Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Heard it here first!

As The Four-Seamer said before the Vernon Wells deal was signed (which, by the way, was confirmed in a press conference today) the deal puts Blue Jays corner outfielders Reed Johnson and Alex Rios on the market. And almost as soon as word got out Wells was signing (but not until after we said so!) Alex Rios trade rumours began swirling.

Unfortunately for the Jays, Rios makes the most sense. Only because he is young and extremely talented, looks to have found, for the first time in his career, his home-run power, and has the mobility to hit one through nine and play all outfield positions.

Before he went down with a staph infection last season, the American League All-Star reserve was ripping the ball, and near the top of the league in batting.

Word on the street is the going rate for Rios is a fourth starter. Ahem. Excuse me? A FOURTH starter? For the guy many thought the Jays would let Wells go because of, knowing he could move into Wells' center field spot without losing a step? This is a guy many think could be BETTER than Wells in the coming years.

If the Blue Jays settle on Rios for a fourth starter, and are forced to use Matt Stairs in right field all season, they will be making a gigantic mistake.

A trade may be in the works, but not for an everyday, middle-of-the-pack fourth starter. The guy (or guys) the Jays get in return may be fourth in the rotation (as ESPN's Buster Olney put it, the phrase "fourth starter" may be being used in a more quantitative form than qualitative) but he will have the talent of a third. So, assuming Gustavo Chacin is the Jays third man, this newbie would become the fourth guy in order, despite having the talent of a third.

Still following?

Our bet? Watch for the Florida Marlins.

The Fish are in search of a man to play center field, and as we said Rios can do just that. And how about that staff of young, talented pitching?

That's right. Three 22-year-olds, one 24, all rookies, all double-digit game winners.

Olney feels the New York Mets are a possibility, with arguably the highest touted prospect in baseball Lastings Milledge being the prime bait alongside pitcher Aaron Heilman. If this deal is on the table, take it. Why not? Milledge has more upside and time before free agency than Rios, and Heilman has been talked about as one of the best relievers in the game. His numbers, albeit in relief, with the Mets tower over those put up by big name free agents "big names" Gil Meche and Ted Lilly. In fact, it's not even close.

Rotoworld reports the Jays tried to deal Rios for Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm last winter. Boy would they regret that now. But with a young player with the skills of Rios, we feel the team is bound to be regretful of any deal they make while he is still "becoming" a top end player. Isn't it a consensus that four years from now, when Rios is a free agent, he will be worth much more than a fourth starter? Of course. So, don't do it for a quick fix.

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