The Pittsburgh Pirates are expected to continue selling some veteran pieces after their trade of Gerrit Cole, and the Blue Jays could be among the interested parties. The Jays have some interesting pieces to offer in a trade, and Devon Travis could make as much sense as anyone.
Before I even start, let me just state that this is purely speculation on my part. There have been no rumours linking Devon Travis in any trades this offseason, to my knowledge anyway, so this is strictly an idea that came from my noggin. You’re welcome to criticize the idea if you like, but I just wanted to be clear that this is speculation, and nothing more.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to it. It’s no secret that the Pittsburgh Pirates could be sellers this offseason, as they’ve already shipped out their talented starter, Gerrit Cole. For a team that’s unlikely to contend in 2018, and has a few pricier veterans, there’s a very good chance that the Pirates are making other players available. We’ve been hearing rumours about Andrew McCutchen being a trade candidate for a couple years now, and Josh Harrison‘s name has floated around this offseason too.
For the right price there’s a good chance that the Blue Jays could be interested in either or even both of McCutchen and Harrison, although they’d likely settle for one upgrade to their lineup with their remaining budget. Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro have several talented minor leaguers that no doubt interest the Pirates, but they’ve shown a reluctance to deal from the minor league system, at least with their top tier prospects. They have dealt J.B. Woodman, Edward Olivares, and Jared Carkuff to bring in Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte this offseason, but there are a list of names they surely want to hang on to. Don’t expect Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, or even Anthony Alford to go anywhere this offseason.
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Which is why the Blue Jays may need to get a little creative if they want to continue to use the trade route, and that brings me to the point of this entry. I got wondering if it’s possible the Pirates would be interested in Devon Travis as a trade piece, and if the Blue jays would consider selling low on their second baseman’s stock. I’m not advocating for it, as I really do like the player, but I’m wondering if it’s a possibility that could happen.
There is no doubt he’s a talented hitter, and at worst a serviceable defender. When he’s been healthy he’s shown an ability to hit at or near .300, and has been the best option in the lead off spot. The problem of course is that he’s been a regular on the disabled list, playing in just 50 games in 2017, after having significant stints on the DL in the previous two seasons as well. He’s dealt with shoulder issues, knee problems, and seemingly everything else in between.
It feels unlikely that the Blue Jays would want to sell low on him, but with Solarte and Diaz in the fold to join Troy Tulowitzki, they may be able to get away with the depth. There are others that will likely start in Triple A as well, including Richard Urena, Gift Ngoepe, and eventually Lourdes Gurriel. In another year or two, we could see names like Bo Bichette and Logan Warmoth knocking on the door as well. The future of the middle infield looks a lot stronger than it did a year ago, and whether you like Atkins and Shapiro or not, you have to give them that at least.
Getting back to the Pirates and Travis though, it got me wondering if there might be a trade match there that could work out for both parties. With the move to Pittsburgh, Travis would get off the artificial turf in Toronto that he has to play on for his home games. While it’s been a significant upgrade in recent years, it’s still not a natural grass surface, and there have been all kinds of speculation about the toll that takes on player’s bodies. For someone with the injury history of the Florida native, it can’t hurt to play on an easier surface.
The fit also works in Pittsburgh if we’re talking about McCutchen or Harrison as well, at least positionally. If it were Harrison coming back to Toronto, Travis could take his spot at second base, where Harrison currently sits on the Pirates’ depth chart. If it were McCutchen coming North of the border, Harrison could slide to the outfield corner, while Starling Marte could move back to centre, where he was originally supposed to play last year.
It would be a gamble on the part of the Pirates, and the trade would likely require some spare parts, but it could be a worthwhile get for GM Neal Huntington if Travis can stay healthy. He’ll be 27 years old next month, has an affordable contract of 1.45 million, and won’t be a free agent until 2021. As I said earlier, it would be tough for the Blue Jays to give up on him now, but if the return was an upgrade like McCutchen or Harrison then it may be a worthwhile sacrifice, especially given the recently acquired depth.
Once again I’d like to reiterate that this is purely speculation on my part, and there’s a chance neither side would seriously consider this type of swap. However, in a offseason that has moved at a snail’s pace, and after watching the Pirates take a somewhat questionable return for Cole, they could be willing to roll the dice on Travis. If he can stay healthy, he’d be a solid addition to most teams, and hopefully if nothing else he’ll be able to do that in Toronto this season.