One theme from baseball's winter should return today, as the Toronto Blue Jays are continued to, again, press the pedal to the metal. The organization's stated desire to add another bat should be fulfilled, as the Jays and Arizona Diamondbacks are expected to finalize a trade for Troy Glaus. In return, Arizona is acquiring 2B Orlando Hudson and the versatile Miguel Batista, also sending former first-round choice Sergio Santos to Toronto.
Glaus will help replace the year-long hole left by Carlos Delgado, providing protection for Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay in the heart of the Blue Jays order. Troy returned from injury last year to hit 31 home runs, also showing the good defensive and bad contact skills that previously had characterized his career. All these trends will continue with a trip across the border, though fantasy owners should be expecting an increase in the RBI column.
Santos will help add depth to the middle infield, where Aaron Hill is now moving to second base. I have never been high on Santos, but in the end, he could be a useful bat on the bench. Before a horrible 2005, he was thought to be the Diamondbacks future at shortstop. Now, a year later, he's stuck behind Hill and Russ Adams on the depth chart, left clawing for a hope of a future.
Hill's move to second is very important for the Blue Jay defense, which is losing the Gold Glove Hudson. The additions of Glaus and Overbay on the Toronto corners should help minimize any defense problems, but Hill must be at least an average defender at second. This could be a problem, as the former first-rounder has spent most of his professional career on the left side. Watch this move to be one of the keys for Toronto in 2006.
Speaking of defense, the exit of Troy Glaus and Royce Clayton leaves the Diamondbacks to endure a serious downgrade from their left side. In Hudson, however, the Diamondbacks acquired the game's best second baseman, bar none. His presence in the infield, along with Conor Jackson, should help offset the increased problems due from Chad Tracy and Craig Counsell - who will be pressed at shortstop.
While Counsell is a fan favorite in Arizona, this move really signals his impending exit from the organization. His move to short will allow top prospect Stephen Drew time at AAA, but once he is ready, there will be no role for Counsell. Like Craig, both Hudson and Drew bat from the left side (Orlando from both), eliminating hope for a platoon. If the Diamondbacks are alive in the NL West in July (unlikely given the Dodgers full-court press), then Counsell will probably be kept as a pinch-hitter/sparkplug. If not, the D-Backs will likely be looking to trade their leader at the deadline.
Even without Counsell, second base is overly accounted for in Arizona, as the free agent signing of Damion Easley covers Hudson's most significant weakness: southpaws. Orlando hit just .227/.286/.320 against left-handers last year, while Easley tatooed them at a .333/.390/.725 pace (albeit in just 51 ABs). A straight platoon would further worsen the Arizona defense, however, so expect Hudson to start about 130-140 games (buy his future, fantasy owners!). Those other 20-30 games should just happen to fall on games against the likes of Odalis Perez or Jeff Francis.
In Batista, the Diamondbacks are simply eating salary. He will help by starting every fifth day in 2006, before taking his services elsewhere in a year. Like Orlando Hernandez, acquired for Javier Vazquez, Batista's role is to simply bridge Arizona until 2007. If there is a market for him during the season, and there should be, Arizona shouldn't hesitate take advantage of it. And, of course, the same rings true for El Duque.
In fact, this trade was quite similar to the Vazquez deal. The Diamondbacks, in both deals, acquired versatile veteran right-handers to help offset salary, as well as to be traded again during the season. They also, as is the new rage in Major League Baseball, acquired two superbly-talented defensive players with quite volatile offensive skillsets. Hudson is a Gold Glover who has yet to really turn an offensive corner, despite showing bits and pieces of doing so. Chris Young is one of the game's top prospects, a favorite of mine, constantly garners comparisons to Mike Cameron. Such a comp is to say that Young will be great in the field, hit for significant power, and make very little contact. Their gloves, and offensive ceilings, are the reasons that both players feature prominently in Arizona's long-term plans.
If the rumors are true, Arizona is also close to signing Jeff DaVanon, formerly of the Angels, to play center. I like this move a lot, as it is the definition of a low-risk, high-reward signing. If DaVanon struggles, Arizona can simply stretch their outfield defense by moving Shawn Green to center and promoting Carlos Quentin. If he plays well, then Green can be traded, presumably bringing in another big piece of Arizona's future.
Simply put, this trade -- while filling important holes for both teams -- just opens the door for more moves. For Toronto, Glaus leaves a logjam at DH between Corey Koskie, Eric Hinske and Shea Hillenbrand. The latter is likely on his way out, as I expect trade talks between the Twins and Jays to resume shortly. Expect Toronto to come out asking for Jesse Crain, and in the end, be left with something resembling Kyle Lohse and a prospect.
In the desert, Counsell's move to shortstop creates a cloudy future for Alex Cintron. The market won't be huge for Cintron, nor will the bounty be. But teams with notable holes in the middle infield -- like the Red Sox or Rockies -- should take a gander at Cintron. And for the Diamondbacks, asking for the likes of Abe Alvarez is worth pursuing given their back-up plan: leaving Cintron to rot on the bench.
Between Cintron and possible midseason trades of Counsell, Batista, El Duque and Green, Arizona should undergo major changes in the next 6-7 months. Conor Jackson, Drew, Young and Quentin are all on the verge of creating a Phoenix powerhouse in 2007. In fact, this team is simply a few pitching acquisitions (Green for Anthony Reyes?) from becoming one of the '07 National League favorites.
The Toronto Blue Jays and Arizona Diamondbacks, as represented in this trade, have had two different ideologies this winter. For the Jays, who sense fear in the Yanks and Sox, the goal is to win now. Arizona, on the other hand, is asking fans to endure a season of fine-tuning for the greater good. If you ask me, with these two plans, both sides win.