If the results of Alex Anthopoulos‘ interest in Josh Johnson last offseason is any indication, that the Toronto Blue Jays are still linked to Chicago Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija could be a sign of bigger things to come.
While a repeat of the type of blockbuster deal that went down between Toronto and the Miami Marlins isn’t likely given the positions both teams are in, it may well be the case that the Blue Jays’ interest in one player could eventually involve other names — at least, according to how last year’s deal came to be, anyway.
With that in mind, you probably wouldn’t be too far off in thinking that the Blue Jays would look for a middle infielder as an additional piece to a potential deal … and said fielder’s name is not Darwin Barney.
That, of course, leaves us with Starlin Castro, the Cubs’ young shortstop and two-time All-Star who just had the worst season of his young career. Despite being only 23 with a strong track record, the youngster’s name has actually come up in the baseball world before as a potential trade candidate — albeit one with an incredibly high price tag.
But why would the Cubs want to move a potential cornerstone asset? Well, there are rumors of makeup issues around Castro, and the fact is that he hasn’t shown any proficiency to draw walks and get on base after four years in the bigs. His main offensive pillars include a high-BA, high-BABIP approach with consistent contact, and the Cubs got a pretty good look at what happens when even one of those pillars end up being a little shaky.
With Javier Baez likely to be arriving in 2014 and Kris Bryant coming not soon after to take over third base, Castro could end up being an expendable piece if it will help them get an impact player.
Then again, why would the Blue Jays part with such an impact player when they need to compete, and when they’ve already got an expensive long-term solution by the name of Jose Reyes?
Well, you’d only have to look at his potential double-play partner in the middle infield to find the answer. The Blue Jays are currently slated to run a combo of Ryan Goins and Maicer Izturis out there in second base in 2014, and while there’s a chance for it to work out if the former can do anything with the bat and if the latter can bounce back from one of the all-time worst seasons at his position … let’s just say that neither provide a whole lot of hope.
If Reyes was taking that spot, however, things might be a little different.
In the scenario, the plan would be to put the newcomer Castro at short, while shifting the incumbent over to second base. Realistically, both have the athleticism to learn second, but with Reyes’ more expensive and more fragile legs, playing a position where he’d have to use his wheels less would benefit both the team’s investment and his ability to stay on the field.
A Castro-Reyes middle infield would certainly solve the team’s problems at second base, and would allow them to fully focus their rumored payroll increase on acquiring an arm.
That said, what would the Blue Jays have to give up? It’d be hard to imagine them getting it done without a core piece, and it’d likely be an outfielder in this case. Could Jose Bautista be involved in such a deal? Colby Rasmus? The former would definitely be a person of interest for the Cubs, who could use a true middle-of-the-order slugger in the outfield (especially if there’s anything to the Jacoby Ellsbury rumors).
Also included in this hypothetical deal would have to be a top pitching prospect — either Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez. So, does Bautista and Sanchez get the Blue Jays Samardzija and Castro? Would it be a good deal for the Bluebirds even if they have to lose a top producer on a reasonable contract? Should they try to shop Rasmus instead and go with Anthony Gose at center?
There’s a number of scenarios here, and it could all easily turn out to be nothing at all. However, if the teams are still indeed linked during the Winter Meetings, the chances of something bigger than expected aren’t too bad, either.