Well, I guess in the end we should not have been very surprised to see next to nothing come out of the Major League Baseball General Managers Meetings, especially pertaining to the Toronto Blue Jays. Outside of a few stifled rumors involving Jose Bautista and Carlos Ruiz, and the retirement of Mark DeRosa, you’d hardly know the team was even represented at the meetings.
Still, there was some banter going around that could have some implications for the Blue Jays and their winter ahead.
According to Shi Davidi at SportsNet, the Blue Jays are expected to make their push via the trade market and have their eyes set on a few players right away; Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs, Ryan Hanigan of the Reds, and Jason Castro of the Astros.
When it first became known that Hanigan could become available, we immediately identified him as a Blue Jays trade target. Since then, the interest in the 33-year-old backstop and on-base machine has gone up, as many teams see him as an inexpensive alternative to other catchers on the free agent or trade markets. Despite the sacrifice of power, he would represent an immediate upgrade for the Blue Jays both offensively and defensively.
One of those more expensive options will be Jason Castro. The 26-year-old enjoyed a break-out season for the Houston Astros, hitting .276 with 18 home runs and 56 RBI, ultimately creating a value of 4.3 wins above replacement according to FanGraphs. That all in mind, the Astros will have to be wowed to move him, as he is first year arbitration eligible and is under club control through 2016. For a rebuilding club, there is no hurry for them to move him.
The market on Samardzija could be an interesting one. The Cubs are listening to offers, although they would prefer to lock him up long-term. However, with the escalating price on pitching, the right-hander isn’t making it easy on Chicago, hence the interest in other clubs trying to acquire him. He has two years of club control remaining, making this the best season for Chicago to move him for maximum value.
What will that value be? Well, we know what we’re going to get with Samardzija. In his two years as a starter, he has a 4.10 ERA over 388.1 innings pitched. He’s averaged solid strike-out number (9.1 K/9) and has a lifetime 44.6% ground-ball rate. At 28, Samardzija is entering his prime and could be worth having at the right price. However, that price would likely cost Toronto Aaron Sanchez at the least, and that may be too steep.
Another interesting place to check would be Detroit. As Davidi mentions, the Tigers are shopping both Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and fellow right-hander Rick Porcello. Scherzer’s availability has more to do with his representation, Scott Boras, than anything else. That said, the Blue Jays won’t likely chase him via trade simply because of the cost for a one-year rental and unlikelihood of resigning him.
Porcello is a bit more appealing. His ERA and record may scare off those who don’t know how to dig deeper, as there is nothing pretty about a 4.32 ERA and a 12-10 record. However, his xFIP of 3.19 and his ground-ball rate of 55.3% is a lot more appealing, especially to the Blue Jays. His price tag will also be a lot more feasible for Toronto to take him on. The 24-year-old was worth 3.2 WAR last season and would be under club control for two more seasons.
There is one other dark horse on the Tigers staff that could hold more appeal and could be had for the right price; Doug Fister. The 29-year-old right-hander has quietly been one of the better pitchers in the American League over the last couple of seasons and would look really nice in the middle of the Blue Jays rotation. He threw to a 3.64 ERA, a 3.42 xFIP, a 3.61 K/BB ratio, and a solid 54.3% ground-ball ratio. Like Porcello, he is under contract for two more seasons, but he is significantly more appealing that resigning a Josh Johnson.
With those names in mind, who do you think needs to be on the Blue Jays trade radar? What would you give up?