If the Blue Jays are buyers at the trade deadline, might they be able to meet their primary needs with a single trade partner?
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The Jays are a good team in 2021 – better than their record indicates. But they are likely still a few pieces away from being serious contenders to make the playoffs and advance. Some of these pieces might be filled with existing resources (welcome back, George Springer!) but it is likely that the Jays will need to be active at the trade deadline.
Problem is, it is difficult to make a trade – let alone the two or three trades that the Jays would need to make to fill all of their needs. It would therefore be ideal if the Jays could find a single trade partner who could fill multiple needs – like the Kyle Seager + Kendall Graveman option discussed by my colleague Shaun Doyle in a previous article.
So what would the Jays’ top three needs be at the deadline?
We can argue about the priority, but I would suggest that the top needs are:
- A dependable, veteran bullpen arm. Does not have to be a closer, but needs to be someone who can step into a back-of-bullpen (BoB) role. Multiple years of team control would be nice, but not required
- A left-handed hitting player who can play plus defense at 3B and who can provide at least decent offensive production. Team control through at least 2022 would be preferable, to give Austin Martin / Jordan Groshans / (Samad Taylor?) time to develop in the minors.
- A solid, #2 starter (r-scale – which means a 3.50-3.99 ERA). Does not need to be a veteran, but ideally would have 3-4 years under their belt so they could mentor the Pearson / Manoah / Thornton / Kay / SWR / etc “kids”. Ideally under team control for at least 2022, though more years would be nice.
So let’s talk about Colorado.
Daniel Bard will turn 36 this month. He is under team control through 2022, and is currently pitching to a cromulent 4.20 ERA – but with a 3.49 xFIP and a 3.39 SIERA, both of which indicate upside. Bard has been working as Colorado’s closer, with 6 saves in 2020 and 9 so far in 2021, so high leverage is nothing new to him. With Jordan Romano pitching so well (and Julian Merryweather projected to return in July) he would not likely close for the Jays (though he could in a pinch), but he could potentially excel in a setup or high-leverage Miller Time role.
Ryan McMahon has been an outstanding defensive third basemen for years. From 2019-21, his +7 Outs Above Average (OOA) is 7th among 3Bs – and he did it in only 171 attempts, for a +16 OOA/400 (by comparison, Nolan Arenado had a +26 OOA, but in 788 attempts for an OOA/400 of only +13) Problem is, McMahon has struggled with the bat, with a career wRC+ of 81 coming into 2021. But he is hitting better in 2021, with a 104 wRC+, and his Statcast x-stats suggest that this new level is sustainable. He is under team control through 2023. And some might argue that if the Jays had the luxury of choosing between a plus-fielding, average hitting 3B or a plus-hitting, average fielding one, they should choose the former.
And finally, Germán Márquez is one of the most-discussed potential trade targets in baseball. His career ERA of 4.24 is not outstanding, but pitching at Coors has a way of inflating a pitcher’s stats – his 4.24 career ERA is composed of 4.85 at home and 3.67 on the road. So not a Bieber or a deGrom, but a very solid #2. The kind of pitcher you would be happy starting game 2 of the World Series. And GM is under inexpensive team control through 2024, so he is a player the team could build around.
None of these three players are holy-cow-Batman MVP candidates (though the Jays could always hope!). But the Jays should be close enough that they do not need three Harry Potters to contend – and they should not need to pay the uber prices three superstars would command.
Which brings us to the price.
Baseball trade values, while not perfect, usually gives a good, objective view of a player’s trade value. They estimate Bard to be worth $1.2 million, McMahon $18.4m and Márquez $58.7m. So an aggregate of just under $80m.
What does that translate to, in terms of a price to Toronto?
Colorado would only do this deal if they were in rebuild mode, so it is likely that they would be looking primarily for prospects and players with multiple years of team control rather than mlb veterans. And to move Márquez, there would have to be at least one Marquee prospect. So the package would have to start with Martin, Moreno, Pearson or Groshans. If those were my choices, I might (reluctantly!) choose Martin, as he might be blocked at 3B and CF (his two natural positions). The difference between Martin’s $50m value and the $80m Colorado package could be made up with a Kirk (value $24m) or Martinez ($27m), or with a package of lesser valued players who are not considered essential to the Jays’ future (names like Tellez and Kloffenstein and Hiraldo come to mind).
The bottom line
The Jays might be able, with a single Colorado trade, to fill most of their highest priority needs. The addition of Bard + McMahon + Márquez could dramatically improve the Jays’ World Series odds, both in 2021 and beyond. And it would make the 2021 season a lot more fun to watch!
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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A Jays fan since pre-Series, Jim’s biggest baseball regret is that he did not play hooky with his buddies on 7 Apr 77. But hearing “Fanfare For The Common Man” played from a rooftop on 24 Oct 92 helped him atone.