The Blue Jays have some big decisions to make ahead of the trade deadline, and I’m willing to bet that relationships play a bigger role than we realize.
What do I mean by that? Well, let me explain how I got to that question to begin with. I started thinking about which MLB players the Blue Jays might consider trading in order to address their bullpen and/or starting rotation ahead of the trade deadline. They arguably have a surplus in the outfield and at the catching position, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that we see someone dealt from the big league roster.
On Sunday I had almost convinced myself that the Jays might do well to trade Lourdes Gurriel Jr. as the headliner of a package to improve their pitching staff. Now that George Springer has returned they have four outfielders for three spots in Springer, Gurriel Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, and Randal Grichuk. They can and will use the DH spot to get that extra player in the lineup on a regular basis, but Charlie Montoyo will also need to rest others like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and more, and DH-ing them can keep their potent bats in the lineup while providing a half-day off.
Based on the way this season has gone for Gurriel Jr., there’s a pretty decent argument to be made that he’s the most expendable of the four outfielders. I say that because he hasn’t been the same hitter that we’ve seen in the past, posting a slash line of .258/.276/.406 with eight home runs and 29 RBI, and struggling a fair bit on the defensive side of the ball, ranking as a negative dWAR defender again according to baseballreference.com. That said, he’s shown what kind of impact he can make on a lineup as recently as last season, and he’s under contract for a very affordable 3.5 million in 2021, just 9.9 million to cover 2022-23, and he’s arbitration eligible in 2024 before he becomes a free agent. Even in a bit of a down year so far, there’s still plenty of value to point to.
More from Jays Journal
- Matt Chapman has been exactly what the Blue Jays needed
- Blue Jays: The goalposts are moving in the right direction
- Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays advance to the Championship Series
- Blue Jays: Comparisons for Alek Manoah’s Second Season
- Blue Jays: Adam Cimber, the unlikely decision King
And yet, I don’t think the Blues will even consider trading the 27 year old unless they get absolutely blown away with an offer. Not only is he a fan favourite, he’s a close friend of the most important player on the roster in Vlad Jr.
Those who regularly watch the Blue Jays know what I’m talking about, as seeing Vlad Jr., Gurriel Jr., and Teoscar Hernandez together is a regular occurrence on the bench, and it seems like 95% of the time they’re smiling and laughing. It looks like pretty much the entire roster gets along and enjoy each other’s company, but this group stands out as tightly knit. While Vlad Jr. was born in Canada, he spent most of his upbringing in the Dominican Republic, which he has in common with Hernandez and Santiago Espinal, who seems to have worked his way into the club as well. Gurriel Jr. is from nearby Cuba, and it’s clear the bond is pretty strong.
The reality is, stars will get special treatment in pretty much any sport, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has announced himself as a bonafide superstar in 2021. The Blue Jays are going to do what they can to build a championship calibre team around him, but they’re also going to make decisions with him in mind, especially when it comes to his comfort and overall enjoyment of his experience with the Blue Jays. I’m quite certain that they’ll look to sign him long-term at some point, and keeping him happy will be an important factor in achieving that goal. Secondly though, relationships are important when it comes to performance as well, especially over the course of a long 162 game schedule.
None of this is to suggest that Gurriel Jr. is just “Vlad’s buddy”. He’s a very good baseball player in his own right, and someone that could be an important contributor both this season and for the next three years he’s under contract. That said, there’s no doubt that he would garner some interest on the trade block if the Blue Jays were willing to make him available, and I can understand the argument for that line of thinking.
For now though, I don’t think Gurriel Jr. is going anywhere, not when the Jays’ offence is rolling and Vlad Jr. is on pace to break several franchise records. The chemistry this group is building is easy to spot and it will be a part of their success whether it comes in 2021 or later. I have a hard time not seeing Guerrero Jr., Gurriel Jr., and Hernandez all together celebrating when they do.