Trade rumours are flying, as major league teams with an eye on playoff contention try to improve their rosters before the trade deadline on July 30th. The Blue Jays are no different, with their name attached to many potential trade candidates around the league. But there are some names the Jays should avoid.
Now hear me out here. The rumours are out there. The Jays are interested in the Twins’ veteran DH. There’s no question, Nelson Cruz has been a consistent big power bat in this league for what seems like decades (actually, it sort of is—this is his 3rd different decade of blasting bombs and making All-Star teams).
There’s certainly no arguing the 41-year-old’s value as a run producer but I argue against the Blue Jays acquiring him for two reasons.
First, the obvious: do the Jays really need to be spending their resources on a commodity they already have plenty of? Their offence is decidedly one of the best in all of baseball. All the offence in the world still has them sitting at just 3 games over .500 at the All-Star Break. We know that pitching—particularly relief pitching—is where the dire need is. That is where the front office’s full attention needs to be.
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Secondly, Cruz is a designated hitter, and a DH only. If you want him in the lineup every day, he’ll be hogging up the DH slot every game. To this point in the season, manager Charlie Montoyo has deftly cycled his four outfielders plus Vladimir Guerrero Jr. through that role. This has kept all of them fresh, with a day off from defensive duties every now and then, as well as allowing most of them to stay in the lineup every day.
That plan has also worked by keeping them relatively healthy (yes, there’s Springer, I know, I know, but his health problems started before the season even got underway).
Inserting Cruz as the everyday designated hitter removes that flexibility. It forces Vladdy, Teoscar Hernandez, George Springer, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to play the field every day, or don’t play at all.
Focus on pitching, please.
But not this pitcher. Kyle Gibson is one of the hottest names in the starting pitcher market in this trade season, due to his “so far” stellar season. A 2.29 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and a 6-1 record for the lowly Texas Rangers. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But let’s take a closer look.
The Blue Jays are looking to improve their roster, with their name attached to many potential trade candidates around the league. But there are some names the Jays should avoid.
Actually, to start, we only need to look at the entire body of work in Gibson’s career. He has finished with an ERA below 4.00 only twice in his 8 previous seasons (career 4.38); and he has a career 1.39 WHIP (yikes).
Under the hood, we find the following red flags, courtesy of Rotographs, from Fangraphs:
- BABIP: At .254, this is significantly lower than at any time in his career; this is due for a major regression (his career mark is .306). This means higher batting averages against him are coming
- Strand Rate: at 84.3%, this is 13% higher than expected
- Ballpark Factor: While the Rangers’ new ballpark is an excellent pitching venue, Sahlen Field and/or Rogers Centre are not
- HR/FB: His home runs per fly ball rate is exceptionally low (9.6% compared to his career mark of >15%); this could be related to the afore-mentioned ballpark factor as well
There are much better pitching options out there. Both for the rotation and the bullpen.
But here are the issues with trading for Bryant. First, see: Cruz, Nelson. The Jays do not need more offence, they need pitching, pitching, pitching. If any type of prospect capital is spent here instead of spending it on pitching, the opportunity cost is too high.
There’s also the matter of this being a pure rental. Bryant is a free agent after the season. The cost would have to be extremely low (which it undoubtedly won’t be).
Finally, another look under the hood, courtesy of this very well-studied fan:
In the last 2+ months, Bryant’s numbers are not only ordinary, they’re well below average, and far below Cavan Biggio’s. In two of the previous three seasons before 2021, he struggled through extremely sub-par seasons, so there’s a big question as to which version of Bryant the Jays would be getting.
There are so many trade avenues the Blue Jays could take that would greatly advance this team’s chances of making the playoffs. The above three names, I suspect, do not.