Blue Jays: Prospect pitching depth could be used to trade for an infielder
With the recent signing of Yusei Kikuchi for the fifth rotation spot, the Blue Jays starting pitching corps seems pretty set in stone for at least the next two seasons. Kevin Gausman, Jose Berrios, and Alek Manoah are all on the books for at least five years (whether it be through a contract extension or team control) while Hyun Jin Ryu has two seasons left before being eligible for free agency following the 2023 campaign.
Looking at the Blue Jays’ starting pitching depth, the club boasts quite a few pitchers who appear to be knocking on the MLB door but have no spot to occupy on the active roster. While the club’s next top pitching prospect in Gunnar Hoglund is still a few years away after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year, the Jays do have some starting pitchers who were looking to compete for that last rotation spot before Kikuchi’s arrival.
Some of these players include Nate Pearson, Ross Stripling, Thomas Hatch, Anthony Kay, Zach Logue, Bowden Francis, Nick Allgeyer, and Trent Thornton. Stripling will most likely be moved to the bullpen now but could make spot starts as a long-man option while Pearson could be moved to relief corps or be dropped down to AAA to continue starting, waiting to be an injury replacement should the need arise. The rest of the players are now on the outside looking in, potentially having to move to a relief role if they are attempting to secure a spot at the big league level (but still be kept as starters in AAA for additional depth).
Having these players continue to stretch out as starters with the Buffalo Bisons is not a bad thing for depth but with the recent rotation additions creating a pretty solid group over the next couple of seasons, there are a few different scenarios where the front office could utilize these prospects as trade pieces to improve the current roster.
With the recent signing of Yusei Kikuchi, the Blue Jays front office could use some prospect pitching depth to improve the current roster via trade.
It is no secret that the active roster could use another infielder, whether it be a second or third base, and with teams like the Oakland Athletics and Cincinnati Reds looking to dump payroll for younger, controllable players, the Jays could use some of these pitching prospects to their advantage.
Pearson easily carries the most value given his potential and controllable years but prospects like Logue and Francis also come with some mid-tier value that could be bundled with another player/prospect or two to acquire a veteran infielder like Matt Chapman. I would think that Pearson is really only on the table if the Jays revisit a Jose Ramirez trade with the Cleveland Guardians, as his ceiling is still quite high even with the injury issues and recent struggles at the MLB level, but the rest of the group could be bundled a multitude of ways for other potential players as well.
Overall, Ross Atkins and co. do have some options when it comes to MLB-ready starting pitchers and potentially using them as trade bait for trying to improve the current squad given the recent veteran pitching additions and with a majority of the rotation locked down to long-term deals.
While I wouldn’t go and deplete all the options, as keeping a few players would be beneficial in case injuries occur, parting with one or two as a trade package for a bonafide veteran infielder seems like an easy decision in the long run and one to consider, even if the club signs a free agent like Freddie Freeman or Kyle Schwarber over the next few days.