Idle Speculation

Thursday, November 21 2002 @ 08:59 AM EST

Contributed by: Coach

If the newspaper editor's adage is true (one letter's a crackpot, two a trend, and three an avalanche of opinion) then my Inbox was snowed under today with queries about a possible Orlando Hudson trade. Despite the sources (including Peter Gammons in a slow news week) this one is fun to contemplate.

2B, with the exception of the Alomar years, has been a revolving door of mediocrities in Toronto. We actually remember the hackmeister Damaso Garcia as a good one, because we've suffered through Danny Ainge and Joey Lawrence and so many others best forgotten. So why, just as the O-Dog seems ready to make an impact, would J.P. trade him?

Two reasons: Russ Adams and Dominic Rich. Adams, not your typical draft-and-hope selection, was a first team All-American at North Carolina, and was voted #1 prospect (those are Mark Mulder's footprints) in the Cape Cod League, which has also produced decent players like Nomar Garciaparra and Todd Helton. The SS, who is expected to end up at second, tore up the NY-Penn League in his pro debut (.464 OBP!) and will see plenty of time in AA New Haven this year.

Rich merely led the Florida State League in batting with a .345 mark, and like Adams, walks more often than he strikes out. It's reasonable to expect that one of these guys will be in Toronto as early as 2004, and with Dave Berg, Felipe Lopez, and/or another bargain free agent available to fill in, the Jays can afford to wait.

Moving Hudson makes sense only if the return is spectacular, and the juiciest rumour is exactly that. I know my colleague in this space has warned every GM against three-way deals that involve Billy Beane, but O-Dog to Colorado, the mighty Erubiel Durazo to Oakland, and two A's prospects to Toronto might just be a triple win. Especially if the kids are John Ford Griffin and Jason Arnold, acquired from the Yankees in the triangle trade of Jeff Weaver, Carlos Pena and Ted Lilly last summer.

OF Griffin hit over .400 three years in a row at Florida State, where his coach compared him quite favourably to former Seminole star J.D. Drew. RHP Arnold toyed with FSL hitters (7-1, 2.48, 83 K and just 22 BB in 80 IP) while still a Tampa Yankee, and handled the jump to AA for his new organization without missing a beat -- 5-1, 2.33, 53 K in 58 IP. Griffin and Arnold wouldn't help the Jays in 2003, but could be stars for a very long time once they arrive. (Aaron Harang, also mentioned in the scuttlebutt, would be in the Toronto rotation sooner, but doesn't have as high an upside as Arnold.)

It actually makes sense -- the Rockies' former 2B Jose Ortiz is off to Japan, and Hudson would put up insane Coors numbers (my over-under on triples is 15.) Durazo's left-handed power bat more than replaces Dave Justice, who nobody expects to return to Oakland (I have him going to the Saskatoon Legends of the Canadian Baseball League in the free agent prediction pool over at Clutch Hits; Gideon's forecast is slightly more credible, but still unlikely.) The A's need offence now, not when Griffin's ready; the still-rebuilding Jays, far ahead of the most optimistic agenda for returning to contention, have the luxury of patience.

Let's hope there's some "fire" amid all this smoke. I am Hudson's biggest fan, but for a better hitter than Drew and a pitcher who just keeps dominating at every new level, the Jays would be foolish to turn it down, especially with two exceptional 2B candidates on the not-too-distant horizon.