Blue Jays: Late off-season trade opportunities still popping up

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 14: Marcell Ozuna #23 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a double against the Washington Nationals during the second inning of Game Three of the National League Championship Series at Nationals Park on October 14, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 14: Marcell Ozuna #23 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a double against the Washington Nationals during the second inning of Game Three of the National League Championship Series at Nationals Park on October 14, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /
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While the Blue Jay roster is close to being set before Spring Training begins, there are still late off-season trade opportunities popping up.

When the Blue Jays signed Hyun-Jin Ryu back in December, he was the third starting pitcher added to the roster after Tanner Roark and Chase Anderson, and up to five if you include a healthy Matt Shoemaker, and also Shun Yamaguchi, who pitched as a starter in Japan last season. They closed the 2019 calendar by signing Travis Shaw to help shore up their infield as well.

As they opened a new year, it felt like the Blue Jays might be done off-season shopping, with the exception of a few MiLB contracts brought in like we’ve seen recently with Ruben Tejada, Joe Panik, Caleb Joseph and more. However, as we’re just over three weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training, there are still trade opportunities popping up around the league.

We’ve already had a few looks at whether the Blue Jays should pursue someone like Nolan Arenado, who could very well be traded before Opening Day, especially now that it looks like things have soured between him and the Rockies. That would be a pretty massive exchange, but the fact that the Blue Jays called to ask about Francisco Lindor earlier this off-season shows they’re not opposed to the idea under the right circumstances. Now that Arenado is clearly unhappy in Colorado, perhaps that changes things for the Rockies’ leverage.

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I can’t help but wonder if another development on Wednesday might open a trade opportunity for the Blue Jays as well. Their old pal Alex Anthopoulos struck the free agent market again with the Atlanta Braves, signing Marcell Ozuna to a surprising one-year, 18 million dollar contract. With that addition, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Braves decided to shop an outfielder, and that could mean that an idea I brought up earlier this off-season could be on the table.

The Braves will obviously start Ozuna among their outfield trio, and he’ll be joined by Ronald Acuna Jr. as everyday outfielders. However, they also have Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis, Adam Duvall, and Austin Riley. The latter will likely no longer be in the outfield mix, and could be used at third base, but that still leaves them five outfielders for three spots. That also means that the Braves could be open to trading Inciarte, who could provide a marginal upgrade for the Blue Jay in centre field, and comes with years of reasonably priced contract control.

There aren’t a lot of true difference makers left on the free agent market, but Nick Castanellos is still available and could certainly shift the trade market, depending on where he lands. Teams will make room for upgrades, and Castanellos is that type of hitter, and maybe even someone the Blue Jays should have a chat with now that the bottom fell out of Ozuna’s market. It’s also possible, although unlikely, that a blockbuster for someone like Lindor, Mookie Betts of the Red Sox, or Kris Bryant of the Cubs could still happen, and any of those moves would have the potential to shake up the trade market.

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So while I am assuming that the Blue Jays are done their free agent shopping outside of adding a few arms to the bullpen on low-cost deals, it would behoove the front office to keep their eyes and ears peeled in case the right situation comes up. It’s getting late in the off-season, but that doesn’t mean the opportunity to improve won’t still come along.

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