If the Blue Jays can’t catch the Yankees and Red Sox in the standings, they could theoretically hurt them through the trade market this summer if their rivals get desperate to add to their rosters before the trade deadline.
The rumour mill is already starting to churn, and naturally the Blue Jays have already come up in conversation.
It should come as a surprise to no one that there is already interest in J.A. Happ as a trade piece. He’s having yet another great season in Toronto, has been a consistent performer for a few years now, is reasonably priced, and is on an expiring contract. Add it all up and he’s a prime candidate to be wearing a new uniform before August 1st.
On Monday, Jon Morosi posted a tweet that said that both the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees had early interest in the left-hander’s services. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, as even I was able to predict that those clubs could be looking at the Blue Jays roster. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see that one coming.
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And yet, it is still interesting, especially the potential Yankee connection. It’s not terribly common for two teams in the same division to hook up for a trade, but it’s not out of the question either. It’ll obviously depend on what the Blue Jays are seeking in return for their southpaw, and what the other GMs across baseball are potentially prepared to offer as well. Given the general lack of quality starting pitching on the trade market most years, Happ should fetch a decent price wherever he ends up.
The Blue Jays’ primary focus in dealing any of their players has to be on making the team better, with a likely focus on a long term picture rather than an immediate one. They’ll need to make the trades that make the most sense for them, and it’s entirely possible that could still come from within the division, especially if someone like the Yankees is offering a premium prospect in return.
That’s where a secondary goal could come into play for the Blue Jays’ front office this summer, and if they’re able to accomplish both then it could speed up their road to contention all that much for. Let’s say the Yankees really are interested in J.A. Happ, and are prepared to send someone like Clint Frazier back in a deal. That may sound far fetched, but it’s not out of the question when you consider that the Yankees got Gleyber Torres back in a package for a rental version of Aroldis Chapman, who they then promptly re-signed.
If they Blue Jays are able to convince the Yankees to part with Frazier and/or more, it’ll be a long term win in Toronto for sure. Obviously the Yankees would get the short term benefit of having Happ to help them pursue a championship this year, but they would also be one asset shorter for the future. Some Yankees fans are suggesting they trade Frazier before the deadline, and given the rest of their roster construction it might make some sense. That said, he’s still a solid prospect and an asset, so dealing him is a negative in the long term, even for short term glory. If they trade him to the Blue Jays and he speeds up their rebuild, it’s an even steeper price to pay.
It remains to be seen if the Red Sox will be in the starting pitching market at the deadline, and in an ideal world the Blue Jays could get their two division rivals bidding against each other. It’s not terribly likely, but like I said, it would be an ideal scenario.
In a more realistic one, the Red Sox could be interested in adding someone like Josh Donaldson for the remainder of the year, assuming he’s healthy of course. They’ve been linked to having interest in the “Bringer of Rain” in the past, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they wanted to add a short term burst to their lineup this year, especially if the Yankees are adding to their roster as well. Donaldson’s trade value has undoubtedly gone down with his nagging injuries and disappointing numbers, but he’s close to returning and should have time to prove he’s still elite when healthy. Rafeal Devers has been solid in his first full season, but there’s no doubt Donaldson would be a short term upgrade, and Devers could resume duties next season.
It’s also possible the Red Sox could ask about someone like Devon Travis or Yangervis Solarte, although that’s a bit of a different case. The idea of trading beloved Blue Jays to these two teams is not something I enjoy at all, but in the case of an expiring contract, it might be a solid strategy. I would never trade a controllable asset like Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez their way, but when it comes to someone who may be leaving anyway, it’s worth at least finding out what the return could be. Even for guys like Solarte and Travis, it would have to be a clear cut win for the Blue Jays in order to make sense.
If a potential deal does make sense for both sides, it could be viewed as a double win for Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro, as the Blue Jays would add minor league asset to their organization, while subtracting from their rivals at the same time.