Anthopoulos gets creative
… as in “Type B.”
On Thursday night, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos swung a pretty creative trade. For an hour and a half, catcher Miguel Olivo was a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Then, just like that, the Jays made him a free agent.
At 10:14 pm ET, the Blue Jays announced that they had acquired Olivo from the Rockies in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations. At 11:47 pm, Toronto announced that it had declined Olivo’s $2.5 million club option for the 2011 season.
Why do this move? It’s a trade that showed once again that Anthopoulos likes to think outside the box in an effort to upgrade the Blue Jays’ Minor League system. Olivo qualifies as a Type B free agent, meaning he is worth an extra pick in the sandwich round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft if he declines arbitration and signs with a new team.
Colorado was likely planning on declining Olivo’s option, which would have cost them a $500,000 buyout. Toronto stepped in, saved the Rockies the cash and declined the option in order to gain the rights of the extra Draft pick. So, in a sense, the Jays just spent half a million bucks on a first-round pick.
This move has two benefits.
First, it protects the Blue Jays in the event that they decide they actually do want to re-sign free-agent catcher John Buck (also Type B). By gaining the rights to Olivo’s compensation pick, the Jays cancel out the loss of Buck’s compensation if he remains with Toronto. Second, if Buck ultimately decides to sign elsewhere and declines Toronto’s arbitration offer, then that’s two extra picks for the Blue Jays.
There is also the remote possibility that Olivo or Buck could accept arbitration. That’s obviously fine by the Blue Jays, who probably figure that such a decision is not likely, making the risk worth it. If by some chance one or both do accept, that’s added depth, and the offer is for one-year and it’s non-guaranteed.
Expect Olivo and Buck to look for a guaranteed deal elsewhere.
If both catchers do walk — the likely scenario — that leaves veteran Jose Molina and prospect J.P. Arencibia as the two Major League catchers for the Jays. Barring an addition, they could open the year with split duties before easing Arencibia into a full-time gig. Buck would be the full-time guy out of the gates, pushing back the development of Arencibia as the starter of the future.
Beyond Olivo and Buck, the Blue Jays also have Type A free agents in relievers Scott Downs and Jason Frasor. Both will get arbitration offers. If they decline, they’re each worth two compensatory picks in the 2011 Draft. Add in Type B free-agent closer Kevin Gregg (Type B), whose options were also declined Thursday, plus the Jays regular pick, and suddenly that’s eight possible early-round picks for Toronto next June.
That’d be quite a haul one summer after the Blue Jays boasted eight picks in the top 100 of the 2010 Draft — Anthopoulos’ first as GM. Toronto has had a clear emphasis on player development since Anthopoulos took over and reeling in extra picks is one way to increase the probability of landing some top prospects.
More top prospects means more depth, but it also means more bargaining chips. Not only does Anthopoulos want the Blue Jays’ Major League roster to see upgrades from top to bottom, he wants the same for the farm system. In order to swing impact trades, the Jays require a deeper pool of talent in the Minors to entice other clubs.
Anthopoulos was not available for comment after pulling off his latest trick on Thursday night. He planned on holding a conference call with reporters on Friday to discuss his decisions on Gregg and Olivo.