Although the trade deadline is still over a month away, with the increased playoff format potentially creating more buyers than sellers this year, the Blue Jays will be in tough when it comes to acquiring some additional assets to make a playoff run in 2022.
Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi over at Sportsnet.ca are reporting that the Jays have some feelers out for trade options, and this makes sense given the areas that could use some additional support as they head into the dog days of summer.
Ideally, the Blue Jays could use another left-handed bat on the roster and another veteran starter with Hyun Jin Ryu out for the rest of the season after undergoing elbow surgery. More importantly, the Jays need another arm or two in the bullpen, and this area may have just gone up in importance due to a potential injury to Nate Pearson a couple of days ago.
The former Jays’ top prospect has struggled with injuries for most of his professional career and this season, he got a bad break and started the year on the IL due to mononucleosis. This delayed his debut until late May when he started getting back into game shape in Dunedin and was moved to continue his rehab assignment in AAA in early June. A potential bullpen option later this summer, Pearson was removed from his last outing after just two pitches, walking off the mound with a trainer due to right shoulder discomfort.
With the trade deadline not far away, the Blue Jays have a few areas that could be improved and a pitcher in Nate Pearson potentially heading to the IL.
While the extent of the injury is not known at this time, considering he was already behind in being game ready after battling mono, it seems less likely that the Jays will have the fireballer near the big leagues any time soon, especially if he lands back on the IL. The right-hander has made just five appearances this year to the tune of a 3.52 ERA through 7.2 innings and was looking to be a multi-inning relief option for the Jays this year. Manager Charlie Montoyo was also adamant that Pearson had to earn a spot on the roster, which doesn’t help his case if he lands on the IL.
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With the extent still not known on his injury status, if Pearson truly is out for an extended period of time, the Jays’ trade deadline priorities most likely just shifted tremendously over to the concept of acquiring bullpen arms over the next month and a half.
The current bullpen has 4-5 pitchers who can handle high-pressure situations and can close out games, with the remaining relief corps struggling to either stay healthy or keep runs off the board. They do have some fresh faces in Matt Gage and Max Castillo but I would be surprised if the front office is content with the current bullpen options as the season continues.
The top option that could be available is Pirates reliever David Bednar, who is having a fantastic season in Pittsburgh. Whether he gets dealt or not this year is yet to be determined considering he has years of team control still left but he will most likely command the most on the trade market this summer if available. The right-hander owns a 1.34 ERA through 26 outings while adding 11 saves through 33.2 innings pitched.
Other names that stand out among the reliever trade market this offseason are David Roberston (Cubs), Scott Barlow (Royals), Andrew Chafin (Tigers), Michael Fulmer (Tigers), Jeff Hoffman (Reds), and Daniel Bard (Rockies) amongst others. Each player has their pros and cons when it comes to performance as well as contract status, and as I mentioned earlier, the competition on the trade market this season is most likely going to be at an all-time high with more teams appearing to be buyers compared to sellers. There also is not an abundance of LHP options in the pen this trade deadline, so if the Jays are looking for a veteran to complement Tim Mayza, the front office’s options are a bit limited and they may have to be a bit aggressive earlier in the campaign.
Considering the Blue Jays will have a few needs heading into the trade deadline, it will be interesting to see when the club will be able to pull off some trades as well as which direction they will focus on first.
Last year, Ross Atkins was able to acquire Adam Cimber and Trevor Richards in late June/early July before making more deals at the deadline in late July, highlighted by the Jose Berrios deal.
With Nate Pearson potentially heading back to the IL and the Jays bullpen needing another arm or two to really become more comfortable as the season wears on, trading for a reliever should be the top priority over acquiring another starter or a left-handed bat this season.