Blue Jays: What could they send back in a trade?

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 11: Kevin Pillar
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 11: Kevin Pillar /

The Blue Jays have some holes to fill this winter, and will likely need to use the trade route as well as free agency. Who would they be willing to trade?

As things continue to creep along for the MLB hot stove, the Blue Jays are among the many teams still evaluating their options before making their first big strike. Their potential needs this offseason include a utility infielder, a starting pitcher, bullpen help, possibly some help in the outfield, and at back-up catcher. A fairly lengthy check list, and one that might be difficult to accomplish using just free agency alone.

Which is why the Blue Jays will look to the trade market as well, and hope that they can solve some of their internal issues that way. However, the biggest question (for me anyway) is who would Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins actually be willing to deal? Hearing them talk over the last couple years, they don’t sound like the type that wants to sell off significant MiLB pieces, as Shapiro was famously upset with Alex Anthopoulos for having done back in 2015.

Perhaps the front office has a list of minor leaguers they are willing to deal, but my guess is none of the elite prospects are on that list. We know for certain that guys like Vladimir Guerrero Jr and Bo Bichette won’t be going anywhere, even if they’re asked about on a weekly basis, so who would they trade, and what kind of return could they expect?

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To me, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see Atkins and Shapiro use some players from their big league roster to make their tweaks. While there are plenty of holes as I mentioned previously, there is a little bit of depth in a few places that the Blue Jays could take advantage of. Where might that come from?

Bullpen (right-handed relievers)

While the Blue Jays are said to be looking at the reliever market (who isn’t), they did get a solid performance from their group last year, even if the stats don’t tell the whole story. The collective numbers were dragged down throughout the year, mostly because of the demand that was put on the group by the starting rotation. I’m very confident this has the potential to be an elite group as long as they’re used properly, and they bring in one or two arms.

What the Blue Jays need is a more reliable left-hander for the bullpen, as their current depth chart has guys like Aaron Loup, Matt Dermody, and Tim Mayza. On the right side, things are pretty strong when you look at a group that includes Roberto Osuna, Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes, Dominic Leone, Carlos Ramirez, and others, including a potential return from Joe Biagini.

With that in mind, could the Blue Jays trade a right-handed reliever? They’ve got a few with a lot of upside and that also make near the MLB minimum, so there will definitely be interest if the Jays decide to shop any of their arms. Of course, there’s the old saying that you can never have too much pitching in baseball, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Jays hang on to what they have in that department either.

Centre Field

Admittedly the first idea is the most likely, but again, hear me out on this as well, if you would.

The Blue Jays have their incumbent starter, Kevin Pillar, coming back to the fold in 2018. He’ll be arbitration eligible this offseason, and is expected to see his salary rise to the four million range. He’s still relatively cheap, but he’s not the 3-5 WAR player for a minimum contract the Blue Jays have enjoyed for a few years now. Which is why it might be the time to look at a trade now.

I realize it’s a little  backwards to be looking at trading an outfielder when you need to bring one in, but I would argue the Blue Jays have some potential depth up the middle, even if it’s a bit of a gamble. We saw Teoscar Hernandez get some playing time in September, and he’s capable of manning CF if need be. The Blue Jays also have minor league options like Anthony Alford, and maybe even Dalton Pompey, if the latter can ever get healthy.

Trading Pillar would have to fill another significant need in order to make sense, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Given the lack of tradable assets the Blue Jays have, and because of how some of the lustre from Pillar’s game wore off in 2017.

First Base

The third idea could be a stretch, but there are a couple options here. Last offseason, the Blue Jays signed Steve Pearce to a two year, 12.5 million dollar deal, presumably to mostly play first base. That was before the breakout year from Justin Smoak that none of us saw coming (don’t lie, you were surprised too), which ultimately pushed Pearce to near full-time duty in left field. It was a bit of a stretch for the 34 year old, but it kept both of their bats in the lineup when Pearce was healthy.

Pearce has one year remaining on his contract, and Smoak has one year plus an option for 2019 on his. There are two potential trade options here:

a) Trade Pearce (which would require the acquisition of another outfielder), or

b) Trade Smoak and move Pearce to first base.

I sincerely doubt that the Blue Jays are looking to trade Justin Smoak, but it would make some sense after the breakout year he’s had, assuming the price is right. Pearce is a capable first baseman, so if the Blue Jays could get a significant return for Smoak’s services, would it not make sense to explore it? As far as trading Pearce, he might be the most sensible option on the 25 man roster.

Next: Evaluating the Russell Martin contract, 3 years later

Admittedly I have no idea if the Blue Jays would entertain these trade ideas, but the more I look at the organizational assets, the more trading from the big league roster makes sense to me. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.