The Toronto Blue Jays have several areas of need as they dive into their offseason, including third base, and Cleveland Guardians 3B Jose Ramirez is an ideal fit.
So far this offseason, most of the rumours attached to the Toronto Blue Jays have centred around starting pitching, and whether the club will bring back Robbie Ray, Steven Matz, or both after the left-handers had strong 2020 campaigns for the team.
Despite the obvious need and connection to pitching, the Blue Jays should also be looking at shoring up other areas on their roster, and 3rd base should be firmly on that list.
In 2021, the Blue Jays ranked 19th in FanGraphs WAR for the 3rd base position, and while Santiago Espinal had a really nice season to the tune of a .781 OPS in 92 games, he hit just 2 home runs and does not profile as a plus offensive player at a premium position like 3rd base, while players like Cavan Biggio and Kevin Smith, who had opportunities at the hot corner in 2021, did not acquit themselves particularly well.
This is where Cleveland’s star 3B José Ramírez enters the conversation as a perfect fit for a Blue Jays lineup that is looking for more balance and another presence to add to its strong stable of star power. Initiating trade talks with Cleveland for Ramírez would not be Toronto’s first connection to the three-time All-Star as Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reported that the Blue Jays “took a run at Cleveland third baseman José Ramírez before the trade deadline.”
Why José Ramírez is such a good fit for the Blue Jays
Despite finishing the 2021 season as one of the most prolific offensive teams in Major League Baseball, the Blue Jays were extremely right-handed as an offensive club and didn’t produce much offensively from the left side against right-handed pitching. Toronto finished with an 83 WRC+ (27th in MLB) while seeing only 19 home runs hit by left-handed hitters against righty pitching, dead last on the season among all teams.
Ramírez hit 36 home runs in 2021, with 25 of those coming as a left-handed hitter against right-handed pitching. Ramírez’s ability to switch hit and be productive from both sides of the plate only serves to increase his value and fit to a team like the Blue Jays.
Cleveland had the highest 3rd base fWAR in 2021 at 6.6, with Ramírez accounting for 6.3. In fact, Ramírez has been worth at least three wins in every season since 2016 and is still firmly in his prime, as he will not turn 30 until September 2022.
In addition to being an obvious on-field fit for the Blue Jays, Ramírez’s contract situation also makes him an incredibly attractive target. Cleveland recently picked up a $12 million club option on Ramírez, and he also has a $14 million club option for 2023, as part of a 5 year $26 million contract signed back in 2017.
Acquiring Ramírez won’t come cheap
We’ve outlined why Ramírez would be such a great fit for the Blue Jays, but the cost of acquiring a player of this calibre will be steep.
Considering where the Blue Jays are in their competitive window, it makes sense to look at cashing in some of their considerable prospect capital to acquire a high-impact player who can come in and pay immediate dividends.
Fans often get attached to the idea of prospects and become uncomfortable with the notion of trading them, but when the potential return is a player like Ramírez, no one should be off the table, and that includes the likes of Gabriel Moreno and Orelvis Martinez.
Why Cleveland may hold on to Ramírez
In addition to being a tremendous player for the newly minted Cleveland Guardians, José Ramírez has reportedly said that he does not want to leave Cleveland and hopes to finish his career with the only team he’s ever known, according to The Athletic’s Zack Meisel.
With their franchise changing its name to the Guardians, it is clearly a new era for baseball in the city of Cleveland, and there does exist a very realistic possibility that the front office and the organization will not want to immediately ship the team’s star player out of town.
A trade for a player like José Ramírez requires a level of discomfort in the sense of what it will cost and, no assurances of a long term future beyond the next two seasons, but for a team like the Blue Jays, who want to take a big step towards World Series contention in 2022 and 2023, the upside of what Ramírez could bring to the table, makes it a very worthwhile endeavour.