With the Blue Jays’ offense struggling, here are some trade options for the club to consider if they are looking to improve
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As of this writing, the Blue Jays sit a solid third in the American League East, three games behind the Evil Yankees and and one game behind the confounding Rays. The Jays are five and half games up on the rebuilding Orioles are six games up on the struggling Red Sox. As things stand now they would qualify for a playoff spot with a projected record of 96-66.
The good news is that the Blue Jays sit in this position and are not yet hitting on all cylinders. While their offence was predicted to be a team strength they are 18th in baseball in scoring runs. They are 9th in batting average, 19th in on-base percentage, 6th in slugging and third in home runs. With runners on base their Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) ranks 25th with a measly .257. With runners in scoring position that measure drops to a horrible .185 (for context the Nationals lead baseball with .349 BABIP with runners in scoring position). What this tells us is that the Jays have had some serious bad luck, and as this statistic normalizes – and it will – the runs will once again start crossing the plate at a better clip. As the team hard hit rate and fly ball rate with runners on base is close to the best in the league, one could say they are ‘barrelling the ball’ while others could argue they are ‘swinging for the fences’ too much. The reality is about perspective I suppose.
Even with the eventual improvement in hitting with runners in scoring position, this offence still needs a bit of help. Way too many at bats are being given to the likes of Zack Collins, Raimel Tapia, Bradley Zimmer etc. I have long been an advocate of a team having a full time designated hitter, which is in contrast to the Jays team philosophy of rotating everyday players through the DH to get them a rest. The problem I have with this is that the Jays do not have a good enough bench to make this work.
The need to improve the bench is actually good news. It is much ‘cheaper’ in prospect capital to acquire bench players than everyday players. While not many teams are ‘out of the race’ just yet, there are a few teams that will likely consider trading such players in the near future.
One potential is Washington National outfielder Yadiel Hernandez. The 34 year old left handed batter has started strong with a a .373 / .394 / .522 slash line. In 289 at bats last year he slashed .273 / .329 / .413 so the real numbers would probably be somewhere in between. I suspect he could be acquired relatively cheaply and would be a much improved bat off the bench / DH than the current options for the Blue Jays.
Another 34 year old outfielder that could possibly help is the Cincinnati Reds Tommy Pham. He is an experienced professional hitter and is off to a solid start again this year. He has a career slash line of .264 / .363 / .447. Pham can gets some quality at bats at the DH spot with the Jays and spell the corner outfielders when they need a rest. A free agent at the end of the year, he would not be overly expensive to acquire.
Another option is former Blue Jay Johnathan Villar currently of the Chicago Cubs. Although he was nothing short of a disaster in his 22 games with the Jays in 2020 he is a proven quality bench player on a playoff caliber team and can play all over the infield.
One final bench upgrade worth mentioning here would be Kansas City Royal perennial trade candidate (at least in the rumour world) Whit Merrifield. While he is off to a terrible start to the current season his career .287 batting average and .333 on base percentage would look nice coming off the bench for the Jays. Defensively, he can play second base and all three outfield positions.
While there may not many teams willing to trade away veterans at this time of year, the Jays may be well advised to attempt to acquire some of this bench depth sooner rather than later. This team does not need to ‘wait to see where we are at the trade deadline’, they know they are a playoff team and should know they need an improved bench. The time to act is now.
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Jason C MacDonald has been a Blue Jays fan since the late 1980’s. His lifelong passion for Baseball and the Blue Jays has recently led him to start writing at JFtC. When not working at his day job or driving his two teenage sons to their sporting events Jason is usually reading, listening, watching or now writing about baseball.