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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Are the Jays stalking the Cardinals?

It was a garden-variety transaction, easily lost among the many housekeeping kinds of moves teams make this time of year as they prepare for the free agent and Rule 5 seasons.

“The Toronto Blue Jays claimed minor league infielder Mike McCoy off waivers from the Colorado Rockies.”

St. Louis Cardinals fans probably remember McCoy, 28. During spring training 2008, he was traded by the Cardinals to the Baltimore Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate in return for future considerations.

McCoy was originally taken by the Cardinals in the 34th round of the 2002 draft. Primarily a second baseman and shortstop, the versatile right-hander is the consummate utilityman, having also played at third base as well as in the outfield and even pitched in a pinch.

In his sixth season in the Cardinals system, 2007, McCoy reached Triple-A Memphis for the first time, where he batted .247 in 239 at-bats. Overall in his Cardinals career, McCoy posted a .256/.360/.339 line in 2070 minor league ABs.

McCoy moved to Colorado in a trade in June, 2008 and re-signed with the Rockies organization this January. He hit .307 with two home runs, 52 RBIs, 102 runs and 40 steals at Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2009 and was rewarded with his first-ever promotion to the Majors on September 8.

He played winter ball in Mexico each of the last two winters, including this one. We are tracking McCoy’s results in the subscriber-only Winter Leagues Notebook on the main site.

But this post isn’t about McCoy as much as what he represents – another example of the high value the Toronto Blue Jays seem to place on Cardinals farmhands.

The actions began under former Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi, and are continuing under his home-grown successor, Alex Antopoulos. The new GM was quoted in Canada’s National Post as saying his team needs to rebuild again, saying they “have to be open-minded to anything.”

Apparently, that includes stocking up on former Cardinals infielders, as they grabbed second baseman Jarrett Hoffpauir off the waiver wire just last week.

Going back further, former Cardinals prospect Cody Haerther was claimed by Toronto from St. Louis two different times. The first was off waivers two years ago, only to have the Cardinals take him back when Toronto tried to clear him the next week.

Last winter, Haerther was left exposed to the Rule 5 draft on the Springfield roster, where he was again claimed by the Jays. At that point, he was not required to be placed onto the 40-man roster and remained in Toronto’s system.

It happened again one year ago when the Cardinals lost reliever Kelvin Jimenez to Toronto on another waiver claim. That time, the Jays waited two weeks to try to slip Jimenez through waivers, but the Chicago White Sox nabbed him.

The focus of the National Post article from where I extracted the Antopoulos quote above was not waiver claims, but instead the future of Jays’ ace Roy Halladay. Perhaps Ricciardi’s final failure was to dangle his 2003 Cy Young Award-winning pitcher in the trade market this summer only to pull him back.

The Canadian paper thinks Toronto is still trying to deal Halladay, who is under contract through the 2010 season at $15.75 million. Four clubs are identified as being the favorites, the Red Sox, Mets, Dodgers and Angels. St. Louis appears as the first name in the second tier, called “Possibilities”.

The writer notes the Cardinals have the financial resources to assume Halladay’s contract and he is a former teammate of Chris Carpenter. He does not mention the money tied up in the Cardinals’ top three starters, their dwindling stash of minor league trade chips nor the fact that most of the excess payroll will probably be applied to the offense, however.

While anything is possible, the idea of the Cardinals taking on Halladay seem far-fetched to me – unless the Jays would like to assume the final three years of Kyle Lohse’s contract, that is.

There is a slight precedence. The Cards saved a year in the Scott Rolen-Troy Glaus trade between the two clubs during the 2007-2008 off-season. Rolen had three years remaining at the time while Glaus had just two in his then-current deal.

The clubs are not common trade partners though. Their last deal prior to the third baseman swap was the Pat Hentgen trade in late 1999. Hentgen, like Halladay a former American League Cy Young Award winner (1996), became a Tony La Russa favorite despite playing in St. Louis just one season, 2000.

Could Halladay be next?

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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