The Blue Jays had an exciting day on Wednesday when they traded for Matt Chapman, but there were rumours that it nearly got even sweeter.
We’ll never know exactly how close the Blue Jays were, or maybe even are to acquiring Jose Ramirez, but something tells me there was more smoke than fire there. Ramirez’s name has been consistently connected to the Blue Jays on the rumour mill for months, but there was never a really strong indication from Cleveland that they were willing to deal their star third baseman. That didn’t seem to matter as far as the hot stove was concerned, as Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic reported that the Jays were still after Ramirez even after acquiring Chapman, looking to move him to second base instead of his typical spot at the hot corner.
Again, this may have just been more wishful thinking than anything, but I believe the one thing we can take away (at least so far) is that the Blue Jays weren’t willing to meet Cleveland’s asking price for Ramirez, or at least make an offer that changed their minds about trading him. It’s long been discussed in Blue Jays’ circles that they’d ideally like to avoid trading either of their top two prospects in Gabriel Moreno and Orelvis Martinez. Chances are the Guardians weren’t going to get serious about the discussion until they changed that stance.
As far as the narrative on social media went on Wednesday, Jays fans were clearly thrilled about the Chapman news, but it also left many of us wanting more. Plenty of high profile Jays reporters, writers, and Twitter accounts weighed in on just how far the Jays should go in their pursuit of a player like Ramirez to add more icing to the cake, and I think it boiled down to one big question:
Are the Blue Jays willing to put all of their chips in now, or are they still looking to build that sustainable winner that Atkins has long talked about? Despite their recent aggressive strategy, I still think it’s the latter.
One of the best parts about the trade for Chapman with Oakland is that the Blue Jays didn’t have to give up their top prospects. Gunner Hoglund represents the most valuable piece going back to the A’s, and it’s hard to say just how good he’ll be coming back from Tommy John surgery. For what it’s worth, I believe in Hoglund’s future and think he’ll make for at least a mid-rotation starter in the big leagues, but you have to give in order to receive when it comes to making impact trades. As for the rest of the package headed to Oakland, the trio of Kevin Smith, Kirby Snead, and Zack Logue all have some upside, but respectfully, they mostly serve as replaceable depth at this stage.
Chapman is just 28 years old (he’ll be 29 in April), and he only has two years remaining before he’ll hit free agency. In theory, that timeline could work pretty well for the Blue Jays if one of Orelvis Martinez or Jordan Groshans are ready to take over by then, which should be the case. Ross Atkins and the front office managed to fill a hole on the roster without making a long-term commitment, and that could turn out to be a big deal later on when they’re trying to extend some of their homegrown stars.
Admittedly, Ramirez is a better overall player than Chapman, and would have made the Blue Jays even more dangerous than they already are. That said, the difference here is that the Jays should be able to get what they need from Chapman without having to give up their very best trade assets. They don’t really need Chapman to be a night in, night out kinda star, they just need him to be a strong piece of the puzzle. If all goes according to plan, the Blue Jays hopefully will be able to have their cake and eat it too.
Some fans wanted to see the Blue Jays go 100% all-in, and while I can understand that mentality, especially when they’ve gone this far to build a contender, there’s still a balance that can be found. As it is the Blue Jays should be one of the top contenders for a World Series championship in 2022, especially with one of the best rotations in baseball on paper, and arguably the most dangerous lineup you can find. They may not be done adding just yet either, and they have room to pick up a DH type, which will likely end up being a left-handed hitter.
Speaking of a premium left-handed hitter, the win-now vs. sustained success debate was surely part of the equation when it came to discussions with Freddie Freeman, and maybe even with Kyle Schwarber as well. The Blue Jays are very clearly in win-now mode, but they’re not at the point where they’re ready to do anything reckless, especially if it harms the long-term plan. As I survey the roster they’ve built as of this writing, I can’t say I disagree with the approach.
At this point, I trust the vision from this front office completely, even if it would be a pile of fun to blow the Guardians away with an offer they can’t refuse, and lay it all on the line for the next two years. In a perfect world they’ll be that kind of contender anyway, and will still have the next wave of stars to help keep the train rolling.