Jays face other trade deadline decisions

Amid the Roy Halladay frenzy, maybe it’s time to consider whether the Toronto Blue Jays, who were in first place less than two months ago, might have other players who would be attractive on the trade market.

Let’s use some common sense here: If general manager J.P. Ricciardi is listening to offers on The Best Pitcher in Baseball, then he might pick up the phone if you, as a general manager, need a little more Brandon League or Brian Tallet in your life.

I loathe the term “untouchable” — it’s too liberally applied and rarely 100 percent accurate — but I have been told that the Jays aren’t expected to move the likes of Aaron Hill and Adam Lind this year.

The same can probably be said of Ricky Romero and their other young left-handed starters for the simple reason that someone with a healthy arm will need to start ballgames in the event that Halladay is dealt.

Other than that, sell away.

Of course, it’s not going to be that simple. Ricciardi can’t trade away his entire core, particularly if he would like to maintain any hope of contending in 2010. And he’s spending a large portion of his time on Halladay-related business. Other potential trades don’t have the same priority.

“Halladay is first on the agenda,” one Jays official said Monday. “And if he doesn’t go, there’s no sense in blowing it up because we can still try to contend next year.”

But let’s think about this for a minute. What would happen if the Jays keep Halladay and flip several other players in an attempt to make a better, deeper Toronto team in 2010?

I’m not suggesting Ricciardi can trade three or four veterans and approximate the value he would receive by dealing one Roy Halladay. But that strategy might enable him to augment a position player group that, if improved in the right ways, has a chance to contend next year.

And remember this: Ricciardi is the one evaluating the baseball aspects of these trades, but interim president Paul Beeston will have his say-so, too. And Beeston is the one who over the weekend said, “The only way he’s going to be traded is if we are overwhelmed.”

With that in mind, here’s a look at Toronto’s trade candidates, non-Cy Young Award division.

  • Marco Scutaro, SS — A free agent at season’s end, Scutaro would be an ideal pickup for a team that needs help at shortstop, second base or third base. He’d also be a great fit for a club without a true leadoff man. He has 366 at-bats as a No. 1 hitter this year, third-most in the majors, and his .383 on-base percentage isn’t far behind that of Ichiro Suzuki.

    And with a $1.1 million salary, he’s priced to move. The Mariners and Red Sox are among the clubs following him. Boston will have a need if Jed Lowrie’s hitting doesn’t come along after his wrist injury.

  • Jason Frasor, RHP — Most contenders looking for a bullpen arm have at least some interest in Frasor, the diminutive-yet-hard-throwing reliever who’s in the midst of a career year. He has very good command of a fastball that reaches 93-95 mph and has allowed only one home run in 37 outings this year. And he’s proven that he can handle the eighth inning.

    The large scouting contingent at Rogers Centre on Saturday — including the Dodgers, Phillies, Brewers, Rangers and Twins — saw Frasor throw a perfect inning with two strikeouts. The Jays can afford to set a high price tag on Frasor, who’s earning a reasonable salary ($1.45 million) and won’t become a free agent until after next season.

  • Scott Downs, LHP — Downs doesn’t have classic closer stuff. Then again, neither does Baltimore left-hander George Sherrill, and Sherrill is attracting interest from the Angels and Dodgers, according to FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal.

    Downs has done a remarkable job in the ninth inning since succeeding B.J. Ryan as the Toronto closer. At the very least, he would be a very good setup man on a championship-caliber team. Consider that he has a 0.92 WHIP and has walked only five batters in 29 1/3 innings this year. His ERAs over the past three seasons: 2.17, 1.78 and 1.84.

    All things considered, he’s probably one of the most underrated relievers in baseball. And he’s going to be a free agent after next season.

  • Brandon League, RHP — He was injured for much of the 2007 season, and then spent a good portion of last year at Class AAA. But we know two things about League: He has a power arm and he’s very good against right-handed batters. League, 26, debuted with Toronto in 2004 but has never spent a full season in the majors. He’s already established career highs in innings (43 2/3) and appearances (39).

    His stock is at a relative high point now, after compiling a 2.57 ERA and .208 opposing batting average over his past 13 outings, according to Retrosheet.org. He’s set to receive a raise in salary arbitration next year so there is a financial case to be made for trading him sooner rather than later.

  • Rod Barajas, C — He has an affordable contract ($2.5 million salary) and will be a free agent after this year, which makes him an obvious trade candidate. He doesn’t hit for a high average but is fourth on the Jays with 43 RBIs. He can really hit left-handed pitching, evidenced by a .329 batting average entering Tuesday’s encounter with Cliff Lee.

    There’s not a huge demand for catching now, but it’s possible that the Cubs could get involved with Geovany Soto on the disabled list.

  • Scott Rolen, 3B — Rolen has enjoyed a career renaissance this year, batting .318 with six home runs and 35 RBIs.

    A number of contenders — the Mariners, for one — would love to add Rolen’s veteran bat and steady glove. But he has a big contract for this year and next, making him an unrealistic option for a team with Seattle’s payroll. Unless Boston’s Mike Lowell has a recurrence of his hip trouble, there probably won’t be a suitor with the sufficient combination of need and resources.

    Even then, there’s a better chance that Rolen will be traded than either Alex Rios or Vernon Wells. With both outfielders, they have underperformed their hefty contracts by too great a margin to be moved in this economy … and maybe any other.