What's Their Situation?
The Toronto Blue Jays entered the 2020 offseason with a clear goal in mind: return to the American League playoffs in 2021 and make some noise.
The first step in attempting to accomplish this task was bringing in veteran offensive talent to complement young studs Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, so they went out and spent big on shortstop Marcus Semien (1-year, $18 million) and outfielder George Springer (6-years, $150 million).
The next step was to shore up the starting rotation, so they brought back Robbie Ray on a 1-year, $8 million deal and consummated a trade with the New York Mets for Steven Matz.
The final step was to bet that their aforementioned young core would take the next step in their development and become legitimate All-Star talent.
To this point, the Jays' plan has gone exceptionally well. While Springer has only appeared in 20 games due to oblique and quadriceps injuries, and Matz has mainly been mediocre (4.72 ERA), Toronto finds themselves in third place in the AL East and within striking distance of an AL Wild Card spot with 75 games remaining on their schedule. For this reason, in addition to the fact that they are hoping to (conveniently) return to the Bold North by July 30, there is perhaps no team more compelled to make a significant trade or two in the coming weeks than Toronto.
What Do They Need?
The Jays' offense was among the most fearsome in baseball during the first half of the season as they ranked second overall in home runs (130), OPS (.776), and OPS+ (110). Guerrero has officially completed his metamorphosis into one of the game's most feared sluggers, leading the team with 28 bombs and an absurd 1.089 OPS. Semien's production isn't far behind with his 22 homers and 4.3 WAR, and neither is Bichette's 16 dingers and 3.0 WAR. In all, the three form the foundation of a lineup that will leave any opposing pitchers shaking in their cleats should they qualify for the playoffs.
While it may not be their greatest need, Toronto would likely benefit greatly from adding a fourth outfielder or a super-utility player that can slot into one of the corner outfield spots on occasion. Teoscar Hernandez, Randal Grichuk, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. all have nice pop and are deserving to be full-time starters, but they sometimes struggle with reaching base consistently. Jonathan Davis, the Jays' primary fourth outfielder as of this writing, and his -0.3 WAR leaves a lot to be desired. Additionally, adding someone who can spell Cavan Biggio and his mediocre production at third base (.699 OPS) would be all the more valuable for Toronto.
One could also argue that Toronto could benefit from buying a pure DH-type bat, but doing so would be more of a luxury than addressing a glaring need. If they believe Guerrero can be a passable first baseman and there will be enough at-bats for everybody once Springer returns to the lineup, pursuing DH options becomes much more palatable. Otherwise, Toronto would likely be better off seeking to remedy more pressing needs.
Speaking of which: What the Jays truly need is pitching, particularly in the bullpen. General manager Ross Atkins told reporters in mid-June that the team would focus on adding bullpen arms as the season progressed and, so far, he has kept to his word. Toronto has already swapped first baseman Rowdy Tellez and second baseman Joe Panik for Trevor Richards and Adam Cimber to shore up the pen. (The Jays also added outfielder Corey Dickerson, though he has yet to appear in a game due to injury and a return date remains murky at best.) Still, Toronto would benefit from adding another arm, particularly one that could slot in alongside standout closer Jordan Romano in save situations and close scores late in games.
Additionally, it may behoove the Jays to add one more starting pitcher. Hyun Jin Ryu and Robbie Ray have performed like legitimate number one and two options to date, but some degree of regression is inevitable. Adding a true ace or a competent number four starter would put them in a position to improve their pitching unit significantly. As a team, Toronto ranks 12th in ERA (3.99), 11th in ERA+ (112), and 16th in FIP (4.28).
Which Twins Are the Best Fit?
It wouldn't surprise me if reports started popping up that the Jays are among the most aggressive teams trying to pry Taylor Rogers away from the Twins. The fit makes too much sense. Toronto needs a lockdown bullpen arm, and Rogers will likely be the best reliever on the market. Add that he is left-handed while Romano is right-handed, and the fit becomes even more apparent.
Similarly, Toronto is one of the more obvious landing spots for José Berríos should the Twins choose to move him. They need a pitcher with ace-level potential who lines up with the timeline of their young core. They also have a great farm system when looking strictly at their top 10 prospects, making them an ideal trade partner for the Twins.
Finally, Luis Arraez's emergence as a super-utility man this season makes him a fantastic fit for Toronto. His ability to get on base would have Guerrero and company salivating, while his defensive versatility would allow for off-days for most of the Jays' primary offensive contributors. He may not be great anywhere, but Arraez is serviceable almost everywhere, and that has value.
Michael Pineda, Hansel Robles, and Caleb Thielbar are also potential targets for Toronto should they seek to make a big splash elsewhere or not at all.
Who Could the Twins Get Back?
The Jays boast six prospects inside MLB Pipeline's top 100, headlined by No. 9 RHP Nate Pearson and No. 16 UTIL Austin Martin. Both players, including No. 90 RHP Alek Manoah, who has performed well for Toronto since being called up, are likely off-limits, even in a trade involving Berríos. Perhaps the most exciting prospect they could pry away from Toronto is No. 68 RHP Simeon Woods Richardson.
Woods Richardson, who is currently pitching in Double-A at 20-years-old, stands 6-foot-3-inches tall and possesses four pitches - a fastball, slider, curve, and changeup - that are considered plus offerings. He has reasonable control and fits the physical profile that the Twins like in their pitching prospects (i.e. tall and athletic). In a best-case scenario, Woods Richardson develops into a José Berríos-Esque pitcher, making losing him more palatable for the Twins.
An intriguing name that may be included in a deal for any of the three players listed above is utility man Otto Lopez. He's young, versatile on defense, has good bat-to-ball skills, and some power potential. Thus far, his power has primarily presented itself as a propensity to hit doubles, but a tweak here or there could turn that double power into home run power.
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