If the Blue Jays are going to pull off a big trade, they may have to dip into their big league talent. But, who would that include?
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The Toronto Blue Jays are likely to add one more infielder and a starter before the 2022 season begins. There are many avenues down which they can travel to accomplish this. Free agency is one way to not only get what you need, but keep your farm system in tact. Unfortunately, the funds required to go down that road are not infinite. For that reason, the club may need to pull off a trade, and if it is to land an impact bat or starter, they will likely have to pull from their big league roster. There are a few names that could be playing elsewhere in 2022.
With three catchers on the big league roster, it stands to reason that one of them could be traded. Of course, the Blue Jays could very well simply try to sneak Reese McGuire through waivers (as he’s out of options) in the hopes of keeping him in their organization. That seems unlikely, though. He is a decent back up catcher and will make league minimum in 2022. It becomes more unlikely when you consider the trade value of the other two options behind the plate.
Danny Jansen has solidified himself behind the plate and brings value that can’t be found on Fangraphs or any other stat site. He has built a relationship with his pitchers that the club will not want to destroy. That, and his defense, are exactly why he is not likely to be dealt. The Blue Jays imply value him more than his stat line would indicate. That leaves Alejandro Kirk. He could be seen as expendable given all of the above. And, his offensive production is very tantalizing. His ability to put bat to ball from the catcher position is something that teams around the league covet and he could be a
near everyday backstop right now. So, if I had to say right now if he will be traded, I’d say chances are very high.
Another trade chip on the big league roster is Lourdes Gurriel Jr. This one will be tough for some fans to think about as they have fallen in love with the potential he brings. His bat has had moments of great success and many believe he is now coming into his own and the Blue Jays would be foolish to part with him. Some of them will even point to back to back Gold Glove nominations and say he is rounding into a big league star. It would be tough to argue against those people.
But, if you think about the above and the contract that Gurriel comes with, it is actually very easy to see why major league clubs would jump at the chance to trade for him. In 2022, he will make $4.9M ($4.5M base salary and $428K signing bonus) and $5.8 (same signing bonus) in 2023. According to Spotrac, he would then have a year of arbitration before becoming a free agent in 2025. That’s three years of control at relatively minimal salary. The contract was a stroke of genius for a guy who will hit 20-25 HR, .270 and ~110 wRC+ at a minimum. He has tremendous value.
The fly in that ointment is that in order to deal him, the club would have to feel comfortable with a) keeping Randal Grichuk and/or b) bringing in an even more valuable or impactful outfield bat. That is tough to envision. Sure, they could use him to trade for a Jose Ramirez and run with an outfield of George Springer, Teoscar Hernandez and Randal Grichuk and keep a guy like Josh Palacios on the bench, but that feels rather thin. As we’ve seen, injuries happen. So, while Gurriel presents real trade value, it is more likely that he stays in Toronto…unless the trade is too good to pass up.
Let’s say it is for Jose Ramirez, who I would have thought to be a pipe dream, but when I spoke with Shi Davidi, I didn’t get the sense we should rule it out entirely. You’ll have to watch the whole interview as he didn’t directly say it could happen. But, let’s for a second imagine it is possible. The Blue Jays could stand to deal Gurriel (and probably Kirk) to make it happen IF their intention was to bring in a free agent on a short term deal. One option could be Michael Conforto, even though I have already decided he’s probably not a perfect fit. If Gurriel were dealt though, he might be.
For what it’s worth, Thomas Hall at Blue Jays Nation wrote that he sees Conforto as a good fit. I don’t disagree and, if Gurriel is traded, it makes a whole lot more sense. This (imaginary) scenario would mean adding JRam and Conforto by giving up Gurriel and Kirk (and likely minor league pieces), which is a net improvement for Toronto, at least on paper. Admittedly, it is dreaming, but I suppose anything is possible.
The final trade piece we should talk about is Randal Grichuk. I have been critical of Grichuk’s bat for a while now and have admitted that it wouldn’t take much for me to consider dealing him. The trouble there is that he is owed $10.3M in each of 2022 and 2023. That is a hefty price tag for someone who looks to be a fourth outfielder in Toronto. Sure, other teams could see him as an everyday guy, but his lack of on base ability would be a tough sell. Toronto would have to focus on his defensive value if they were to deal him. He can play CF if needed, which helps. But, it is that reason that he could actually help the Blue Jays. Remember when Springer was hurt? Grichuk helped lessen the sting. That said, there are cheaper ways to get a 4th outfielder. If I were to decide today, I would say that he could be dealt, but he won’t add significant value to an impact trade.
The three above are the most obvious names to consider in trade talks. Toronto has some fringe pitching, but would likely only include it if they have to. Guys like Trent Thornton, Anthony Kay and Ryan Borucki could be used in trade talks, but also provide depth, which is something competitive teams try to get more of rather than trade away. Expect the Blue Jays to include them if they have to (teams will likely look for ‘big league ready’ talent) but only if it gets a deal done. It’s not like these guys are going to be the main target in any deal. Cleveland wouldn’t exactly be starting JRam trade talks with Thornton, for example.
When the lockout dust is settled, it will be interesting to see if any of these guys are still in Blue Jays uniforms for the 2022 season. Toronto doesn’t have a whole lot of expendable big league talent, but what they do have represents pieces other teams would be looking for if they’re trading off stars. Kirk could slot in as a starting catcher. Gurriel absolutely would be a huge get. They also have depth pieces from which to draw. Beyond that, it is a crap shoot and near impossible to say for sure. Regardless, if an impact trade is to be made, we can say for sure that the Blue Jays do have the pieces to make it happen.
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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.