BOSTON – This trade won't knock your socks off, but it's the type of deal that fits the cash-strapped Blue Jays' mold at the moment.
Just prior to Monday night's series opener against the Red Sox at Fenway, general manager Alex Anthopoulos acquired infielder Danny Valencia from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for pitcher Liam Hendriks and catcher Erik Kratz.
The move works for both clubs, which makes it a good trade.
“We definitely have a lot of left-handed bats on the roster right now and we certainly could use some help from the right side,” said Anthopoulos. “We've actually inquired about him in the past; just haven't been able to get anything done. We've been really trying to find [a similar player] all year and also we've definitely given guys some opportunities from the minor leagues looking for that right-handed bat and the fact that he's had success at the big league level doing that and doing it well, it's a good fit for us.”
Valencia, who turns 30 on September 19, is a right-handed hitting infielder who predominantly plays third base. He has a career .879 on-base plus slugging percentage against left-handed pitching with 14 home runs. That's in 498 plate appearances, a large enough sample size to state with certainty that Valencia is an immediate enhancement to the line-up.
He'll help to cover for the remainder of Brett Lawrie's absence. Lawrie's out with a fractured right index finger and, given that second base isn't completely foreign to Valencia, he could see time there when Lawrie returns.
With 21 career home runs and a .620 OPS against right-handed pitching, Valencia isn't totally a lost cause, but would be better suited to a platoon situation.
Anthopoulos cautioned not to read too much into how the acquisition of Valencia could affect Lawrie and where he'll play. Lawrie wants to play third base, but didn't complain when he was asked to assume a platoon role, splitting time between third and second base earlier this season.
Judging by what the general manager had to say, it's easy to envision Lawrie seeing plenty more time at second.
“We'll just see,” said Anthopoulos. “I know (manager John Gibbons) is going to mix and match. When Juan's been playing, he's been playing well, he's got tremendous numbers versus right-handers, [but] obviously has not had success versus left-handers and Danny can certainly be that platoon partner for him.
“With respect to Brett, sure, you'd like to have any player be at one position the entire time, but, like we've done a lot of the year, we'd like to have had Bautista play one position the entire time, the one thing that's been great to see is all of our players want to win and are willing to play anywhere on the diamond.”
From a business perspective, and don't discount the importance of this for a second, Valencia's spent enough time in pro ball (nine seasons) the big leagues (parts of five seasons) to be considered a veteran with useful experience, but he's accrued so little major league service time (two years, 118 days) that he remains under club control for the considerable future. This is something Anthopoulos greatly values. Valencia is first-year arbitration eligible this coming off-season and can't become a free agent until, at the earliest, after the 2017 season.
Remember, the Blue Jays are essentially bereft of positional prospect talent at Double-A or higher. The addition of Valencia is as useful for 2015 as it is in the immediate.
Out the door go two extraneous pieces. While a compelling argument could be made that Kratz should have made the club out of spring training and served as Dioner Navarro's back-up, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is more comfortable with his longtime battery mate, Josh Thole. As a result, Kratz spent his second stint in the organization in three places: Toronto, Buffalo and on the QEW shuttling from one city to the other.
Kratz hit .198/.226/.346 in 34 games with the Blue Jays. He showed a touch of his valued power, hitting three home runs in 81 at-bats.
Hendriks, 25, is still young but didn't figure into the Blue Jays' plans. He won a game in three starts with Toronto, posting a 6.08 ERA, but on a number of occasions he needed every inch of Rogers Centre's dimensions to keep the ball in the park in two home starts. He was hit hard on June 20 in Cincinnati, his last start in the big leagues, in a game that will best be remembered for the Blue Jays overcoming a nine-run deficit to beat the Reds 14-9.
Anthopoulos provided updates on the status of two injured players, Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind.
As for the respective timetables for their returns:
“You know, we really don't know," he said. "They're definitely moving in the right direction.”
On Encarnacion (strained right quadriceps): “I know we mentioned with Encarnacion he had a bit of a setback; setback in a way that he'd been improving so fast and it got slowed up. I guess the one thing to clarify on that is, yes, the way he was progressing and how fast he was progressing, all of a sudden that certainly slowed down because he had a little renewed pain when he was swinging again so we just decided to not take any chances and slow him up.”
On Lind (fractured right foot): “He doesn't feel anything when he swings. He does feel it a little bit when he runs, when he has to run the bases and change directions and that can impact him when he's in the field. In terms of strictly in the box and swinging he doesn't feel it. It's going to come down to when that pain is gone when he has to run the bases and change direction and things like that. We don't know exactly when that's going to come but in the meantime at least we're able to have him hit, swing and let him try to get his timing back.”