Blue Jays: Three starting pitchers who are the most likely trade candidates

DENVER, COLORADO - JULY 18: Starting pitcher Jon Gray #55 of the Colorado Rockies throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second inning at Coors Field on July 18, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO - JULY 18: Starting pitcher Jon Gray #55 of the Colorado Rockies throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second inning at Coors Field on July 18, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /
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Blue Jays
Jul 26, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Michael Pineda (35) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

Michael Pineda – Minnesota Twins

While teammate Jose Berrios would be the better fit for the long run, if the Minnesota Twins asking price for their star pitcher is too high or he gets dealt elsewhere, right-hander Michael Pineda is also a solid option for the Blue Jays rotation.

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You probably remember hearing about Pineda when he was a member of the New York Yankees but since 2019, the Dominican product has called Minnesota home. For his career, he sports a 4.01 ERA through 162 starts and has 916 strikeouts and a 1.19 WHIP to his name.

This season, Pineda struggled through a few starts in June but has found a good rhythm over his last two starts allowing only three earned runs while going 11.0 combined innings and striking out nine. On the season, the right-hander sports a 3.86 ERA through 14 starts and has 64 strikeouts on the campaign but did miss some time earlier this year on the IL.

With Pineda now healthy and the competition heating up for pitchers on playoff-bound teams, the Toronto Blue Jays could find a reliable option in Minnesota if they either miss out on Scherzer or the Twins are asking too much/hold on to Jose Berrios. Like Gray, the right-hander will also be a rental player as his two-year contract is up at the end of the season. The San Diego Padres have shown interest in the veteran hurler over the past few weeks.

Merrill Kelly – Arizona Diamondbacks

Making his major league debut in 2019 after spending four years overseas in the KBO League within South Korea, Arizona Diamondbacks right-handed starter Merrill Kelly is drawing some trade interest at this year’s deadline.

After a strong showing in 2020 before being shut down with an injury, Kelly has been alright for the last place Diamonbacks in the NL East, starting 21 games and throwing to a 4.39 ERA through 123.0 innings with 105 strikeouts. You feel for him in that he has not been able to get a lot of run support in Arizona and the Blue Jays could look to add him as a piece for a longer haul past the 2021 season.

Kelly has a few years of contract control left and is one of the main reasons he is drawing so much interest at the deadline. He is not eligible for free agency through 2024 and should not cost an arm and leg prospect-wise to get him into a Blue Jays uniform compared to other high-end starters with contract control. The Diamondbacks could be persuaded with quantity versus quality considering their current standings, meaning the Blue jays could potentially acquire him for players either at the tail end of the top prospect list or some AA/AAA talent not on the list.

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Kelly may not be the flashiest option at the deadline nor does he have the best stats on the year, but if he can find the same mojo that saw his 2020 ERA slide down to 2.59 with 29 strikeouts through 31.1 innings, the Blue Jays may have another solid starter in the rotation past this season who didn’t cost them too much to acquire.