The Jays will be looking to trade for prospects at the upcoming trade deadline. Here are three high-level prospects that just might be available
MLBTR recently published an article discussing potential trade partners for Marcus Stroman, likely one of the Jays’ top trade chips at this upcoming trade deadline. As they (correctly) pointed out, there are many teams who could find a spot for a pitcher of Stro’s calibre. The article stopped, however, at identifying possible prospects that the Jays could ask for in exchange for a Stroman or Ken Giles (or David Phelps, or Justin Smoak, etc, etc).
So let me do that.
My criteria are as follows. First, the trade partner has to be realistic. A team that is out of playoff contention and likely to be so for some time is unlikely to offer a top prospect for 1.5 years of HDMH. Second, the prospect has to fit a Blue Jays need. And finally, there has to be some reason why such a good prospect might be available.
Cristian Pache, Atlanta Braves, CF
Baseball America says that Pache “is one of the best centre fielders in baseball (majors or minors)” right now” and ranks him as the 52nd best prospect in baseball. Their concern is with his bat, which they believe to still be developing. Fangraphs and MLB Pipeline are more optimistic, ranking him #19 and #16 respectively. On his hit tool, Pipeline says:
"If he can continue to refine that swing and his approach, Pache has the potential to be an All-Star caliber player. Even if he falls a little short of that, his ability to make contact, his speed and his outstanding defense point to a long Major League career."
So why would Atlanta consider giving up a player with Lorenzo Cain upside and (perhaps?) a Kevin Kiermaier floor? Thing is, Pache is blocked in Atlanta. The Braves have this kid named Acuna currently playing centre, and he is pretty good.
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They also have Ender Inciarte under contract through 2022. Inciarte is very similar to Pache in that he is an exceptional centre fielder who is unlikely to ever be a plus hitter. And he is a proven quantity, who is ready to help right now – unlike Pache, whose ETA is 2020 or 2021. Pache loses a lot of value if moved to a corner OF position – Atlanta might do better trading him to a team who needs Pache in CF.
Don’t get me wrong – Atlanta is unlikely to give up Pache for anything less than a major haul. But my point is that Pache *might* be at least on the table.
Since the Braves have now signed Dallas Keuchel to a deal that covers the rest of the season they may not be as interested in someone like Stroman. That said, he would still represent an upgrade for the Braves and one that could last more than the 2019 season. Ken Giles would also fit nicely on the contending Braves’ roster.
Adonis Medina, Philadelphia Phillies, RHP
Like Pache, Medina is unusual in that he is ranked the 67th best prospect by Pipeline and 44th by Fangraphs, but is not even on the Baseball America top 100 list. (for context, Nate Pearson is #63 on Fangraphs and #55 by Pipeline) Fangraphs sums him up like this:
"Medina will show you three plus pitches and easily has mid-rotation upside if he can do so consistently. He mixed several nuclear meltdown starts into what was otherwise an impressive 2018."
So Medina is a Nate Pearson-level high-upside pick with some control risk and a 2020 ETA.
Why would the Phils consider trading him, particularly when they traded Sixto Sanchez (their best pitching prospect) in the J.T. Realmuto deal this offseason? Well, it is *because* they traded for Realmuto (free agent in 2021) and signed David Robinson (opt-out 2021) and signed/extended Andrew McCutchen (32 years old) and Aaron Nola and Bryce Harper. For the Phils, the future is now. But the Philly starters have a combined 2.1 WAR so far in 2019 – 26th best among the 30 MLB teams (Toronto is 23rd, in case you were wondering). Of all the legitimate playoff contenders, the Phils might have the greatest need for a #1 starter with a strong playoff record.
Luis Patino, San Diego Padres, RHP
Patino had a breakout 2018. His 2.16 ERA and 2.91 FIP in low-A ball earned his prospect #49 ranking on the BA 100 list, #44 on Pipeline and #42 on Fangraphs. Pipeline sees him as having huge upside:
"Patino is both athletic and physically strong for his age, with present feel for throwing and locating four pitches. His quick right arm generates a fastball that’s been up to 98 mph and usually sits in the low-to-mid-90s with late life thanks to his extension toward the plate. Patino’s power slider in the upper 80s is a swing-and-miss offering, and he also shows aptitude for executing an above-average curveball as well as a changeup that stands to improve as he gains experience. He’s consistently around the zone and could have at least above-average command once fully developed."
So why would the Pads trade a player described by Fangraphs as “one of the most exciting teenage arms on the planet“? Well, for all of his upside, Patino is just one of an are-you-kidding-me SIX Padres pitching prospects with a 55 grade or higher. So while you can never have enough pitching … the Pads have enough pitching.
Secondly, Patino is only 19, which both increases the risk (he is currently only pitching at high-A) and delays his major league ETA to an optimistic 2021. The Padres have been rumoured to be interested in Stroman in the past, and (per MLBTR) are likely the current favourites in the Stroman Sweepstakes.
The bottom line
These are of course just three possible trade targets. Do the Jays believe enough in Ian Happ‘s 10% decrease in his strikeout rate in AAA to make him a target for a corner (not centre) outfield position? Would the Yanks part with Estevan Florial, given their current logjam in the outfield – or with Clint Frazier, if the Jays can live with his defense? (and would they trade Stro’ to a division rival in any event?). Has Kyle Wright‘s stock slipped enough that Atlanta would trade him – and would the Jays want him if they did?
The Jays were smart (and lucky) to get Trent Thornton from Houston last year, in part because Thornton was blocked by other excellent prospects in the Astros system. Might the Jays find a similar efficiency – or perhaps more than one – this summer?