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Blackberry Burning

First Dose of Bullpen Reality Hits

Exactly 2 weeks ago I wrote a piece called "The Suitors For Bullpen Help Will Come" in relation to the Twins immediate problem of replacing Joe Nathan and their indication that they would try a bullpen by committee. The strength and depth of Blue Jays pitching and in particular the bullpen, has been the source of a lot of conversation and the topic of many trade possibilities. As it turns out, the Twins decided to designate a closer (Jon Rauch) who has already recorded 5 saves in 7 games. For now, they have been moved off the list of potential trade candidates for bullpen help.

However, the market for relievers has appeared to grow significantly in the opening week of the season with multiple teams getting a dose of bullpen reality. Ken Rosenthal points out that a couple of teams have already changed closers with several others finding they don’t didn’t have suitable candidates or depth in the first place. This obviously won’t have escaped the dashboard of Alex Anthopolous who I’m sure is watching the box scores daily and preparing for trade opportunities. He likely won’t have to initiate the calls as it’s well known that Alex is open to trading existing players for high end prospects.

Brad Lidge gave up 4 earned runs on Saturday to Blue Jays single A Dunedin farm team which has a team batting average of .184 to start the season. Does that raise any eyebrows? With J.C. Romero also injured, the Phillies better hope that their starters go long into games and that Ryan Madson can handle the workload. Could the Jays be interested in one of those prospects Phillies acquired from Seattle for a reliever?

With lefty J. P. Howell on the shelf through May and an exceptionally deep minor league system, could we put together a package including Scott Downs that would wrestle Reid Brignac from the Rays. A natural SS who is blocked at both short and second, Brignac also has Tim Beckam, another talented shortstop breathing down his neck. Brignac is ready now, made the Rays roster and could be expendable.

The Cubs situation has been discussed at length. I’m sure their interest in Jason Frasor hasn’t diminished as a result of the first week’s performance. With Hechevarria in the fold, a Cubs SS isn’t the likely target any more. However, third baseman Josh Vitters could be.

With Trevor Hoffman faltering in Milwaukee, perhaps outfielder Kentrail Davis who has had a strong start in the FSL and was the Brewers first round pick last year could be had in return for some relief help.

Make no mistake about it; AA will get lots of calls for Jays relievers and as Rosenthal points out, perhaps even a starter like Sean Marcum. For teams with strong playoff aspirations and expectations from their fans like Milwaukee, Tampa, and Philadelphia; the pressure will build as the season progresses and their pitching weaknesses become clearer. Remember that certain teams like the Brewers and Rays have more pressure to win NOW due to the potential loss of key players that they can’t afford in the off seasons such as Carl Crawford. The closer we get to the July 31 deadline, the better are our chances of cutting a better deal as well.

In many cases, it might take a deal bigger than 1 for 1 to get a trade done as in the Brandon Morrow deal. However, continued strong pitching performances will tilt things in the Jays favor and Alex has shown the ability to get a deal done.

William Bruyea

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