Trading for a veteran starter, you say?
If the Blue Jays can’t add the pieces they need for their rotation through free agency, there could be some great options on the trade market.
I really don’t expect there to be a lot of teams selling this offseason, but there are a few ways the Jays could go about this. First, they could go the traditional route and tap the shoulders of the rebuilding teams around baseball. That list might include the Oakland A’s, Cincinnati Reds, or Cleveland Guardians, among others, and it’s possible that none of those teams become sellers.
Assuming that the rumour mill heats up around the A’s and Reds in particular, that could mean the Blue Jays have a few more options to keep on their radar. The Reds have long been rumoured to be looking to cut payroll, already trading Tucker Barnhart for a minimal return in what many saw as a cost-cutting measure. If that’s one of the goals for the offseason for their front office, it’s possible that Sonny Gray or even Luis Castillo could be made available. It feels like we’ve been talking about them as potential trade candidates for a few years now, but this might be the offseason that one or both are finally moved. I’m sure Reds fans would be disappointed, but they’ve likely already lost Nick Castellanos as well, and the direction of the franchise could change for 2022 and beyond.
As for the A’s, they were on the periphery of the AL postseason race in 2021, but with an increasingly expensive payroll (by their standards) there have been plenty of rumours around their veteran players. The Yankees seem particularly enamoured with Matt Olson, and the Jays should likely be calling to see if any of their rotation pieces could be available. I doubt the A’s would trade Chris Bassitt, but with only two years left before he becomes a free agent it’s possible they could be talked into it. That likely goes for Frankie Montas too, who has two years before he’ll be a free agent as well, but wouldn’t it make more sense for the A’s to deal one of them now if they’re looking at a rebuild?
More likely the A’s could be willing to part with Sean Manaea, who has just one year left before he’ll hit the free agent market. I don’t know how much the Blue Jays would be willing to pay for a player with just one year left on their contract, but I also think it depends on the other moves that they make. Hypothetically, if they re-signed Marcus Semien to a long-term deal rather than giving that kind of term to a starter like Ray or Gausman, then trading for someone like Manaea makes a lot more sense to me.
My expectation is that the Blue Jays will work with the free agent market first when it comes to their efforts to improve the rotation, but thankfully there could be a few difference makers available on the trade market if that doesn’t work out.