probably be used in a package for something bigger. Toronto’s a good trade partner for the bullpen if they don’t want to fix the bullpen internally. Realistically speaking, Park and Gaudin should be DFAed for Sanchez and Nova and Chamberlain should be sent down for Albaladejo.

    • Jose the Satirist says:

      I wouldn’t send Chamberlain down. What would he do down there? At this point it is best to keep him up here.

      • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops says:

        What would he do down there?

        Work as a starting pitcher.

        • Jose the Satirist says:

          As much as I would love that, I’m pretty sure the front office has let that ship sail off forever.

          • Regardless of whether he’s a starter or a reliever, though, Joba could benefit from being sent down. He needs to iron our his mechanics and work on mastering a repeatable delivery. He slips in and out of sync way too much.

            • Jose the Satirist says:

              I’d move him out of the 8th inning before I would send him down. I still believe a lot of what has happened to him this year has been bad luck. I just don’t see what he could learn against minor leaguers that he can’t figure out against major leaguers at this point.

              • I just don’t see what he could learn against minor leaguers that he can’t figure out against major leaguers at this point.

                Timing. In an environment where the results don’t matter.

                • Jose the Satirist says:

                  True. But I still think there are situations where you can keep him up here and use him in a bit of lower leverage situations. Thereby still having him learning at the major league level.

                  • I doubt that is enough, there might be more work to do before he resembles the pitcher we just to see.

                  • My retort: In the minors, you have a lot more flexibility to really fix what’s broken, because the results are inconsequential. You can have him go out for an inning and just throw nothing but fastballs down and in to watch his shoulder placement and foot plant if you want to, because you literally don’t give a shit if he throws a perfect inning or gives up 10 runs.

                    • Jose the Satirist says:

                      You’re right. Well put.

                    • ZZ says:

                      It seems the majority of people are now on board with Joba going down to the minors.

                      The only question is what level Joba should be sent down to.

                      I have been advocating Tampa A ball for a few months now.

                      He needs to learn how to repeat his delivery, needs to be better once men get on base instead of letting the game get away from him, refine the control of his fastball, and stop being so reliant on his out pitch (slider).

                      These are things pitchers in the Yankee system have to have a good grasp on before graduating to AA ball.

                    • I want him to go to Tampa only because that’s where Nardi and the crew are, at the full minor league complex.

                      He’s not going to repeat each level, though. He’s there to do a rehab and then jump right back up to the bigs, or possibly Scranton.

          • Maybe, maybe not. At least he would be getting more innings pitching as a starter in AAA instead of a reliever. He could learn some things without the pressure, like getting batters out on 3-2 pitches using something other than the slider. Or just using another pitch in a 3-2 count.

      • Ed says:

        If Jobas was to be sent him down, the idea would probably be to have him work on his mechanics and develop more consistency. He’s stuff is great, and when he’s on he can use it effectively, but he doesn’t seem to be able to be able to put it all together every time.

        I doubt it’ll happen, but I’d send him down and throw him in the rotation so he can get the most work possible to get back on track.

    • Captain Jack says:

      I love that I go to eat lunch and there’s people that already are defending my positions the exact same way I would…much love to my homies here.

  6. Frank says:

    Yanks should set their sights high- get Heath Bell. Despite the fact Padres are playing well, they are still financially strapped and might be willing to unload Bell. They can just slide Adams or Gregerson into the closer role.

    • Mike HC says:

      I would rather have a guy who has pitched in the AL East and has had success like Downs had, over a guy who only started to have success when he wen to the NL West.

      I’m sure Bell would be fine, I would just prefer Downs and he would probably be cheaper to get.

    • Jose the Satirist says:

      Heath Bell is still only making $4 million this year and the Padres are doing very well. I don’t see why they would trade him away. Doesn’t he also have one more year of arbitration?

      • Mike HC says:

        good point. I don’t think the Padres are going to be sellers this year.

        • Tom Zig says:

          not unless they collapse and go on an epic 10 game losing streak and Colorado and LA go on 10 game win steaks simultaneously

      • Ross in Jersey says:

        I think they’d be willing to flip him for a bat, they’d be selling high and I think they could be pressed into doing it if they got a legit slugger for him. Not saying he’s worth Jesus or anything, but with how good the Padres pen has been and how awful their offense is, I don’t think he’s untouchable.

    • “Setting your sights high” and “trading for a reliever” should pretty much never ever go together.

      I’d much rather trade three marginal prospects for three marginal relievers than trade one good prospect for one good reliever.

      Relievers are too volatile and too unimportant to ever surrender a good prospect for one.

    • A.D. says:

      My guess would be that if Bell was moved it would be to upgrade the Padres somewhere else, since the Yanks don’t really have hitting they’d sell for Bell, it’d have to be some part of a 3 way deal.

      • Frank says:

        Or to free up his salary to get the bat they need. The Pads are deep in the BP, are averaging about 10,000 fans less this year despite playing well and are on a budget. So, if they can unload Bell’s salary for a good return (not saying Yanks give them Montero) the Yanks should at least explore the idea. Bottom line is they need a more reliable 8th inning guy than Joba.

    • There is NO WAY the Padres would move Bell at this point.

  7. ZZ says:

    The Scranton Shuttle and the Trenton Train should be heading to the Bronx before giving up significant pieces in a trade.

    If you have a healthy arm and are pitching well you should be getting a ticket. Doesn’t matter if you are a starter or reliever.

    If you are not pitching well at the big league level, back to riding the buses.

  8. JohnC says:

    Scott Downs for Romulo Sanchez

  9. There is another reliever in Scranton having a good season who nobody seems to talk about: Royce Ring.


    I’d like to see what he could do in the bigs before murdering the farm for somebody. Scott Downs would be a nice option, though.

    • I mentioned him too.

      He’s not having a “good” season, though, he’s having a “decent” season. Decent as in, if we want another LOOGY, he’s in consideration and should be given a shot over Boone Logan next time we want to carry two lefties, but Ring is in no way/shape/form a better callup option for the pen than Albaladejo/Nova/Sanchez/Hirsh/etc., nor is he worth DFAing Gaudin/Park/Moseley/etc.

      His handedness is the only intriguing thing. Royce Ring isn’t going to get any righties out.

      • Didn’t see you mentioning him.

        I’m not saying he is the answer to the bullpen problems but I, too, see him as a better LOOGY option then Logan, who has done nothing to deserve being called up before Ring or some of the guys you mentioned.

        What I’d like to see is the Yankees making some move, even if it is just DFAing Gaudin or Park and calling up Sanchez or Albie.

  10. A.D. says:

    Given what guys like Rauch & Gregg have gone for recently, they shouldn’t cost too much

  11. Carlosologist says:

    I would want to see the Yanks acquire Downs, if only to get him to cut off that long ass hair.

  12. coolerking101 says:

    Aren’t the Cubs ready to be sellers? What about Sean Marshall? The guy seems to have put it together this year.

  13. CJ says:

    Yanks should promote Tracy, Abaladejo for Russo, Colin Curtis (who is not a major leaguer, not even much of a minor leaguer). Logan and Montero also need a chance to stick in July. Does Robertson have options? Not giving up just on Robertson but if not Mosley or Gaudin needs to be moved/cut although potentially useful as well.
    I don’t believe Montero was not brought up for said reasons, A. “He’s not ready” B. “avoid arbitration year”
    especially when Posada was down. My theory is he is less tradable with arbitration clock ticking. In NY, Montero would bat 7th or 8th, see more fastballs, and be protected in Yanks lineup. I would predict a minimum .270 with 11 HR in second half. Impossible to predict triple slash in majors if he will be pitched to and challenged with FB which he eats for breakfast, so less opportunity for BB and he doesn’t have to “worry” about catching/calling a game.

  14. Chris R says:

    “he last time the Yankees and Blue Jays made a trade was the George Steinbrenner mandated Raul Mondesi swap” Did you forget the Cone & Clemens deals!!!

  15. hello9 says:

    I’d go for Frasor. Even usable arms would be worthwhile at this point. Even in this bad year Frasor would still be better than the majority of our relievers and probably wouldn’t cost much. On top of that he has been unlucky and has generally been efficient in his career.

    He wouldn’t cost much in prospects and the Jays probably wouldn’t have the same hesitation in trading him in division.

    One ace reliever won’t fix our bullpen – Frasor can be part of patchwork that we need to get there.

  16. cranky says:

    I’d like to see Cashman snag two guys from the Blue Jays: Jose Bautista and Scott Downs.

    Bautista may not be such a prolific homerun hitter ever again, but he sure is hitting them this year. And he’d probably see a few points drop off of his .OBP if he were to become part of the Yanks’ lineup. But he’d still make for a nice player as a guy who could back-up at 3B or play LF. Marcus Thames seems like a nice guy, but…
    And Downs has been a very good LH reliever for the past five seasons, or so. He’s reliable and would be a boon to the bullpen.

    But what players would the yanks have to give up to get these guys?

    Forget Montero. You don’t give up a Montero for anything other than a front-line player.

    But, even excluding Montero, the yanks are loaded with catching talent. That, and RH pitching, are their strengths in the minor leagues. The Yanks could give up a couple of decent RH pitching prospects and/or a young catching prospect and not appreciably weaken their system.

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