With trade rumours surrounding Kevin Pillar, Russell Martin, and Justin Smoak, the Blue Jays are definitely angling for the new generation of this team.
One of the goals of the Blue Jays’ front office over the last few years has been to get the team to be younger and more athletic. At the beginning stages of a rebuild, they’ve already accomplished that goal at this point, but it’s looking like Ross Atkins and company might want to take it a step further.
The team is already significantly younger after trading veterans like Josh Donaldson, J.A. Happ, and letting others like Marco Estrada go as free agents. And while the average age of their roster has already dipped below 30 with these moves, there’s a very good chance it could go much younger still, especially if Atkins can pull off a few of the trades that are being discussed in the rumour mill.
We’re well aware that the Jays have talked about trading Russell Martin this offseason, mostly because they have two MLB ready catchers in Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire that should be taking over the full-time duties. Martin isn’t easy to move with his 20 million dollar salary in the last year of his deal, but the Jays could easily find a taker for the soon to be 36 year if they are willing to eat some of the salary.
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Yesterday we learned that the San Francisco Giants are at least internally discussing Kevin Pillar as an option or their outfield in 2019. It’s hard to say how serious the Giants are, but Pillar’s name has come up in trade rumours with other teams as well. The soon to be 30 year old may not be an All-Star calibre outfielder, and his defensive numbers may have regressed a bit, but he’s still an elite defender at the current moment.
There has also been discussion around 32 year old Justin Smoak, who had his contract option exercised by the Blue Jays earlier this offseason. He’s making a very reasonable eight million in 2019 on the last year of his deal, and it’s rumoured that the Colorado Rockies are taking a look at him as an upgrade option for first base at Coors Field, according to Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post.
It’s hard to say if any of these trades will come to fruition, but let’s pretend for a moment that the Blue Jays made deals for all three veteran players. How many “veterans” would actually remain on the roster?
It wouldn’t leave many, and suddenly the whole idea of Kendrys Morales being an important mentor for the young players seems even more significant. In fact, Morales and Ryan Tepera are the only two players that would seemingly be guaranteed a roster spot next spring that are over the age of 30. That could obviously change through free agency or trade in the next couple of months, but right now the Blue Jays are getting significantly younger in a hurry, and I’m not even talking about their Rule 5 selection of 18 year old Elvis Luciano.
This type of scenario would put significant leadership responsibilities on guys like Morales, and other young vets like Marcus Stroman (who has also been the subject of trade rumours). Each group of young players is different, but I hope the Blue Jays do hang on/bring in a couple of guys to help guide the next generation of Blue Jays.
I’m all for letting the kids play during a rebuild, but there’s a lot that can be learned from having a guy like Morales, Martin, Smoak, and Pillar around. Fortunately there is plenty of offseason left for Ross Atkins to figure out the right balance for the 2019 roster.