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  • Trade Deadline Preview: The Toronto Blue Jays


    Lucas Seehafer PT

    The Toronto Blue Jays entered the All-Star Break with a 45-42 record, 4.5 games back of the final American League Wild Card spot. The Jays reached the playoffs last season but otherwise haven't made the postseason since their back-to-back ALCS appearances in 2015 and 2016.

    Toronto is one of the teams most likely to make a move, and they could find an excellent trade partner in the Minnesota Twins.

    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.

    Other prospects the Twins could potentially ask for are SS Jordan Groshans, ARHP Adam Kloffenstein, and CRHP CJ Van Eyk.

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    If Berrios does not get one of those top three, they do not get Berrios.  The more I think about the Twins situation the more I think we are giving up on signing Berrios too soon.  If we are going to trade another start (I think Pineda is gone) I would start thinking Maeda!  His 2020 season still has legs even though I think it was an aberration.  

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    36 minutes ago, mikelink45 said:

    If Berrios does not get one of those top three, they do not get Berrios.  The more I think about the Twins situation the more I think we are giving up on signing Berrios too soon.  If we are going to trade another start (I think Pineda is gone) I would start thinking Maeda!  His 2020 season still has legs even though I think it was an aberration.  

    I think you make a great point and that's why trading Berrios now has always been unlikely. But all it takes is one team to put out a godfather offer and maybe the Jays are that team?

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    1 hour ago, prouster said:

    Honestly, I would strongly consider Berrios for Pearson straight up. That’s just my opinion—probably not likely to be shared by many others. 

    I think with all the health issues Pearson has had there is talk he might need to be a reliever sooner rather than later.  I don't know that you want to trade your best asset for a guy who could end up like Alex Meyer.  Personally I would go a less risky route but that is just me.  If Pearson is healthy and meets his potential I think a straight up trade would make sense just based on years of control, but if that were the case why would the Jays trade him?  They would only trade him if they were betting he wasn't going to make it.

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    I would not prouster.  In projected deals with the Dodgers and Padres the Twins got:  Dodgers---Dustin May and 2 other good pieces.  Padres---LHP Ryan Weathers (who has impressed me this year at 21-years old) and a CF prospect that is about a year away who is VERY good.  He would provide insurance for Buxton should things get "messy."  Those proposed deals have moved me the closest I've been to even consider moving Berrios and/or Taylor Rogers.  Pieces like Cruz, Donaldson, Sano, Pineda, Robles, Simmons, ALL need to be prioritized in trading.  Berrios, Rogers, Buxton will need to see the Twins blown away to even consider.  Each one is needed to be relevant for 2022 and could be dealt at the deadline next year if things don't come together for the Twins.  I consider this year more an aberration than "the verdict is in" for the Twins.  But there is NO DOUBT some serious re-tooling is needed.  

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    I like the idea of trading with the Jays as I really like their farm system.  I don't know that I see them as great trade partners except for Rogers and I don't think they will want to pay what the Twins want in prospects for Rogers but we will see.  I think the Jays are going to want to hang onto Simeon Woods Richardson so I think they end up doing just rentals this year and maybe buffer things up in the offseason.  I don't think they easily part with top tier prospects but maybe I am wrong.

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    I would have have to be blown away by an offer for Berrios to move him at this point if I was running FO (unless he has made it clear he wants to move on).  Rogers would be available but would require a very good return , somebody capable of helping next season and a prospect.

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    The only way Berrios should be traded at deadline is if you get blown away with a top prospect or two.  Right now the possible trade partners get limited, he still will be around next year and if you cannot extend him, you can trade him in offseason where more possible teams will be involved. 

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    The scenarios here are OK if the Twins want to give away gifts.

    Do we see the goal this year as a chance to jettison talent, or is the goal to jettison salary?  Only one of these methods will provide for future growth.  We seem to be focusing on the former.

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    1 hour ago, Dman said:

    I think with all the health issues Pearson has had there is talk he might need to be a reliever sooner rather than later.  I don't know that you want to trade your best asset for a guy who could end up like Alex Meyer.  Personally I would go a less risky route but that is just me.  If Pearson is healthy and meets his potential I think a straight up trade would make sense just based on years of control, but if that were the case why would the Jays trade him?  They would only trade him if they were betting he wasn't going to make it.

    These are all really good points. There would be a lot of risk involved in such a deal, especially given Pearson's injury/performance history. He has some really enticing abilities, but he hasn't figured out how to harness them yet.

    TopGunn: yes, I think you also bring up some good counterarguments. Hypothetically, if they could get more value than just Pearson, then taking him straight up would be a dumb move. There are definitely prospects on other teams that bring a lot to the table. I guess I'm just enamored by Pearson's unique blend of velocity and repertoire, which is why I wanted the Twins to draft him when he came out. You don't find many guys who throw 100 with the fastball and 90+ with the slider. Two that come to mind are Syndergaard and DeGrom. Now, no one's upside is DeGrom except for DeGrom himself, but if Pearson puts it together he can be a legit ace.

    This is all assuming the Twins are interested in trading Berrios, of course.

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    Toronto has the prospect capital to win the trade for Berrios. 

    It should take both Pearson and Richardson-Woods and a lottery ticket pick to win a deal for Berrios. Any deal for Berrios needs to be an overpay.

    The same is true for Rogers where they should set the bar at one of those starting pitchers.

    BTV may reject these deals but only way the Twins should make this deal is if it is a clear win. 

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    2 hours ago, TopGunn#22 said:

    I would not prouster.  In projected deals with the Dodgers and Padres the Twins got:  Dodgers---Dustin May and 2 other good pieces.  Padres---LHP Ryan Weathers (who has impressed me this year at 21-years old) and a CF prospect that is about a year away who is VERY good.  He would provide insurance for Buxton should things get "messy."  Those proposed deals have moved me the closest I've been to even consider moving Berrios and/or Taylor Rogers.  Pieces like Cruz, Donaldson, Sano, Pineda, Robles, Simmons, ALL need to be prioritized in trading.  Berrios, Rogers, Buxton will need to see the Twins blown away to even consider.  Each one is needed to be relevant for 2022 and could be dealt at the deadline next year if things don't come together for the Twins.  I consider this year more an aberration than "the verdict is in" for the Twins.  But there is NO DOUBT some serious re-tooling is needed.  

    Where are those projected deals coming from? I can't imagine the Dodgers would trade May straight up for Berrios, let alone throw in 2 other good pieces. Weathers and Hassell (I assume that's the CFer you're talking about) seems a little more realistic, but still don't think they'd do more than Weathers and a low level flier, maybe. May and Weathers are already in the bigs doing well. May has performed better than Berrios the last 3 years, but has had injury problems and doesn't have the innings to really stake a claim to being a top arm in the game, but I can't imagine any reason the Dodgers would want to trade 4 years of May for 1.5 of Berrios.

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    Pearson or Woods Richardson plus a 7-12 ranked prospect and a couple fliers sounds like a deal Toronto may be willing to make and something the Twins could be interested in. Once players start doing well at AA and especially once they hit AAA and get tastes of the bigs, like the top Toronto arms, it gets really hard to pry them away from teams. Even for established big leaguers like Berrios and Rogers. Not saying the Twins shouldn't, or won't, set a sky-high asking price and need to be blown away to trade a Berrios, Buxton, or Rogers, but I would be absolutely shocked if they could get anything like Pearson AND Woods Richardson, or Dustin May, or Ryan Weathers+. Those years of control matter even for the big spenders. Not even the Dodgers or Yankees can afford to pay a whole team of 20m+/year guys. They need cheap talent, too, and build through promotion just like everyone else.

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    I don't know why we'd want to trade Arraez, a young guy who factors into any rebuild plan that doesn't require completely starting from scratch (we want to contend in 2023, right?). Unless Toronto is drowning in expendable pitching talent, which does not appear to be the case.

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    I am starting to get tired of all the panic and doom and gloom. The Twins should be a great team next year, once our front office fills some holes in the offseason and we stop getting hurt. Stop advocating for trading Arraez, Berrios, Kepler, or Buxton. That is extremely short sighted!

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    Berrios is going to require a great deal to retain.  I'd love to keep him.  However, I'd love to see the Twins making some moves that will improve our future.  We're going to be good next year, but not "top of the division good".  That'll be the White Sox.  If the Sox could get Dylan Cease, Eloy Jimenez, and two more prospects that haven't panned out for Jose Quintana, we should be able to nail down two top 100 guys for Berrios from the Jays.  I'd throw in a hometown guy from the Jays as well in Rodning, who has potential to be a Caleb Thielbar type.

    All that being said.  Berrios is very important in the long term with the Twins.

     

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    13 hours ago, prouster said:

    Honestly, I would strongly consider Berrios for Pearson straight up. That’s just my opinion—probably not likely to be shared by many others. 

    I posted in another thread the trade simulator and if I remember correctly a Berrios and Rogers package would line up with a package of Pearson, Woods-Richardson or Manoah and a couple low level lottery tickets. That’s a pretty good haul. I believe Berrios alone nets at least Pearson and Kloffenstein. That’s the real value for value. Hard to say no to that if we’re looking for impact pitching

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    9 hours ago, Unwinder said:

    I don't know why we'd want to trade Arraez, a young guy who factors into any rebuild plan that doesn't require completely starting from scratch (we want to contend in 2023, right?). Unless Toronto is drowning in expendable pitching talent, which does not appear to be the case.

    I don’t know if anyone “wants” to trade Arraez but with Miranda screaming to get a call up while the team pitching is terrible, it could improve the team. 

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    2 hours ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

    I don’t know if anyone “wants” to trade Arraez but with Miranda screaming to get a call up while the team pitching is terrible, it could improve the team. 

    Good point, I was comparing him in my head vs Gordon as utilityman (and Gordon doesn't feel like a sure thing), and not considering him vs Miranda (the prospect I am most excited about) for third base. 

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    12 hours ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

    I don’t know if anyone “wants” to trade Arraez but with Miranda screaming to get a call up while the team pitching is terrible, it could improve the team. 

    Personally I love Arraez and think we need him on this team. If I had to part with anyone and let’s assume Donaldson is staying I probably part with Polanco to keep Arraez in the infield. At this point I don’t think you part with a 24yo with his hitting and OBP skills. He should be part of this team going forward. As for Miranda. He can be groomed for 3rd. Arraez should be at the keystone every night with Gordon as the utility. 

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