The Blue Jays are expected to be players in the trade market after the new CBA is in place. But do they have the trade chips to make a big splash?
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With the signing of Kevin Gausman and the extension
I use Baseball Trade Values’ player values in this and other analyses. Not because they are always perfect – no site is – but because they are objective and they get input from multiple mlb sources.
Going into 2021, the Jays had a number of excellent potential trade chips Their 10 “tradeable” players with values of $20 million plus (I am not including Bo and Vladdy, given that the odds of trading them are infinitesimal) had an aggregate trade value per Baseball Trade Values in January 2021 of $358 million, led by Austin Martin ($58m), Cavan Biggio ($53m), Nate Pearson ($47m) and Jordan Groshans ($40m).
Unfortunately for the Jays, the picture in January 2022 is not quite as bright. The aggregate BTV value for Toronto of those 10 players has dropped from $358 million to $142 million. Martin and Woods Richardson are gone (for enquiring minds, their aggregate BTV value has fallen from $83 million to $36 million). Of the remaining eight of the 2021 top-ten, seven have declined in value.
On the bright side, bother Moreno and Manoah have seen their value skyrocket. But it would be difficult to see either of those two players traded, given that they fill current positions of need, other than in an absolute blockbuster of a deal.
So what does this mean for the upcoming post-lockout trade tsunami?
An elite upgrade – think Alcantara (BTV value $75 million) or Lopez ($57m) on the mound, or Ramirez ($74m) in the infield – now appears out of reach. There comes a point for a player like Groshans or Pearson where it makes more sense to keep them, and gamble on their (considerable!) upside, rather than trade them for peanuts. For many of these players, their values may well be approaching that point.
A second tier trade upgrade might still be feasible, however. Think Matt Chapman (BTV $24m) or Ketel Marte ($37m). They would still cost multiple players (Groshans + Gurriel Jr. for Chapman?) but such a trade would not completely destroy the “prospect pipeline” that Shapiro and Atkins see as critical to long-term contention. But is a Chapman (with a Steamer projected 3.7 fWAR/600) a sufficient upgrade over a Santiago Espinal (projected 2.0 fWAR/600) to justify the cost?
It might also be possible to target a good player with only a single year of team control left. Like a Sean Manaea (BTV $19m) or Chris Bassitt ($17m). For such players, the limited team control should (?) keep the price down (Groshans + Kloffenstein for Manaea?). But this approach also comes with questions – not only the “moving the needle” argument used above for Chapman, but also the danger of an all-in paradigm. I can see this type of deal – at the right price, and to the right degree – as a very real possibility for Toronto this offseason. Particularly if they have players (like Martin last year) who they see as dispensable (and potentially more valuable as trade chips).
The team could also choose an option that would give Toronto the time to evaluate their current resources. Consider the fifth starter. It is entirely possible that a Pearson (or Hatch, or Kay, or Thornton/Merryweather/Murphy/Stripling/Anderson) could kick down the door in spring training and claim the fifth starter gig, much like Manoah did in 2021. This would be the ideal outcome for the Jays, both because they would not have to spend trade capital to get a Bassitt and because a Pearson or Hatch is a longer-term (and cheaper!) solution.
So suppose the Jays signed a Matt Boyd, who was released by the Tigers due to his flexor tendon surgery in late September 2021, which is expected to keep him out until June or July 2022? For something like 2/$10m, perhaps with a team option or two? There is (sadly) a very real chance that the 2022 season will not start on time anyway. And even if it does, based on the current Jays schedule for 2022 April and May, the Jays would only need a #5 starter four times in those two months (assuming the #1-4 always pitch on regular rest). And if the Jays have five strong starters in the rotation when Boyd comes back, well, there are worse problems to have.
The bottom line
The Jays are not in as strong a trade position as once they were, which significantly reduces the odds of a blockbuster trade after the new CBA is announced. Toronto will accordingly have to focus on deals that make efficient use of their trade capital. So a mid-tier deal, or a one-year rental, is entirely possible. Or they could go out of the box, as with a Boyd (or a Kirby Yates!). The remaining offseason might not be spectacular, but it might very well be highly interesting!
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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.