The Blue Jays traded Steve Pearce to the Red Sox on Tuesday night, starting a potential sell off. If that’s how things play out, who will be the next veteran to go?
The trade market has started a little earlier than it usually does, and the Blue Jays are now among the teams that have sold off a veteran before the calendar has even flipped to July. On Thursday evening the Blue Jays and Red Sox agreed to a trade that sent Steve Pearce to Boston, a somewhat rare occurrence with the two teams dealing within their own division.
Pearce could be just the start for the Blue Jays when it comes to selling off veterans, especially those on expiring contracts. The utility man had signed a two year deal in Toronto before the 2017 campaign, which was set to expire at the end of the season. Add in the fact that the Blue Jays have several MLB ready outfielders in Triple-A Buffalo, and Pearce is certainly expendable, especially in a lost year.
The 35 year old may be the first to be traded, but fans can expect Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro to be among the busiest front office’s before this year’s non-waiver trade deadline on July 31st. The list of potentially available players is fairly long, and could be even longer than expected depending on deep the front office decides to go with their rebuild. It also makes me wonder who might be the next Blue Jay with a new mailing address this summer.
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There is expected to be big interest around J.A. Happ, who could end up being the top starting pitcher on the trade market, depending on what the Mets do with Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. The 35 year old lefty has been by far the best pitcher in Toronto this season, and would provide an upgrade to nearly any contender looking to improve their rotation. When it comes to Happ’s market, my guess is it will develop a little closer to the deadline, and the Blue Jays may be forced to wait on the Mets to see how much they can milk out of the opposition in the trade market.
There are a few bullpen arms the Blue Jays could make available, depending on how they want to proceed with the 2018 season. They can’t completely dismantle things, and they have a few arms under control beyond this year, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have a few trade pieces to look at as well. Guys like John Axford (4.62 ERA), and Tyler Clippard (3.29 ERA) both came to the time on minor league deals, and Clippard in particular may garner some interest. Seunghwan Oh has been solid with a 3.22 ERA in 37 appearances, and has an option for 2019. I could also see the Blue Jays checking if there’s interest in Aaron Loup, and if they get an offer they should definitely move on it too.
On the offensive side, Josh Donaldson was supposed to be the prized bait for the Blue Jays to dangle, but now that his latest setback has him on the sidelines for likely another month or more, that situation got very complicated. I would expect the Blue Jays to be actively shopping Curtis Granderson, who signed a one year deal this past winter, and is a solid veteran who can provide value as a platoon outfielder. Atkins and Shapiro could also explore shopping guys like Justin Smoak or even Russell Martin, who each have one year remaining on their deals (Smoak has a team-option that will surely get exercised). Those situations are a lot more complicated than others, but I wouldn’t rule them out.
However, if I was going to guess who the next Blue Jay to be traded would be, I’d go with Marco Estrada. Like Happ, Estrada could offer a contending team a rotation upgrade, depending on who they’re rolling with now of course. He’s not offering any improvement to a team like the Houston Astros, but there are others that could make sense.
For instance, the Washington Nationals have a very talented rotation, but they’re hurting right now. Stephen Strasburg is on the DL, as are Jeremy Hellickson and Joe Ross. The first two will return and join Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez, and likely Tanner Roark at some point sooner than later, but a hiccup during rehab could have them picking up the phone for another starter. They could be the type of team that could take a chance on Estrada to help their weather the injuries, while not paying a huge price for the help. It’s also possible the Mariners or even the Angels could have some interest.
Estrada also pitched in the National League earlier in his career, and that’s where I would expect the most interest to come from. The playoff race is much tighter in the senior circuit, which means there are more potential buyers. And with Estrada representing a cheaper option than someone like Happ, that could bring wider interest as well. It also doesn’t hurt that the change-up artist has a 2.35 ERA in last last five starts, posting a 0.978 WHIP, and throwing 30.2 innings during that run.
Of course, I’m merely speculating at this stage, and things move quickly and sometimes unpredictably on the trade market in late June and July. Even as I write this, Jon Morosi is tweeting about a potential deal taking shape between the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers for Cole Hamels, which would hurt my theory that the top-tier pitchers will be moved later. That said, I’m still predicting that Estrada is the next guy out the door as the Blue Jays begin a new chapter with their roster.
It should be an interesting month or so before the non-waiver deadline, even if the team continues to struggle.