Toronto Blue Jays News

Blue Jays: Examining potential starting pitching trade targets

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - SEPTEMBER 26: Starting pitcher German Marquez #48 of the Colorado Rockies throws a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning of the MLB game at Chase Field on September 26, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - SEPTEMBER 26: Starting pitcher German Marquez #48 of the Colorado Rockies throws a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning of the MLB game at Chase Field on September 26, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /
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Sep 23, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks (28) delivers a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 23, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks (28) delivers a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Toronto Blue Jays Acquire:
RHP Kyle Hendricks (37.5)
= 37.5

Chicago Cubs Acquire:
SS Rikelvin de Castro (3.6)
OF Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (26.3)
1B Rowdy Tellez (6.5)
= 36.4

Or

Toronto Blue Jays Acquire:
RHP Kyle Hendricks (37.5)
= 37.5

Chicago Cubs Acquire:
1B Rowdy Tellez (6.5)
INF Orelvis Martinez (22.2)
RHP Trent Thornton (6.1)
RHP Patrick Murphy (0.8)
= 35.6

The Chicago Cubs find themselves in a difficult position this upcoming season.

Although they won the World Series back in 2016, the Cubs now have key players Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo all becoming free agents this upcoming off-season and look to be on the verge of a rebuild, highlighted by the fact they just traded RHP Yu Darvish to the San Diego Padres for a package of prospects earlier this off-season.

Enter the Toronto Blue Jays.

While the jury is still out as to whether the Cubs are going to enter a rebuild, the fact is that the team most likely will not retain all three players. If they choose to rebuild, they could choose to trade other assets on the roster like veteran pitcher Kyle Hendricks. Over the past seven seasons, Hendricks sports a 3.12 ERA with 882 strikeouts and a 1.105 WHIP over 174 starts. The right-hander is currently under contract for the next three years (with a club option for the fourth) and will be earning roughly $14 million a year.

Given his contract status and his age, the price for Hendricks is going to be quite high. This would be a tough trade for Blue Jays fans, as the organization would have to give up a larger package to acquire the right-hander services.

Scenario 1

In this trade, the highlight of the deal would be Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

His team-friendly contract as well as his ability to play multiple positions has seen the Cuban on various trade rumours this off-season with the recent signing of George Springer and the potential log-jam in the outfield. Tellez would be the replacement for Rizzo if he was to leave next off-season, and de Castro would be a prospect to watch as he projects to be a potential everyday type MLB player, but isn’t MLB ready for at least 3-4 seasons.

This would be a lot to give up as Gurriel Jr. and Tellez are obviously MLB-ready and currently featured on the Blue Jays roster, but Vladimir Guerrero Jr. could take Tellez’s spot at first base, and Springer, Randal Grichuk, and Teoscar Hernandez could fill out the outfield with Gurriel Jr’s departure. The utility-man has been taking reps at third base this spring training, but the Blue Jays could utilize Cavan Biggio at the hot corner this year with recently signed Marcus Semien playing second base for the upcoming season. This would allow prospects Jordan Groshans and Austin Martin to fight for third base within the farm system and have them be ready for next year.

The Cubs do not possess significant depth at first base within the farm system and Gurriel Jr. could be utilized at various positions and could even become Ben Zobrist 2.0, a player Cubs fans know all too well.

While losing Gurriel Jr. and Tellez would be a tough pill to swallow, trading both players would give the Blue Jays a legitimate top of the rotation starting pitcher alongside Hyun-Jin Ryu that could be the difference maker come playoff time.

Scenario 2

With this trade, the Blue Jays would be giving a good mix of prospect capital and MLB-ready talent when compared to scenario 1 above. Tellez would still head to the Cubs but the trade would centre around the acquisition of infield prospect Orelvis Martinez.

Martinez (7th) and Murphy (18th) ranked high on the Blue Jays prospect board, but Martinez is still a few years away from being MLB ready, while Murphy performed well out of the bullpen for the Blue Jays last season in just four appearances. The organization would be able to send Thornton to the Cubs with the acquisition of Hendricks plus the depth the Blue Jays have with the likes of Robbie Ray, Steven Matz, and Tyler Chatwood to round out the rotation.

As mentioned in scenario one, Tellez would take over for Rizzo if he does leave the Cubs in free agency, and Martinez would slot in alongside the likes of Cubs prospects Nico Hoerner (he played outfield last season but was an infielder in the farm system), Ed Howard, Chase Strumpf, and Reginald Preciado. Murphy and Thornton both have the ability to be used as either a starter or in the bullpen, leaving the Cubs with the flexibility to rebuild the rotation as they choose.

Conclusion

Whether Hendricks becomes available will hang largely on if the Chicago Cubs do choose to rebuild based on the likelihood of their star players heading to free agency and not re-signing with the organization.

Look for these trade scenarios to resurface near the trade deadline if the Cubs are outside playoff contention, as the team could choose to trade players that they don’t believe they can retain and look to sell off other assets to enhance the rebuild scenario.

If the Cubs are knocking on playoff doors this season, then the time might be right in the off-season with the likes of Baez, Bryant, and Rizzo in free agency.

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