Blue Jays: Top Three Trade Chips On The 40-Man Roster
(3) Alejandro Kirk- C
This was pains me to say because Alejandro Kirk is already becoming a fan favourite in Toronto, but the truth is that the Jays have a level of catching depth that is redundant to the organization if they don’t trade any of it. There is no point in keeping around four or five big-league capable catchers when one or two of them can be leveraged to retool in areas of higher priority. Right now, the Jays have significant catching depth such as but not limited to: 2019 AL gold glove finalist Danny Jansen, former first round pick Reese McGuire, and young Venezuelan stud Gabriel Moreno who tore the cover off the ball in the Dominican Winter League.
Moreover, the Jays have no reason for letting this depth rot away in the minors. There is a good argument to be made that Jansen should be the one to be traded, but I think that would be a big defensive gamble for the Jays, as Kirk not only grades as a below average defender, but he has had minimal time to learn the repertoire of his pitching staff.
Kirk’s value right now is as high as it’s ever been. After finishing at A+ ball last year, he began to catch eyes with his elite BB:SO ratio of 56 to 39. After getting called up to the big leagues for offensive improvement at the catcher position in the second half of 2020, he did not disappoint. Down the stretch, Kirk hit .375 across 25 PA including an imperative 4-hit game against the Yankees that featured a homer and double that was 2-3 feet shy of leaving the yard. Considering the upside, fan likability and past success in the minors, Kirk would be an attractive bargaining chip for a lucrative trade opportunity.
Possible Return: Francisco Lindor
I know that Lourdes Gurriel Jr has been rumoured as a one for one option to get Francisco Lindor, but it just seems entirely unrealistic to acquire one year of an expensive Lindor for three years of a cheap Gurriel (he is set to make just $14.6m over the remainder of his contract, which also includes a fourth year of arbitration elibility). That has never been how the baseball market operates with regard to trading expiring contracts. Furthermore, the trade Yu Darvish involved no significant MLB-ready impact players. That will surely have an effect on Lindor’s market.
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With Cleveland’s back to back gold glove catcher Roberto Perez set to hit free agency next offseason, Alejandro Kirk would be a perfect pivot opportunity for them. Given their salary-shedding ways of the past few offseasons, it is highly unlikely that Cleveland retains a catcher of Perez’s stature considering the hefty price tag that will likely come with. Kirk not only provides them with significant upside as a catcher, but he also provides the thrifty franchise with some must needed control. He still has multiple minor league options and even if the they permanently left Kirk on the 25 man roster from opening day, he still wouldn’t hit free agency until the 2027 offseason.
I don’t think Kirk alone would command Lindor-type talent since the demand is so high for premium shortstops, but if the Jays threw in a couple mid tier prospects or one upper-tier prospect then this could be a very real possibility.
Honorable Mention: Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
As mentioned, Gurriel has been among the most rumoured names for the Lindor sweepstakes, but I think this is just a bargaining strategy by Cleveland to attain higher demand for Lindor in the market. In this week’s blockbuster trade between the Rays and Padres involving 2018 AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, there was not a significant MLB veteran involved in the deal except Snell himself, although the Rays received a haul of premium prospects. Snell is on a team friendly contract with three years remaining and just over $40m due, which is basically pennies for a pitcher of Snell’s stature. On the other hand, Lindor is set to make nearly $20M this season and is primed for a $200-300m+ free agency deal/extension in the next year.
Everything considered, it’s probably more than likely that the Jays won’t move Gurriel Jr. for a year of Lindor given how the market has moved with other trades over the last week or so.