The Toronto Blue Jays at the Trade Deadline – What Could Happen?

During the trade deadline periods in both 2015 and 2016, the Toronto Blue Jays fit into Major League Baseball as stereotypical “buyers.”

As many fans remember, 2015 was the year that the team made huge headlines by adding pitchers David Price, LaTroy Hawkins, and Mark Lowe, as well as shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Ben Revere. These moves were essential for the team’s eventual playoff run.

The following year wasn’t as flashy, but the team was still active in the days before the deadline. Pitchers Joaquin Benoit and Francisco Liriano ended up as the most useful players the team acquired. Nothing too noteworthy in retrospect, but the details in the Liriano trade are actually the most interesting part.

On August 1, 2016, Toronto traded struggling starter Drew Hutchison to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Liriano, Reese McGuire, and Harold Ramirez. Almost exactly one year later, on July 31, Liriano was traded to the eventual World Series-winning Houston Astros for Teoscar Hernandez and Nori Aoki.

Aoki wasn’t on the Blue Jays for long (12 games), but the player that Toronto was really interested in was Hernandez. He impressed both fans and the front office in the months following his promotion to the Major League team, starting with an impressive September (8 HR/26 games). As of July 3rd, 2018, Hernandez has continued his run of success in the majors. He has an oWAR (offensive WAR) of 1.5, which is second on the team to fellow outfielder Kevin Pillar. His defense isn’t nearly as praiseworthy, as it currently sits at -1.1 dWAR (defensive WAR) on Baseball-Reference, although it does seem to be improving as he continues to grow more comfortable at Rogers Centre.

So in the last three seasons, those watching the Blue Jays have seen three distinctly different trade deadlines. There were multiple big-name arrivals in 2015, smaller agreements for a buying team in 2016, and value deals in 2017 for a team that was labeled as neither a buyer nor a seller.

In 2018, the Toronto Blue Jays are clear sellers. The team is going to be on the phone with several other clubs within the next few weeks, with the intention of getting a premium return for valuable players. So, position by position, it is evaluation time for the 2018 Blue Jays. Who’s valuable in a potential trade? Who’s likely staying put? Let’s take a look. (Everything you see below is estimated by the author based on player performance and evaluation.)

Catcher

High Value: N/A
Some Value: N/A
Minimal Value: Luke Maile
Probably Not Available: Russell Martin

Catcher isn’t the most concerning area for Toronto, but production hasn’t exactly been what they’d hoped for either. Russell Martin is hitting below .180 this year and is currently fighting a sore knee.

Backup Luke Maile got attention from fans because of his hot start to the season but is still far from a valuable trading option. There’s a chance Maile could get added to the end of a bigger deal (which could happen, particularly if the Blue Jays want to take a look at Danny Jansen or Reese McGuire), but the catching duo will most likely remain the same after the deadline.

First Base

High Value: N/A
Some Value: Justin Smoak
Minimal Value: Kendrys Morales
Probably Not Available: N/A

As the cliche goes, “hindsight is 20/20.” Although Justin Smoak hasn’t put up the offensive numbers he did last year, he hasn’t regressed to the player he was in 2016 either.

There’s a decent chance Smoak gets traded, though the market might not be strong for what he brings. If the Yankees are looking at JA Happ, and all indications point to that interest being real, the Jays could add Smoak into the deal and increase the returning value. Even so, the Blue Jays have no obvious replacement at first anymore with Steve Pearce already traded. Kendrys Morales has little-to-no value, even with a surprisingly good June.

Second Base

High Value: N/A
Some Value: Yangervis Solarte
Minimal Value: Darnell Sweeney
Probably Not Available: Devon Travis, Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

Yangervis Solarte isn’t set to become a free agent until 2020, so he’s a very interesting name for a potential trade. He’s also a very interesting name to keep in the lineup. His bat plays well at Rogers Centre; he already has 15 home runs, which is three away from a career high. It seems doubtful that the Blue Jays would give up a top prospect in the offseason to acquire Solarte and then trade him at the deadline, but stranger things have happened.

Darnell Sweeney has no value beyond a minor-league trade. Devon Travis’ injury history would probably reduce interest, and the Jays don’t have a great reason to move him anyway. It would make no sense for the Blue Jays to trade Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

Third Base

High Value: N/A
Some Value: Josh Donaldson
Minimal Value: N/A
Probably Not Available:

This is not the scenario Toronto envisioned for their third baseman close to the deadline. Due to injuries, Donaldson isn’t going to be involved in a deal that’s anywhere close to the value he could have brought in during last offseason. He’s probably not going anywhere.

Shortstop

High Value: N/A
Some Value: N/A
Minimal Value: Troy Tulowitzki
Probably Not Available: Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz was brought in during the offseason to add depth to the Blue Jays’ shortstop position, and he’s still only 27. With Troy Tulowitzki still injured and Richard Urena not yet ready for a permanent promotion, Diaz probably isn’t going anywhere. Tulowitzki has no value on the trade market.

Outfield

High Value: Kevin Pillar
Some Value: Curtis Granderson, Randal Grichuk
Minimal Value: N/A
Probably Not Available: Teoscar Hernandez

This is probably going to be the best chance for the Blue Jays to trade Kevin Pillar. He’s the best hitter on the team (despite issues with his K/BB ratio), and the outfield market is always high midseason.

If that happens, the most likely outfield is Teoscar Hernandez/Anthony Alford/Randal Grichuk. Alford hasn’t been brilliant in AAA, but he’s at the top of the depth chart for minor-league outfielders in the system. Curtis Granderson could end up in a deal similar to the one that saw Steve Pearce go to Boston.

Rotation

High Value: Marco Estrada, JA Happ
Some Value: N/A
Minimal Value: Sam Gaviglio, Jaime Garcia
Probably Not Available: Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Ryan Borucki

Let’s start here: It would be shocking if Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, or Ryan Borucki were traded. It’s hard to envision a situation where any of these three being traded would make sense for Toronto.

Sam Gaviglio has been impressive, but the sample size is small, so, if available, he would be an addition to a trade, not the headliner in one. Jaime Garcia has been underwhelming for Toronto this season, and as a result, he has little-to-no value.

JA Happ has already gathered interest from a division rival. Happ is having a great year, and the potential return on a deal involving the 35-year old left-hander is very interesting to think about. Happ is the most valuable player on the team in terms of trade value. Estrada’s not far behind, and he could see himself in another uniform soon as well. Between the two, Happ seems to be the most likely trade candidate.

Bullpen

High Value: Ryan Tepera (DL), Seung-hwan Oh, Aaron Loup
Some Value: Tyler Clippard
Minimal Value: Danny Barnes (DL), John Axford, Joe Biagini, Preston Guilmet, Tim Mayza, Jake Petricka
Probably Not Available: N/A
Suspended: Roberto Osuna (Suspended)

The Blue Jays got a good return for Joe Smith last season, and they could attempt to replicate that with Seung-hwan Oh or Tyler Clippard this year. Aaron Loup has value since there aren’t too many lefty relievers available. Ryan Tepera appeared to be gathering interest, but he’s currently on the DL. Joe Biagini has limited value until he shows that he can be a reliable reliever over a long period of time. John Axford’s 4.28 ERA will probably hurt his value for inquiring teams so the Jays might see more value in keeping him in their own bullpen for the second half of the season.

Depth

Potentially Available: INF Richard Urena, OF Dalton Pompey, OF Harold Ramirez, C Max Pentecost

It’s hard to see a scenario where Richard Urena becomes an everyday player for the Blue Jays in 2018. Recently, the team has appeared to be hoping for a Guerrero Jr./Bichette/Gurriel infield in the future anyway so the team may increase the value of a trade by placing him on the end of it. Dalton Pompey and Harold Ramirez appear to be on the lower end on the outfield depth chart, and the Blue Jays have two catchers (Jansen and McGuire) ahead of Max Pentecost in the system.

Bonus: A Trade That Would Make Sense for Toronto

The Blue Jays trade SP JA Happ and 1B Justin Smoak to New York (AL) for OF Clint Frazier, P Luis Medina, and INF Neil Walker (or 1B Greg Bird, or INF Brandon Drury)

In the scenario above, the Blue Jays trade Happ (again, a rental) to their division rival and pick up two prospects, including Clint Frazier. Frazier slots into a corner outfield spot immediately, while Grichuk moves to center. Luis Medina, the other major prospect in the deal, is an interesting name. He’s only 19 and playing for the Rookie Ball affiliate for New York, but he’s the 13th ranked prospect on John Sickels’ list for SB Nation and shows serious upside. To convince New York to part with Frazier, the Blue Jays swap first basemen with them. Smoak adds some consistency to a position that New York has been struggling with, and Walker brings the Jays a utility guy who’s on an inexpensive one-year contract.

If the Jays wanted to be bolder, they could ask instead for Greg Bird, but he’s more highly regarded within the New York system and may take more than just Happ and Smoak. They could also replace Walker in the deal with Brandon Drury, who hasn’t quite clicked in New York due to various issues with migraines. He would be limited to a depth role if the team were to acquire Smoak. Although not unrealistic, altering the deal to include Bird or Drury would likely prove to be a tougher ask for Toronto compared to the original idea. Walker’s had a rough 2018 and would be more of a low-risk/high-reward type of player. 

(Photo Credit: Frank Gunn/CP)

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I'm a student at the College of Sports Media. I'm also the editor-in-chief of 641media, and a writer for Canuck Baseball Plus. I'm also the analyst for Huronia Stallions on Rogers tv, and appear on other sports shows on the station.

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