The first curious trade of the offseason happened Thursday night.
Why would the Rockies trade catcher Miguel Olivo when they could have retained him by exercising his $2.5 million option?
Why would the Blue Jays trade for Olivo and then pay him a $500,000 buyout when they might need him to replace free agent John Buck?
Start with the Rockies.
Olivo, 32, batted .269/.315/.449 with 14 homers in 394 at-bats for Colorado at-bats last season. He also threw out 40 percent of his attempted base stealers, the second-best rate in the National League.
Such a player, it would seem, is worth at least $2.5 million. But the Rockies recently hired hitting coach Carney Lansford to help revive catcher Chris Iannetta and some of their other young hitters. Olivo informed the club that if he could not play every day, he would rather be somewhere else, according to a major-league source.
The Rockies could have declined Olivo’s option and then offered him arbitration, ensuring that they would have received a draft pick between the first and second rounds if he departed as a Type B free agent.
But the risk in such a strategy is that Olivo might have accepted arbitration and cost the team $4 million or more.
The Blue Jays now inherit that risk.
They will pay the Rockies $25,000 if they decline to offer Olivo arbitration, a source said. If they re-sign Olivo or offer him arbitration, they will send the Rockies a player to be named instead of the money.
The Jays are indeed interested in re-signing Olivo – they pursued him last off-season before signing Buck. But if that happens, they will end up giving up a player for Olivo when they probably could have had him as a free agent without compensation. They also might not get him at a salary as low as $2.5 million – particularly if they offer Olivo arbitration and he accepts.
On the other hand, the Jays cound end up with a top-50 draft pick for Olivo for $525,000 – the $500,000 buyout price plus the $25,000 they would pay the Rockies. They also would need to pay the bonus to the draft pick, but for a team that places high value on young players, that apparently is a price they are willing to meet.
--Ken Rosenthal and Tracy Ringolsby