The Blue Jays have one of the best minor league systems in baseball, and with their MLB team near ready to compete, the front office is at an important crossroads.
Baseball America came out with their latest update to their Top 100 prospects list on Monday (subscription required), and the Blue Jays now have seven players who are featured among them. The rankings have shifted a bit for the Jays’ top prospects though, and Gabriel Moreno is now at the top of the list, all the way up to #12 from #30. Alek Manoah made a big jump up to 13 to 31, and Orelvis Maritnez shot up from 74 to 58. The others lost a bit of ground on the list, but Austin Martin is still found at 21, Nate Pearson at 55, Jordan Groshans at 83, and Alejandro Kirk hanging around at 85.
Add it up and the Blue Jays have a lot to be excited about when it comes to the future of this franchise, and that’s obviously compounded with the presence of young stars already on the big league roster like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and more. However, the front office is now in a place where they have to balance the present vs. the future, and that means deciding just how heavily they want to press for a playoff spot in the immediate term.
With seven of the top 100 prospects, the Blue Jays have all the tools they need to make an impact deal, and likely a few of them if they want to. I’m not advocating that they should glut their minor league system by any means, but there’s going to come a time that they have to push their chips to the centre, even if it’s a little bit premature to do so. Based on the way the MLB roster has performed in 2021, I believe they’re at that arguably premature place in their rebuild now, and I’d like to see the front office act accordingly.
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After dropping another tough game to the Red Sox on Monday night to open their four-game set, I can understand that the Blue Jays likely won’t be pursuing rental pieces this year, especially not in exchange for their premium prospects. However, that doesn’t mean that Ross Atkins and company should retire the idea of trying to acquire an impact player, and maybe even using one of his best trade chips in order to make it happen.
Yesterday I wrote about why I believe it would be a mistake for the Jays to considering selling their own rental pieces such as Marcus Semien and Robbie Ray. It’s worth checking out if I don’t say myself, but one of my major points was that I didn’t like the message that it sent to their young core. With four years of contract control for Vlad Jr and Bichette after this year, I think it’s time for the Blue Jays to start investing in this group and showing the faces of their franchise that Toronto is a place they want to be for the long term. Throwing in the towel in July when you’re only 4.5 games back of a playoff spot shows them the opposite.
If we’re looking at those top seven prospects, I’d argue that you could make a couple of them available and still be very well set up for the future. For example, Gabriel Moreno now looks like the catcher of the future in Toronto, and that leaves the Jays with a few valuable backstops that they could use as trade chips. Kirk would easily be the most valuable of the group, and I’m confident there would be a lot of interest if the Jays started to shop him. With the presence of young and controllable catchers like Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire and even Riley Adams, they can afford to sacrifice some of that depth while they wait for Moreno to arrive, and could even find a short-term veteran if it felt necessary.
Speaking of depth, the Blue Jays have a ton of it in the infield as well. Martin and Groshans could be MLB ready as soon as 2022, and don’t be surprised if Martinez isn’t very far behind them even at just 19 years old at present. With Guerrero Jr. and Bichette well established in the Jays’ infield, and Cavan Biggio being capable of moving around, the future of the group should be strong even if Marcus Semien leaves in free agency this offseason. There are no guarantees with prospects, but if the Jays used someone like, say, Jordan Groshans in order to acquire a top-tier starting pitcher, I think they could make that sacrifice.
Of course, it all comes down to the player that they’re trying to acquire, and the perfect scenario may not exist at the moment. The Jays likely aren’t going to be pursuing rental players, and that could limit the targets they like, but if the right opportunity comes up then Atkins and company need to be ready to pounce. There’s no doubt they have the prospect capital in order to do it, and and I’d argue that their window of opportunity is just starting to open. Sooner or later they’re going to have to make some tough decisions.