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JFtC’s Blue Jays Trade Targets

The staff of Jays From the Couch have chosen their trade targets for the Toronto Blue Jays’ offseason


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The Toronto Blue Jays should will be looking to build on their 91-71 season this offseason. They have one of the best lineups in baseball and money to spend as well as a rather nice farm system from which to draw. The playoffs should be an expectation. How they maneuver the winter months will go a long way to living up to said expectations. JFtC staff have a list of trade targets as well. We’ve already presented our list of free agents HERE.

 

Jason MacDonald: A trade for Justin Turner makes sense given the current circumstances surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays. While Santiago Espinal accounted well for himself in limited duty it does not seem that the Jays front office sees him as a long term solution at the position. I would suggest that the organization sees him more of a utility type and even one that can hold a position for an extended period should the need arise. Furthermore, with Jordan Groshans and Orelvis Martinez still at least a year away from the majors, acquiring a player on an expiring contract seems to make sense. Enter the Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner.

Turner is in the final year of his current contract which will pay him $20,000,000 in 2022 with a $2,000,000 buy out on a $16,000,000 team option for 2023. This gives the Jays a second year of control at a reasonable price should they decide to go that route. The 2022 cost of $20 million (plus $2 million for the buyout) is not unreasonable for Turner’s production and the Jays can easily afford it next year. The lack of a long term commitment is a very important consideration in his acquisition.

Justin Tuner has a career slash line of .278/.368/.470 and a career OPS+ of 127. Turner would fit in the Jays lineup extremely well hitting behind Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.and Teoscar Hernandez, adding much needed veteran protection for the young sluggers. In the field Turner can still hold his own at third, even if he is slowing somewhat at age thirty seven. With Espinal (and maybe Otto Lopez or Kevin Smith) on the bench there should be adequate late inning defensive replacements if needed.

From the Dodgers perspective, I have no idea if he is available. However, if they want to make a huge splash and sign one of the young shortstops on the free agent market to play third base, they may be willing to move him. I would suggest that given his age and contract status he could be had for a prospect in the top 15-30 range, or multiple lessor prospects that the Dodgers see something in. The Baseball Trade Values website gives him a value of 0.8 which basically means he has little to no trade value, provided the Dodgers are interested in moving him at all.

It was rumoured that the Blue Jays were interested in Turner last offseason.  Could the interest be rekindled a year later?

 

Bob Ritchie: Santiago Espinal had a very good 2021. He posted a 2.2 fWAR, his third-base defence scored an 89th percentile Outs Above Average (OAA), and he generated a 115 wRC+. That sounds like the Blue Jays should pencil Espinal in as the 2022 starting third baseman. Not so fast.

I believe that there are legitimate concerns regarding the likelihood that Espinal can replicate his 2021 batting prowess. Espinal’s OPS was 0.781, better than MLB’s median of 0.731 (MLB hitters with a minimum of 200 plate appearances). However, his xOPS, which is a better predictor of future OPS than OPS, was 0.682. In terms of percentile rankings, Espinal’s OPS was 71st, and his xOPS was 34th.

The Espinal analysis brings us to Colorado’s Ryan McMahon. McMahon, who is 26 and will be entering his second arbitration season, became the Rockies’ full-time third baseman in 2021. He produced a 2.5 fWAR and scored 10 OAA in 305 attempts; Espinal scored 5 OAA in 241 chances. Only Matt Chapman (17) and Ke’Bryan Hayes (13) scored higher OAA marks among third basemen. McMahon is a top-tier defender at third.

On the hitting front, the case for McMahon is less clear. In 2021, he produced a 0.777 OPS and a 0.739 xOPS, which is 69th and 60th in percentile terms. However, given the hitter-friendly Rockies stadium, McMahon’s OPS+ was 98, a tick below average. Stay with me; there are some positive signs to consider. During the 2021 season, McMahon made adjustments to his hitting approach that resulted in a lower K% (from 34.2% in 2020 to 24.7%). Also, McMahon’s 0.331 OBP exceeded 2020’s 0.295. McMahon is a disciplined batter: his mPDI was 86th percentile in 2021, which equals George Springer‘s percentile ranking.

According to Baseball Trade Values, the Blue Jays could acquire McMahon in exchange for Alejandro Kirk. The Blue Jays can afford to trade Kirk because they have Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire to handle the catching duties in the near term. They have Gabriel Moreno on the horizon. Colorado could be interested in Kirk for many reasons. First, the Rockies catchers produced an 83 wRC+ in 2021, which Kirk should improve. Second, their top-catching prospect (Drew Romo) is 20 and a few years away from an MLB roster. Third, Colorado has some good third basemen in their system: Elehuris Montero acquired in the Nolan Arenado trade to St. Louis and Aaron Schunk.

McMahon checks off many boxes for the Blue Jays. He will be under team control for two seasons, and his 2022 contract will likely be in the range of USD 7 to 8 million. He is a plus-plus defender, bats left, has attractive raw power (67th percentile in ISO for the 2021 season), and displays signs of becoming a better hitter. Toronto would improve their roster by moving Espinal into the utility infielder role and assigning McMahon third-base duties.

 

Jim Scott: The problem with free agent pitchers like Robbie Ray, Steven Matz and Kevin Gausman is that they are on the wrong side of 30, and thus likely in decline mode. In an ideal world, the Jays would acquire a younger pitcher, with multiple years of team control. Ideally an ace, or at least a true #1. Someone like Sandy Alcantara of the Marlins, whose 4.2 fWAR was 13th among MLB starters in 2021 (his ERA and xERA were both 15th, and his 205 innings pitched was 4th).

The Marlins are said to be looking to extend Sandy, much as they were trying to extend Starling Marte earlier this season. When Marte declined their offer, he was traded. Might a similar situation occur with Alcantara (and might he know that declining their extension offer might be his ticket to a contending team?) The Marlins are heavily rumoured to be looking to trade arms for bats this offseason. If Alcantara refuses to extend, might he and his remaining 3 years of team control be the arm they choose to move?

The Marlins are said to be looking for a young, controllable catcher and for a strong outfield bat. Alcantara’s value has been estimated at over $70 million (by Baseball Trade Values) so he would not come cheap. But the Jays could offer Gabriel Moreno (BTV value $57m), who could become Miami’s catcher of the future, plus Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (BTV value $4m, but as recently as the beginning of 2021 his value was over $25m), whose Cuban baseball royalty family might appeal to the Miami Cuban community. If there were still a gap (i.e. depending on how Miami valued Gurriel) players like Espinal, Hoglund, Hiraldo and Lopez could be in the discussion. It would hurt to lose Moreno, but if the Jays could acquire Alcantara and sign a solid r-scale 3-2 like Matz or Jon Gray, the 2022 rotation could become an impressive Alcantara – Berrios – Ryu – Manoah – Matz, with Pearson / Merryweather / Hatch knocking on the door.

 

Shaun Doyle: I like the outside the box thinking of trading for a pitcher. However, I think starters is where Toronto should be spending money since trade prices are likely to be sky high for the arms they would be looking for. So, if the Blue Jays are going to trade for a position player, the most obvious target should be a third baseman.

Obviously, Jose Ramirez is a dream, one that the Blue Jays tried to make happen, but were unable to. He would make a lot of sense and bring a significant bat, particularly from the left side, which Toronto needs. However, for Ramirez, the cost would have to be sky high. For that reason, I’m going to look elsewhere. I’m looking to Oakland. We all remember Toronto trading for a star third baseman at the beginning of the 2014 offseason and it worked out well for them. One cannot help but wonder if Ross Atkins can make history repeat itself. I would love to see a trade for Matt Chapman.

Chapman will not be a free agent until 2024, which gives lots of team control that lines up nicely with the current competitive window. In 2022, he is set to earn $9.5M and he’s only going to get more expensive, which is something the Athletics would probably like to avoid. The Blue Jays have enough money coming off the books to more than cover his 2022 salary.

In 2018/19 Chapman put up back to back 6+ fWAR seasons, hitting 24 and 36 homers respectively. His power would play rather nicely in the AL East, methinks. Of course, his declining batting average is concerning, especially since it landed at just .210 last season. He will strike out a lot, but the power is too tantalizing. His power ranks him near the top of MLB in several categories (Brl%, xSLG, xISO, etc).

However, if the strike outs and low batting average give you reason to pause, Chapman’s defensive numbers may get you going again. The guy is good. He put up a whipping 17 OAA in 2021, which led all third basemen. All of them. He’s also worth 5 OAA going to his left…toward short stop…if that means anything to you. Trading for a defensive third baseman who can hit 30 homers would be something the Blue Jays HAVE TO think hard on.

BTV thinks that sending Alejandro Kirk and 2021 19th overall pick, Gunnar Hoglund, could get the deal done. That might be a bit pricey, but flags fly forever, right? They traded the 5th overall pick from the year before, so it shows that they are willing, but also that they probably won’t. But, perhaps, Otto Lopez and Kevin Smith (both of whom BTV thinks would work) could be acceptable instead.

 

Steve Fek: TRADE TARGET- Jorge Mateo UTIL Baltimore Orioles. Most baseball adages prove to be either cliched or proven wrong by advanced analytics. The one core scouting adage that will forever ring true is, “You can’t teach speed”. If you match excellent speed with power and positional flexibility, you have yourself a valuable MLB commodity. Enter Orioles utility player Jorge Mateo into the Blue Jays trade crosshairs.

Although Mateo was signed as an International Free Agent by the Yankees in 2012, the right hand hitting Dominican is only 26 years old. Talented enough to be named twice to Futures Game roster, his speed and above average defensive skills at multiple positions have seen Mateo play for four Major League organizations. Mateo was a key piece of the Oakland A’s return for Sonny Gray in 2017, Mateo was twice named by Baseball America as the speediest prospect in the minor leagues. Making his Major League debut with the Padres in 2020, Mateo was claimed on waivers by Baltimore this past August and put together a slash line of .280/.328/.421/.748 across 116 late season plate appearances.

As impressive as his offensive flashes were, Mateo seemed at home playing both corner outfield positions as well as at shortstop, second base and 17 flawless chances at third base. Given the organizational infatuation with positional flexibility, Mateo would fit the profile of a valuable bench option who can pinch run or pinch hit late in a game and provide a defensive upgrade at multiple positions. When you factor in the Blue Jays search for production and range at third base in 2022, Mateo could play himself into consideration as the starter at the hot corner as well.

Mateo is precisely the type of value the front office targets in any trade discussions. The team must try to diversify their lineup with hitters like Mateo, who lend legitimate speed and positional flexibility. Given the depth of Toronto’s minor league talents, especially in the middle infield, a package of two low level prospects would satisfy a still-rebuilding Baltimore asking price. A reasonable price to solidify the Blue Jays with a young, experienced utility option off the bench without seriously depleting the ranks of major league-ready prospects for a Toronto team expected to contend for an AL East title in 2022.

 

 

 

 

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Shaun Doyle

Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.