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Source: Jays seek elite prospect for Downs

07.26.10 at 11:37 am ET
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According to a major league source, the Blue Jays have been aiming high in the sort of prospect return that they’ve sought in exchange for left-handed reliever Scott Downs, in whom a number of clubs are believed to be interested. The source said that Toronto has been asking for one of the top two or three prospects in the farm systems of interested clubs.

In the case of the Red Sox, that would be consistent with a suggestion by Peter Gammons on WEEI earlier this month that the Jays asked for shortstop Jose Iglesias in exchange for Downs.

With Hideki Okajima (3-3, 5.81) enmeshed in his worst year as a Red Sox, Boston’s need for a middle reliever (especially a left-handed one) is apparent. The 34-year-old Downs (4-5, 2.41) — whose 2.29 ERA since the start of the 2007 season is the third best among southpaws with at least 100 innings pitched over that span, trailing only Arthur Rhodes (2.10) and Billy Wagner (2.24) — represents an obvious solution to that need.

The Jays can aim high on Downs in part because he likely will be a Type A free agent following this season, meaning that he could net two draft picks should he reject an arbitration offer and sign elsewhere in free agency, just as was the case with the Sox and Wagner a year ago. Even so, to date, the Sox and other clubs have balked at parting with a top prospect for a middle reliever, leading the source to conclude that any deal involving Downs seems unlikely “until just before the deadline if at all.”

Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said last month that the Sox would be cautious about using top prospects to deal for relief help, given the performance uncertainty surrounding such acquisitions in the middle of the pennant race.

“You add a really good reliever, it always makes our team better,” Epstein said. “That said, you trade for two or three months of a reliever, doesn’t matter if it’s a good one or a great one, you still don’t know what you’re going to get. So you don’t necessarily always want to give up good prospects to get that type of guy, because you’re not sure what you’re going to get in a small sample size from a reliever.”

For a complete look at midyear trades for relief help made by the Red Sox under Epstein, click here.

Read More: Hideki Okajima, jose iglesias, Scott Downs,
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