Blue Jays: Opportunity for Jays if Padres Look to Package Top Prospects?

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - MAY 01: Cal Quantrill #40 of the San Diego Padres pitches in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on May 01, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - MAY 01: Cal Quantrill #40 of the San Diego Padres pitches in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on May 01, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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After nine consecutive losing seasons, Padres Chairman Ron Fowler has vowed “heads will roll” if 2020 is not a significant improvement over their 70-92 record and 5th place finish in 2019, which already cost Manager Andy Green his job. With MLB’s top farm system for two straight years, but a constrained payroll, could the Jays work out a trade for some of their prospects? 

Older fans will remember one of the greatest ever trades ever consummated by the Blue Jays. At the 1990 baseball winter meetings in Chicago, Toronto GM Pat Gillick traded 27-year old 1B Fred McGriff and 29-year old SS Tony Fernandez to the San Diego Padres for then 22-year old 2B Roberto Alomar and 30-year OF Joe Carter.

All four were All-Stars; Alomar and Carter would help the Blue Jays win back-to-back World Series in 1992 and 1993, McGriff won a home run title for San Diego before winning a championship with the Braves, and Fernandez eventually came back to Toronto, where he won a ring in 1993. Alomar would be inducted to the Hall of Fame as a player in 2011. It was an old-time blockbuster.

As Gillick tells it, after making the trade he called his wife and explained the players involved. Doris Gillick was not pleased; McGriff was her favourite player, and Fernandez was a 3X All-Star. “Will you get home before you screw up the team any further?” she said.

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What are the chances now almost thirty years later that Jays GM Ross Atkins will call his wife, Christine, and tell her he’s just pulled off a blockbuster trade with San Diego at the 2019 baseball winter meetings in Las Vegas next month?  Well, the odds have improved considerably. Kevin Acee of the San Diego Tribune-Review wrote yesterday about how Padres GM A.J. Preller will likely pursue major trades involving highly regarded prospects in the coming weeks.

Padres Decade

General partner Peter Seidler has often said the Padres are building for the span of a “decade” but recently declared, “Our decade starts on Jan. 1.” Chairman Ron Fowler says the Padres have “a lot of guys we can package and come up with what we need to be a better team that can win a lot more games in 2020, and that’s our objective.” And again according to Acee today, multiple sources say Preller could be on the verge of potential trades to upgrade his roster using  prospect currency.

The Padres see 2020 to ’21 as the target to open their competitive window, one year ahead of the Blue Jays, but until now have not been motivated to part with many prospects. Like Rogers, their ownership is unlikely to be among the top spenders this offseason. However, unlike the Jays, they have already splurged in the free agent market, signing 3B Manny Machado to a 10 yr/$300mn deal in February, and 1B Eric Hosmer to an 8 yr/$144mn contract in 2018. They also gave a 6 yr/$83mn extension to1B/OF Wil Myers entering 2017.

Padres ownership says it will spend when deemed appropriate, and a $140 million dollar payroll for 2020 (up about $15mn from 2019) is possible. They have $97mn in competitive balance (“luxury”) tax payroll already committed for 2020 according to Spotrac.

Shopping List

According to Acee, they’re hoping to add at least one top of the rotation starter and some left-handed bats to a line-up that was one of the worst in the majors against right-handed pitching. Young, controllable LHH outfielders like the Rays’ Austin Meadows, the Rangers’ Nomar Mazara, and the Dodgers’ Alex Verdugo were already pursued at the July trade deadline. This would make OF Hunter Renfroe (arbitration eligible in 2020) expendable. They’re also looking to upgrade from Luis Urías at 2B, and Preller is said to be looking to improve his catching by finding a starter who hits better than Austin Hedges and defends better than Francisco Mejia.

So Renfroe, Urías and Hedges could all be moved after generating interest last July. This would also free up space on their 40-man roster to protect players who finished the season on their 60-day IL including OF Franchy Cordero, RHP Jacob Nix, and lefties Jose Castillo and Adrian Morejon, as well as minor league OFs Buddy Reed and Jorge Oña.

Then there’s that top ranked farm system which has already graduated SS Fernando Tatis Jr., OF Josh Naylor, Urías, Mejia, as well as starting pitchers Chris Paddack, Cal Quantrill, Joey Luchessi, Eric LauerNick Margevicius and Dinelson Lamet. Prospects Franmil Reyes (OF) and Logan Allen (LHP) were already moved for consensus top 30 prospect and lefty-swinging AA OF Taylor Trammell, who doesn’t need to be protected on the 40-man roster until next winter.

Top prospect MacKenzie Gore, MLB.com’s 4th-ranked prospect overall, is expected to make his major league debut in 2020 with Luis Patino (MLB’s 30th-ranked prospect) not far behind. They are both seen as virtually untouchable in trades.

However, prospect capital such as A and A+ prospects SS CJ Abrams (MLB’s 45th-ranked prospect), 2B/SS Xavier Edwards (#72), C Luis Campusano (#86), and LHP Ryan Weathers (son of former Jays pitcher David Weathers), plus Cuban lefty Adrian Morejon and RHP Michel Baez who both debuted as rookies in 2019, as well as major leaguers OF Hunter Renfroe, 2B Luis Urías, C Austin Hedges and surplus starting pitching could all be added to trade packages to help move unwanted contracts.

The Padres would surely like to free up payroll to sign free agent starters like SoCal native Stephen Strasburg, and Zack Wheeler, who they covet. Acee reports it’s “likely” the Padres would be willing to eat half of the $60 million left on 28-year old 1B/OF Wil Myers’ heavily backloaded contract (3 years remaining) to trade him.

Potential Trade Partner in the Jays?

The Jays do have potential surpluses at catcher and in the OF if recent talk of moving one of RHH Danny Jansen and LHH Reese McGuire, as well as RHH Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is to be believed. Potential surplus LHH bats include OFs Derek Fisher and Billy McKinney, as well as 1B Rowdy Tellez. Could lefty-hitting 2B Cavan Biggio, who just finished 5th in AL ROY voting, also generate interest from the Padres who want to upgrade at 2B from 22-year old Luis Urias?

San Diego is unlikely to be interested in Jays’ closer Ken Giles given they already have star closer Kirby Yates on a team friendly $6.5 million expected arbitration salary for 2020 vs. the expected $8.4 million Giles is seen winning.

The Jays are looking to add starting pitching, which San Diego has a surplus of. Could adding a Gold Glover calibre 1B in Wil Myers make sense if the Padres really are willing to absorb half of the remaining $60 million on his contract, and given the payroll flexibility in Toronto to take on such a contract? The Padres also have RHP Garrett Richards (owed $8.5mn) who once possessed top of the rotation stuff, but is now 31-years old and has battled injuries.

If they packaged Myers (and half of his salary) with one of their of young controllable starters from amongst RHP Chris Paddack, RHP Cal Quantrill, LHP Joey Luchessi, RHP Eric Lauer, Cuban lefty Adrian Morejon, and RHP Michel Baez, plus LHP Ryan Weathers who pitched in A-ball in 2019, as well as major leaguers 2B Luis Urías and C Austin Hedges (arbitration eligible in 2020), would a package of Biggio, Jansen, Fisher, and Tellez be enough for Ross Atkins and A.J. Preller to start a conversation this week in Arizona and in to the winter meetings next month?

For sentimental reasons, getting Cal Quantrill and Ryan Weathers, the sons of former Jays stalwarts Paul Quantrill and David Weathers, would be a nice touch for fans.

Think back to when the Blue Jays had two first basemen – McGriff and John Olerud – and needed an OF. Gillick approached then Padres GM Joe McIlvaine about Carter at the general managers’ meetings that November 1990, and when the teams spoke again at the winter meetings in December, an expanded deal came together quickly. McIlvaine was losing 1B Jack Clark to free agency, so he wanted McGriff. SS Garry Templeton was slowing at 33, and when Gillick mentioned Fernandez for Alomar, McIlvaine believed at the time it would be easier to find a 2B than a SS.

Blue Jays' OF isn't the surplus to trade from right now. dark. Next

The rest is history, but as we know, history can repeat itself!

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