Since joining the organization back in late 2015, Ross Atkins has seen his fair share of ups and downs with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The first thing Atkins did was put the Blue Jays into rebuild mode, trading away or letting veteran players walk via free agency, bringing in young, controllable players as replacements. Not every trade has worked out in his favour, and some prospects are still grinding away in the minor leagues, but it was a move that fans saw coming, and one that is pretty much over with the signings of Hyun jin Ryu/George Springer and the emergence of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette as everyday players.
Atkins and co. have also done a pretty solid job of drafting players since 2016, adding the likes of Bichette, Alek Manoah, and Cavan Biggio alongside a host of other talented young players like Nate Pearson, Jordan Groshans, and Austin Martin that find themselves on the top prospect lists.
Looking back at Ross Atkins’ trade history since joining the Toronto Blue Jays, the front office has been inclined to include second-round picks in many of their recent deals, leaving some to wonder if newly drafted RHP C.J. Van Eyk could be moved for pitching help this summer.
The Blue Jays have been struggling as of late, winning three of their last 11 games while also riding a five-game losing streak capped off by a rough performance last night against the Baltimore Orioles. One of the main contributors for this difficult stretch is the bullpen not being able to finish games, a once-mighty group of pitchers who just cannot find a way to keep runs off the scoreboard.
That being said, Blue Jays fans are clamoring for Atkins and co. to make a trade to improve the relief corps, and while the pickings may be slim given that there is still over a month left until the trade deadline, it’s coming to a point where the front office will have to do something sooner than later if the Jays want to contend later this season.
Looking back at the recent trade history, it seems that Atkins has one particular trend when it comes to including prospect talent in exchange for veteran payers.
2016: J.B. Woodman (traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Aledmys Diaz on December 1, 2017)
Bo Bichette (currently with the organization)
2017: Hagen Danner (currently with the organization)
2018: Griffin Conine (traded to the Miami Marlins in exchange for Jonathan Villar on September 18, 2020)
2019: Kendall Williams (traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Ross Stripling on September 1, 2020)
2020: C.J. Van Eyk (currently with the organization)
The only two players who have been drafted in the second round and not traded prior to last year’s draft are Bichette and Hagen Danner, with the shortstop featuring on the active roster while Danner made a position switch from infielder to the mound this off-season and is now pitching in A ball.
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That leaves just C.J. Van Eyk, a right-handed starter who was drafted out of Florida State University last year in the second round. Van Eyk is currently in High-A with the Vancouver Canadians and features a 4.45 ERA through 30.1 innings pitched and seven starts, pitching to 14 walks, 33 strikeouts, and a 1.375 WHIP in his first professional campaign. The right-hander currently finds himself on the Blue Jays top prospect list at #10, similar to how Williams (he was #11) before being dealt last season.
The Blue Jays could use Van Eyk to possibly get one or two veteran relief pitchers if Atkins deals with rebuilding/struggling teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates or Minnesota Twins. Alternatively, the front office could choose to package the right-hander with other internal prospects to increase the value and find a more prominent arm, whether it be in the bullpen or in the rotation (which would bump Stripling back to being a reliever although he has been pitching well as of late).
If history is anything, there is a good to fair chance that Van Eyk may see his name on the trade wire this summer. The talented Florida product could easily progress through any farm system given his experience in college as well as his advanced arsenal, so teams may come calling for him in returns for potential deals.
While Blue Jays fans may not want to see him go, management is going to have to dip into the farm system if they want to improve the current pitching corps, and with the way the bullpen has been pitching as of late, it might be wise to pick up the phone sooner rather than later.