The argument for trading the Top 2 prospects
If we’re looking at this question through an aggressive, “win-now at all costs” lens, then you have to consider trading the top prospects. The front office already made a bold decision with Berrios, and I’m confident they would do it again for the right player. The question is, does that “right player” exist on the trade market this offseason?
The two stars that come to mind for me are Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Guardians, and Ketel Marte of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The former has been a perennial candidate in the AL MVP race for the last few seasons, finishing as high as second in 2020, and twice in 3rd in 2017 and 2018. Ramirez has two more seasons of contract control before he’ll be a free agent, so he’s not a rental player either, even if it would be nice if he was guaranteed to be around for longer.
Marte has three years remaining on his deal, and he’s the more intriguing candidate to me. If the Blue Jays were able to trade for him this offseason my guess is he would play second base on a full-time basis. That said, he also has the ability to play centre field, where he spent the bulk of last season with Arizona, and has plenty of experience as shortstop as well. That versatility along with the extra year of contract control is what makes me see him as an even better fit than Ramirez for the Blue Jays, but it’s hard to say if the Diamondbacks would even make him available. The same could be said for Cleveland and Ramirez as well, who don’t sound like they’re in a hurry to trade one of their only players who is paid like a big leaguer.
If you can acquire a controllable impact player like Ramirez or Marte then I understand why the debate about trading Moreno/Martinez happens. I don’t know if that’s anything more than a fantasy scenario for fans to talk about while we wait for the lockout to end, but we do know that the Jays were checking in on Ramirez last summer. They are also still in need of a replacement of some kind for Marcus Semien, and those two players would be among the few that might be able to bring that kind of value.
To further the argument in favour of trading the top two prospects, I’ll also acknowledge the depth of their positions as well. Moreno looks like a future star behind the plate as a big league catcher, but the Jays are also lucky to have a pair of solid receivers in Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk, and even Reese McGuire. I don’t know that any of them profile to end up as better players than what Moreno is destined to be, but there are plenty of teams around the league that would love to have a duo of Jansen/Kirk to work with. You could argue that the Jays could make this sacrifice because of the strength of the position in the organization.
As for Martinez, he profiles as a shortstop/third baseman, and is likely destined for the hot corner by the time he makes the big leagues. If that’s where he ultimately ends up, the Blue Jays still have another high-end prospect in Jordan Groshans, as well as Santiago Espinal and Cavan Biggio, who will likely factor into the equation somehow in 2022 one way or another. The whole situation could also change if the Blue Jays venture back into the free agent market for a player like Kris Bryant, for example, who will likely require a fairly lengthy multi-year contract to get him to sign. For now it appears that shortstop is locked up for the long-term with Bo Bichette as well, or at least for the next four seasons.
While I don’t foresee the Blue Jays trading either of Moreno or Martinez, and especially not both, I’ll acknowledge that it’s possible it could happen, and even that there are a few scenarios where I’d even be pretty excited about it.