Injuries could alter Blue Jays' Trade Deadline targets
With several regulars out of the lineup, Toronto no longer focused solely on pitchers
ANAHEIM -- The last thing the Blue Jays probably expected to be talking about in July was the need to add at least another piece or two to their everyday lineup.
Toronto spent the offseason -- and even a large portion of Spring Training -- debating the merits of its starting rotation. There was an open desire to add a pair of pitchers into a mix that included R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and J.A. Happ.
To the surprise of almost everybody, the starting five has actually turned into a strength this season after the emergence of Drew Hutchison and Marcus Stroman. There are still some question marks about how that group will hold up during the second half, but that issue pales in comparison to the current dire straits of the starting lineup.
Injuries to Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Brett Lawrie have left the club in desperate need of some additional help. Here's a look at some of the players who could be on the block and are worth keeping an eye on prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline:
Padres third baseman Chase Headley: The impending free agent is having a down year, but he has displayed some signs of life recently with a pair of four-hit games in July. A recent report from FoxSports suggested the Blue Jays were working hard on a deal with San Diego. A sticking point could be the amount of money Headley is owed on the remainder of his $10.525 million salary for this season. If the Padres are asked to chip in some money, it's going to cost Toronto better prospects than the Blue Jays would otherwise have to deal.
Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy: Despite having recently been named to the National League All-Star team, there's a good chance that Murphy will be available at the Trade Deadline. Murphy is making $5.7 million this season, and he will arbitration-eligible for the final time next year. The problem with Murphy is that his defense is still a question mark. He's a converted first baseman who has become an average defender, but that might not be good enough for the Blue Jays because of the artificial turf at Rogers Centre. Toronto learned the hard way with Emilio Bonifacio that not everyone is capable of handling the fast playing surface.
Mariners infielder/outfielder Nick Franklin: The young prospect has basically been stuck in the Minors since the Mariners signed free agent Robinson Cano. Franklin can play second, third and the outfield, but he has received only a brief stint in the Majors this season. He was ranked the No. 47 prospect by MLB.com prior to 2013 season, and later that year, he posted a .686 OPS in the big leagues at age 22. Franklin is currently having a strong season at Triple-A Tacoma, and unlike a lot of other names on this list, he has the potential to become a long-term piece for Toronto. The issue is that Seattle is looking for upgrades on offense, and that's not an area where the Blue Jays have a lot of assets to move.
D-backs infielder/outfielder Martin Prado and second baseman Aaron Hill: Prado and Hill are both having somewhat disappointing seasons, but either would be a nice fit for the Blue Jays. Prado comes with a lot of versatility, while Hill is a proven defender up the middle after starting his career with the Blue Jays. The problem with both players is money. Prado makes $11 million this season and is owed another $24 million over the next two. Hill has an $11 million salary, with $22 million owed from '15-16. It seems unlikely the Blue Jays would be willing to take on that type of financial commitment for either player.
Rays infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist: The versatile veteran is the type of player that every organization would love to have. Zobrist can play second, shortstop and the outfield, and he has a lot of offensive upside and is controlled through next season at a reasonable $7.5 million club option. Tampa Bay may be reluctant to deal him to a division rival, and if the Rays decide to package him with No. 1 starter David Price, the cost in terms of prospects would be too rich for Toronto.
White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham: It seems like Beckham's name has been on the trading block for the past two years, but he's still the starting second baseman in Chicago. The White Sox likely would prefer to make room for some of their young prospects, but they could choose to wait until the offseason to make a trade. Beckham is making $4.18 million this season and will be arbitration-eligible for the final time next year. The Blue Jays were interested at one time, but it's doubtful that remains the case. Toronto could use someone with more offensive upside to provide the kind of spark the lineup needs.
Phillies second baseman Chase Utley: The veteran slugger has full no-trade protection as a player with more than 10 years of service time in the Major Leagues, with at least five of those coming with his current squad. Utley recently said he doesn't plan on going anywhere, but his stance could change if Philadelphia decides to go through a full rebuild. He's guaranteed $25 million over the next two years, and that money increases with vesting options if he stays healthy. It's extremely unlikely that Utley would agree to a trade with the Blue Jays -- and even if he did, it's just as doubtful the club would be able to afford him.
Cubs infielders Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney and Luis Valbuena: The Cubs may eventually look to deal Castro after acquiring top prospect Addison Russell from the A's during last week's blockbuster trade. But Castro is signed long-term and the organization should be in no rush to make a move. Barney and Valbuena likely are both available, but the Blue Jays could probably use a bigger upgrade than either player would provide.