The Blue Jays are likely to be buyers at the trade deadline (or even sooner!). There are many potential trade targets, some of whom were once in the Jays organization
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The Blue Jays are in the unusual (and very welcome!) position of having a team that is largely complete going into the trade deadline. There are no gaping holes, as existed in prior years, so the needs are more wants – another power arm or two in the bullpen, perhaps one more experienced MLB starter, maybe one more boomstick DH/PH/1B, possibly an upgrade at the utility infielder position (since Santa is looking *so* good at second base!)
Several teams are struggling, and appear likely to be sellers at the deadline. Interestingly (amusingly?) several of the players that might be available for trade have prior connections to the Jays. As for example:
Jeff Hoffman of the Reds has appeared in 14 games so far in 2022 in relief, with a 1.74 ERA and a 2.56 xERA. Jeff was drafted by Toronto in 2014 draft (9th overall) and was the headliner in the Troy Tulowitzki trade in 2015. Jeff is a free agent in 2025. It is unlikely (though stranger things have happened) that he will move back to the rotation, so the Jays would be getting a potentially solid 8th inning setup man with multiple years of team control.
And while we are talking about Cincy – remember Brandon Drury? Acquired with Billy McKinney in the 2018 J.A. Happ trade, Brandon has played every position but centre field and catcher (yes, he *did* pitch to two batters in 2021!) in his career, and is currently hitting at a 132 wRC+ clip for the Reds. Statcast x-stats say that his year is for real (with the usual small sample size caveats). Drury is a free agent at the end of 2022, and so might not be too expensive. A possible upgrade over Vinny Capra?
Fans might remember Joel Payamps of the Royals for the ping-pong game of waivers between Toronto and Boston in 2021. Toronto claimed him off waivers on February 10, only to have Boston claim him on February 22nd … and Toronto re-claim him on March 6th! Payamps was traded to Kansas City on July 21 after being waived on July 16, with many speculating that the Jays did the trade because Boston had submitted yet another waiver claim. JP had a 3.40 ERA and 2.92 xERA in 2021, and is pitching to a 1.47/2.88 so far in 2022. Like Hoffman, JP has decent heat (a fastball averaging 95 and touching 97) but his strikeout rate of roughly 8 is not extraordinary. Still, his 0.4 fWAR to date is higher than any Toronto reliever.
Dany Jiménez of the A’s signed with Toronto as an international free agent in 2015. He spent five years in the Toronto system, with his strong fastball and a solid slider translating to a 16.70 K/9 in high-A ball in 2019 and a 14.71 in triple-A in 2021. But he has struggled with command and control. In 2021, he had a 5.04 BB/9 and a 16.7% HR/FB ratio. As a result, Dany was not offered a contract after the 2021 year. He elected free agency and signed a minor league deal with Oakland. So far in 2022, Dany appears to have turned a corner – his BB/9 is 2.76 and he has yet to give up a home run in 16 appearances (16.1 innings), while striking out more than a player per inning. If the Jays believe that this is more epiphany than blip, Dany could be another candidate for setup or high-leverage duties.
There are other ex-Jays that are potentially interesting, but likely not as good a fit. Daniel Norris of the Cubs has an 11.37 K/9 so far in 2022. Some would argue that this is exactly what the Jays need in their bullpen for high-leverage situations – a strikeout machine. But D-No also comes with a 4.97 BB/9. His ERA is 5.68 but his xERA is 3.57. A buy-low candidate? … Aaron Sanchez pitched to a solid 3.87 xERA with the Giants in 2021, but is struggling with Washington in 2022 with an xERA over five. Is that good enough for a 6th starter? … Tyler Beede (well, he was *almost* a Jay!) was just claimed off waivers by Pittsburgh. He has struggled in his brief mlb career, but he does have three 50-grade pitches … Zach Jackson has a 2.89 ERA, 3.57 xERA, and 12.05 K/9 so far with Oakland. Has he fully unpacked yet? … and Daniel Vogelbach (the 2019 all-star with Seattle) has a 127 wRC+ as a left-handed DH (who can also play first) so far with Pittsburgh – and his Statcast x-stats say that he has been unlucky. A Josh Bell-lite?
The bottom line
It is fun to speculate on the players that the Jays might target at the trade deadline. Obviously, many things could change between now and then (a Cavan Biggio resurgence? A healthy Nate and Julian joining the Jay ‘pen with 100 mph+ gas? A minor leaguer like Zulueta dominating his way to the MLB roster?). But a Blue Jay reunion is not out of the question.
*Featured Images 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.