I’ve never been a fan of surrendering prospects for a rental player, but given the strange circumstances of the 2020 season, it might make sense for the Blue Jays this year.
With less than five days before the MLB trade deadline, the rumour mill should be very busy for the next little while. And after an encouraging 14-14 start and surprisingly emerging as playoff contenders, the Blue Jays should find themselves as buyers rather than sellers.
Given that they’re still more or less in the late stages of their rebuild, I doubt that Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro plan on selling the farm to upgrade the current roster. However, they’ve frequently talked about a willingness to explore their options over the years, just as we saw them do by signing Hyun-Jin Ryu this past winter. I believe that they’re ready to make an impact move for the long-term if the opportunity presents itself, but what about with the rental market?
I’ve never been a fan of using minor league assets to acquire a rental, with exceptions like the 2015 post-season run that saw David Price arrive in Toronto. That team was very much at the finishing stages of building a winner, which was a much different circumstance than what we’re looking at with the current club. That said, 2020 has brought enough challenges that it could also be the year that a rental makes the most sense.
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I say that because my guess is the market is going to be cheaper than usual, for a variety of reasons. First, with an expanded playoff, the chances of a post-season flame out are much higher with 16 teams, so the idea of spending to “go for it” could give some organizations pause in such a strange here. I doubt there are many teams that can about winning in a full season vs. what we have now, but it does change the dynamic a bit.
Secondly and more importantly, teams are limited to their 60-man player pool when it comes to assets they can use in a trade. For example, a minor pitcher like Eric Pardinho or Adam Kloffenstein may have been an intriguing part of an August offer in a normal deadline month, but right now the Jays can’t include them even if they want to. The same goes for every other team in baseball working with players on expiring contracts.
Does that mean the cost of a rental will come down? My assumption is yes, and in that case I’d be okay with the Blue Jays taking a shot at improving the team this way, especially with their current needs in the rotation. That obviously expands the pool of pitchers that could be of interest, which includes names like Trevor Bauer, Taijuan Walker, and more.
A playoff appearance would be a positive step in the rebuild for this talented young team, and for a less price that could be much less than usual, it may be worth the cost.