There’s been lots of chatter about the slow developing free agent market around all of the MLB, the lack of Toronto Blue Jays moves (other than Aledmys Diaz), and the constant chatter about a Josh Donaldson trade to the St. Louis Cardinals. The Blue Jays want to compete in 2018 and Josh Donaldson needs to be here to do that. But does Roberto Osuna? Perhaps not. It may be smarter to trade Osuna now as opposed to Josh Donaldson.
There’s no question that Roberto Osuna is an incredible talent at the back end of the bullpen. Despite his struggles in 2017, he was extremely dominant through the middle of the season, and amassed a 1.74 FIP and a 3.0 fWAR. The 3.0 fWAR put him right behind Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel for the most valuable reliever in baseball. He is pretty darn incredible and he’s only 22 years old (23 in February).
Despite all of those great stats from 2017 and the previous two seasons, if the Toronto Blue Jays want to move someone to get a haul back, trading Roberto Osuna this offseason as opposed to Josh Donaldson makes more sense.
When you look at the slow developing free agent market, the one position this offseason that has been the hottest is the relief market, and it’s insane to think about the money that’s being thrown at these relievers. Names like Fernando Rodney, Hector Rondon, Tony Barnette, Zach Duke, Jared Hughes, and Tom Koehler have signed for reasonable amounts of money. But, if you go one tier above those four, it get’s pretty astonishing looking at the money being thrown at relievers.
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- Wade Davis – Colorado Rockies – 3 years/$52 million
- Steve Cishek – Chicago Cubs – 2 years/$13 million
- Luke Gregerson – St. Louis Cardinals – 2 years/$11 million
- Tommy Hunter – Philadelphia Phillies – 2 years/$18 million
- Brandon Kintzler – Washington Nationals – 2 years/$10 million
- Jake McGee – Colorado Rockies – 3 years/$27 million
- Brandon Morrow – Chicago Cubs – 2 years/$21 million
- Pat Neshek – Philadelphia Phillies – 2 years/$16.25 million
- Juan Nicasio – Seattle Mariners – 2 years/$17 million
- Yusmeiro Petit – Oakland Athletics – 2 years/$10 million
- Bryan Shaw – Colorado Rockies – 2 years/$27 million
- Joe Smith – Houston Astros – 2 years/$15 million
- Anthony Swarzak – New York Mets – 2 years/$14 million
That is an insane list of money that’s being thrown around at relievers, and it’s truly stressing what teams believe in. That’s the fact that you can go deep into the post-season with a dominant, lock-down bullpen. The Kansas City Royals of 2015, Chicago Cubs of 2016, and even though they lost the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers of 2017 all made it to the World Series and they all had lockdown bullpens.
There are still a few big names on the free agent market like Tony Watson, Addison Reed, Boone Logan, Seung-Hwan Oh, and others but the big one is Greg Holland. After Greg Holland signs, the Blue Jays could float it around to teams that Roberto Osuna could be had at the right price, and the return they would get for Osuna would likely be greater than that of Josh Donaldson due to the youth, ability, and control you’d get with Osuna.
The return the Philadelphia Phillies got for Ken Giles when they moved him to the Houston Astros was a very good haul for Philadelphia and almost was even greater. The Phillies were able to directly insert Vincent Velasquez into their rotation. They almost received slugger Derek Fisher, who likely would have been directly inserted into the lineup at 1st base. Also received was top prospect Mark Appel, who has since flamed out as a prospect but was supposed to be the future with Velasquez in the Phillies rotation. There were other prospects received in the deal as well.
Roberto Osuna is also arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason and is projected to get a very healthy raise, projected at $5.6 million. It’s only going to continue to get more and more expensive each year unless the Blue Jays decide to lock Osuna up long term and buy out his arbitration years, which is very much on the table. However, for the purposes of this article, I’m attempting to make an argument that it makes more sense to trade Roberto Osuna than Josh Donaldson if you’re going to make a big splash like that this winter.
The Blue Jays can use the Ken Giles trade as a potential comparison and starting point for negotiations if they decide to float his name as available. They’d likely be able to insert a piece or two into the everyday lineup or rotation in an Osuna trade that would help them immediately in 2018. Given that it’s just one year of control for Donaldson, they likely wouldn’t be able to get a piece that can help them immediately in 2018 to stay competitive. Given that the relief market is extremely hot and expensive, a team would pay a big price for Roberto Osuna considering he could come cheaper than any free agent. The Blue Jays can use so much to their advantage to get a massive haul for Roberto Osuna.
If you were to move on from Roberto Osuna, you’d keep your potential 7-8 win player in Josh Donaldson, add some more wins with who you’d be able to directly insert into the 2018 lineup in a return for Osuna, and use the abundance of quality arms the Blue Jays currently have in the bullpen to close out games. They could also get creative and have the electric arms of Conner Greene or Sean Reid-Foley close games, similar to the Osuna career path.
If you’re making a big splash this offseason while wanting to keep the 2018 ball club competitive, trading Roberto Osuna makes a ton more sense than Josh Donaldson. I am not advocating for this to happen and firmly believe they will both be here until at least the 2018 trade deadline, but the return the Blue Jays could get for Osuna is salivating to think of. They’d get pieces to help them immediately and in the future.