According to FanGraphs, nine out of the thirty major league franchises have less than a 2% chance of making the playoffs in 2021. Five teams are already 16.0 games back or worse in their division in games through July 1st: Baltimore, Texas, Pittsburgh, Colorado and Arizona. If we include the teams already 11 games or more back in the Wild Card standings, that adds Detroit, Minnesota, Kansas City, and Miami. These teams should all be sellers this month; which trade targets might the Blue Jays be interested in?
Jays Journal contributors have already taken in-depth looks at what the Minnesota Twins and Arizona Diamondbacks might have to offer the Blue Jays in trades ahead of the July 30th trade deadline (TDL). The D-Backs already made a minor trade with the Yankees, and multiple teams are now said to be interested in 3B Eduardo Escobar. But given it’s now July, and also the fact that Blue Jays General Manager Ross Atkins has already pulled off a decent trade to acquire OF Corey Dickerson and RHP Adam Cimber from Miami, which trade targets are most interesting from these teams that have already dropped out of contention?
Which trade targets should the Blue Jays be focused on from the teams already out of playoff contention?
According to General Manager Ross Atkins, the front office remains focused on pitching and defensive upgrades. Let’s assume that means more help for the beleaguered bullpen, and in terms of defensive upgrades, we can probably safely guess that means third base and the left side of the diamond in general given poor outs above-average numbers from Cavan Biggio (-7, and -2 defensive runs saved (DRS) at 3B), Bo Bichette (-5, 12 errors and multiple acrobatic catches at 1B by first-time All-Star Vladimir Guerrero Jr.) and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (-6)?
The Orioles are already twenty games out of a Wild Card spot and are expected to reload with prospects ahead of the coming trade deadline.
In terms of potential trade targets for the Blue Jays, 3B Maikel Franco is a pending free agent after the season and could be available as a rental. He’s owed another $400,000 or so for 2021 with a $200,000 incentive bonus if he reaches 400 plate appearances ( 309 PAs through games as of July 1st). His 3B defense would not be an improvement over Biggio or Santiago Espinal at an OAA of -6 and DRS of -8. So likely a pass.
Starter Matt Harvey will also be an unrestricted free agent after the season and is owed ~$500,000 this year. However, at 3-9 with a 4.34 ERA and 1.714 WHIP through 17 starts and 72.1 innings, he does not appear to be an upgrade over the current Blue Jays rotation. Pass. Switch-hitting SS Freddy Galvis could be of interest but is currently injured.
This leaves a lot of interesting pre-arbitration eligible relievers, including Paul Fry, Tanner Scott, Cole Sulser, rookie Taylor Wells, and Dillon Tate. Both Fry and Scott will be arbitration-eligible in 2022, while Sulser and Tate can go to arbitration in 2023.
Lefty Scott might be a great set-up complement for the Blue Jays bullpen with a 2.93 ERA over 30.2 innings with 48 strikeouts. He has walked 26 batters in those innings. He also has the third-lowest contact rate (at-bats minus strikeouts divided by at-bats) in the majors at 60.3%, trailing only Craig Kimbrel of the Cubs and Raisel Iglesias of the Angels.
He’s got swing-and-miss stuff when he throws strikes and would be a clear upgrade over Tyler Chatwood, Rafael Dolis, and Carl Edwards Jr. His four-seam fastball, which he throws 51% of the time, averages 97mph, and he complements that with a wipeout 89mph slider that he uses 47% of the time. He’s elite on fastball spin & velocity, hard hit%, and barrel%. Given he’ll be due a large raise for 2022, could the Blue Jays pry him away for some prospects? They’d control the soon-to-be 27-year old through the 2024 season.
Similarly, lefty Paul Fry is arbitration-eligible after this season and would be under control through 2024. He has a 3.52 ERA and 1.24 WHIP over 30.2 innings this season with 41 strikeouts against only 15 walks. He also sports a stellar hard hit%, barrel%, and strikeout metrics.
Those seem to be qualities that Ross Atkins likes as per his comments on Adam Cimber.