Monday, December 6, 2010

Blue Jays trade for Brett Lawrie

Growing up and playing baseball in the Lower Mainland, every single road game was played on a field named after a Major League ballplayer. My summer league team would play at Larry Walker Field in Ridge Meadows, Justin Morneau Park in New Westminister, and we took the ferry to play at Ryan Dempster Field in the remote logging town of Gibsons, BC, at a park where the outfield fence was covered by weeds.

(Best 0-10 season ever, by the way)

One day, Langley, BC may be one of those players. Brett Lawrie was selected 16th overall in the 2008 MLB draft by the Milwaukee Brewers, and whaddya know, he is property of the Toronto Blue Jays; for now.

The Jays sent hard-throwing Shawn Marcum to Milwaukee in the deal. Marcum led all regular starters with a 3.64 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP while holding opponents to a solid .247 average. Not fantastic numbers, but nothing to scoff at, and his trade value is probably the highest it will ever be.

Lawrie had a .797 OPS and led the team in total bases with 250 with the AA Huntsville Stars last year. Those are solid power numbers that translate well into the American League and some of the AL East ballparks with long alleys in centre field. Since he's listed as a 2nd baseman, this has led a lot of Jays fans thinking it might mean Aaron Hill's time as a Toronto Blue Jay are up.


a] Lawrie is not a natural infielder. He was drafted as a catcher, and, since it's the American League, can be put at DH or outfield. Hill had a rough go last year, but I'd bet on him and his $4 million contract to stay with the Jays,


b] There's no guarantee that Brett Lawrie will even stay with the Jays. Already rumours are circulating that the Jays might package Lawrie with a combination of prospects (Kyle Drabek? Travis Snider?) to get Zack Grienke from the Kansas City Royals. It's a move that Torontonians are used to, selling the future for a young star during a rebuilding phase.

As Joe Powlikowski notes over at Fangraphs, the Marcum trade ensures that the Blue Jays have an open spot in the rotation, which may be filled by either Kyle Drabek or Mark Rzepcynski, or possibly Grienke.

From a marketing perspective, the Blue Jays had low attendance last year, 26th in the league and 30th in terms of percentage, oftentimes playing in front of crowds that the Phoenix Coyotes would scoff at. A young Canadian on the roster injects life into that fanbase, and I think that, with the pitching staff rebuilding from within, it might be better to keep Lawrie around and debut him in the summer for a few games. He's no Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper, but Canadian fans love Canadian players, and this trade has been talked about over the past 24 hours and sparked interest in the Jays.

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