Toronto sends Gose to Tigers for prospect Travis
Second baseman will compete for starting job on Blue Jays next season
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays potentially found their second baseman of the future by acquiring Devon Travis from the Tigers late Wednesday night in exchange for outfielder Anthony Gose.
The move fills an area of need for Toronto, while also paving the way for Dalton Pompey to take over everyday duties in center field. The deal was officially announced at the annual General Managers Meetings, which took place this week in Phoenix.
The Blue Jays had some depth to spare in center field, but they lacked potential impact prospects at either of the two middle-infield positions. Travis has yet to play above Double-A, but he will have an opportunity to compete for the starting job at second, unless Toronto pulls off another move later this winter.
"I think this was just a good baseball trade for both teams," Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told reporters during a conference call on Thursday. "[The Tigers] were thin in center field, we were thin in middle-infield prospects. They had depth there and we had depth in center. I don't think either one of us wanted to trade our respective players, but it made sense for both clubs."
Travis was ranked as the No. 4 prospect in Detroit's system and now slides into the No. 9 ranking for Toronto, according to MLB.com. He was recently named the Tigers' top prospect by Baseball America, and he is coming off a year that saw him hit .298 with an .817 OPS in 100 games. Travis posted 10 home runs and 52 RBIs while striking out 60 times in 396 at-bats.
There are some question marks about Travis' overall upside, but most reports suggest he projects to be an everyday second baseman at the big league level. He's a solid defender, makes consistent contact at the plate and is more of a gap hitter than a slugger.
At the very least, Travis should expect to make the jump to Triple-A Buffalo in 2015, but he could also find himself on the big league roster. Infielder Maicer Izturis tends to perform better in a utility role, while 26-year-old Ryan Goins was unable to hold down the starting job at second in 2014.
"We think Travis is an outstanding player. We think he can come quick," Anthopoulos said. "He does a lot of things we like. He'll put the bat on the ball, his contact skills are good, he can draw up some walks, he uses the whole field. The makeup is off the charts.
"We'd expect [Travis] to start in Triple-A next year, but we wouldn't rule out ... competing for a job at second base. This deal, for us, was about acquiring Travis more so than any other component with respect to Gose."
Detroit was willing to deal Travis because he was blocked at second base by Ian Kinsler, who is signed through the 2017 season. The Tigers also had a need for a natural center fielder who can provide above-average defense, and that's where Gose comes into play.
The 24-year-old Gose once was one of the Blue Jays' top prospects, but he spent the last three years bouncing back and forth between Toronto and Buffalo. He covers more ground than just about anyone in baseball and has plus speed on the basepaths, but shortcomings at the plate limited his overall impact.
Prospect acquired by Blue Jays
|Devon Travis, 2B: A 13th-round pick from Florida State in 2012, Travis had a stunning first full pro season in 2013. He batted .351/.418/.518 with 16 homers and 22 steals between two Class A stops, ranking second in the Minors in hitting and third with 177 hits. Despite being bothered by an oblique injury at the start of the 2014 season, Travis turned in a solid encore in Double-A by hitting .298/.358/.460 and again reaching double figures in homers (10) and steals (16). The 23-year-old Travis repeatedly makes hard contact at the plate and has the ability to drive the ball into the gaps. He's a solid runner who gets the job done at second base, though the Tigers began exposing him to center field at the end of the season. Travis would have gotten more outfield work in the Arizona Fall League, but he got hurt trying to beat out an infield single in late August and had core-muscle surgery in September.|
-- Jim Callis
Gose often struggled to make consistent contact and struck out 170 times in 552 career at-bats. He has shown flashes of brilliance, but his career slash line of .234/.301/.332 leaves a lot to be desired. There is plenty of time left in his career, but the offensive deficiencies will eventually have to be solved for Gose to be able to live up to his original billing.
"He's a Gold Glove-caliber defender in center field, with probably as good of an outfield arm as you're going to find and game-changing speed," Anthopoulos said of Gose. "He's still improving with the bat, but with that being said, we do have Dalton Pompey, we do have [Kevin] Pillar and a dearth of middle-infield prospects and guys we think can come quick."
Pompey began last season at Class A Advanced Dunedin, but he rocketed through the club's Minor League system and eventually made his Major League debut as a September callup.
The 21-year-old appeared in 17 games and hit .231 (9-for-39) with four extra-base hits, four RBIs and 12 strikeouts. The sample size was small, but it appears the Blue Jays saw enough to place him on the depth chart ahead of Gose and Pillar.
Pompey will receive some competition during Spring Training, but as of now, he seems to be the favorite for the starting job. Toronto could still decide to add another center fielder to the roster, but that position is pretty far down the list of priorities. The Blue Jays still have to sign a left fielder, acquire multiple relievers, possibly add another second baseman and come up with a solution for designated hitter.
"Dalton, last year, he was a nice surprise," Anthopoulos said. "We liked him, but he really came on. He does a lot of things that we like. Even Pillar as well, he started to make strides. Having watched him at the end of the year, the quality of his at-bats got better. ...
"Dalton and Pillar both, we feel like we're in a pretty good spot there and there was really no one internally, other than a guy like Goins, who is on the [40-man roster] from a middle-infield standpoint for us."