It’s the dilemma many General Managers find themselves dealing with every offseason; whether to cash in on their top prospects, or to continue to foster their development and hope they blossom into big league stars.
The Toronto Blue Jays currently occupy that clear divide regarding a few players in their organization, and have many wondering if they should parlay one of their highly-touted prospects into an everyday player or a bullpen arm.
There’s no question the Blue Jays’ bullpen is one aspect of the team that still needs to be addressed, but how exactly will Alex Anthopoulos go about remedying it?
If we’re to believe what he said at the Winter Meetings, it sounds like the club will attempt to acquire a few relievers via trade.
Everyone’s still waiting to see if Dioner Navarro will be dealt this offseason; and while he may fetch something in return, a catcher with one year left on his contract won’t exactly command a king’s ransom.
In order to get more in return, the Blue Jays are invariably going to have to give more; and that means potentially parting with one of their highly coveted arms. For example, Daniel Norris.
Bob Elliott has hinted on a few occasions that Daniel Norris could be a major trade chip involving any potential deals for an elite reliever.
“The cost for a closer, according to scouts from other teams, is prized lefty prospect Daniel Norris.”
But would the Blue Jays really be willing to part with Daniel Norris?
Considering the kind of money free agent relievers have signed for this offseason, perhaps bolstering the bullpen via trade is much more viable option for the Blue Jays. And in theory, a prospect like Norris should garner a sizable haul.
Baseball Prospectus has Daniel Norris ranked as the second best prospect in the Blue Jays’ system, thus making him one of the most valuable trade chips the Blue Jays have in their arsenal. So the return for him would and should be substantial.
Trading Daniel Norris this offseason would be the ultimate cap on the Blue Jays’ “win now” movement. To deal a prospect like him that’s just on the cusp of breaking through at the Major League level is quite risky; but conversely, Daniel Norris’ value might never be higher than it is right now.
It’s true that fans tend to fall into the trap of overvaluing the favourite team’s prospects, and admittedly I’m also guilty of overvaluing players in the minors (see Travis Snider, J.P. Arencibia).
Inside evaluators may project him as a number one starter, while outside evaluators may only view him as a mid to back-end starter. That’s why it’s so incredibly difficult at this point to determine Norris’ wealth, because there’s almost an equal chance of him failing as there is of him succeeding.
If it’s me running the Blue Jays, I wouldn’t trade Daniel Norris; even for Greg Holland, Wade Davis or Aroldis Chapman. That’s mostly because those guys only have two or three years left of team control, while Daniel Norris still has six years of control.
Another risk the Blue Jays run by trading Daniel Norris is that suddenly knocks yet another starting pitcher off their dwindling depth chart. The Josh Donaldson trade saw the Blue Jays lose two depth starters (Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman), and dealing Daniel Norris would just create another hole.
I guess it all depends on how close the Blue Jays feel Daniel Norris is from making an impact on the big league roster. If their plan is to stash him in the minor leagues to begin the season, then they might be more inclined to trade him.
If Daniel Norris doesn’t end up cracking the Blue Jays’ starting rotation, I’d still like to see the team carry him on the big league roster as a reliever. If it worked for Aaron Sanchez in a short stint this past season (33 innings in 24 games), why not Daniel Norris as well?
If the Blue Jays aren’t going to trade Daniel Norris for an established reliever and he isn’t going to start with the big league club, they may as well use him as a reliever. But if the club is confident Norris can command a spot in the rotation or in the bullpen, trading him would seem counterproductive.
Parting with your second best prospect is a ballsy move. But so is signing Russell Martin to a five year contract and trading for Josh Donaldson; among all the other transactions the Blue Jays have already made this offseason.
Image courtesy of AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette