Trade #1- Nabbing a quality starter from the Marlins
The Blue Jays have several needs on their roster at the moment, and unfortunately one of them projected to be a strength of the team before the season began. Injuries and underperformance had a different plan however, as the Blue Jays lost Hyun Jin Ryu to Tommy John surgery, and Yusei Kikuchi struggled with fastball location to the point that the Jays had no choice but to look in another direction, with the southpaw landing on the Injured List as well. The rotation hasn’t been the kind of strength that we had hoped for.
On top of that, the Blue Jays have had injuries to other depth starters such as Nate Pearson and Anthony Kay, and the result has left them with a very thin depth chart. Max Castillo looks like he’ll get the ball against the Royals on Saturday, and his wasn’t a name that was even mentioned in Blue Jays circles before the season began.
If I’m Ross Atkins right now, I’m looking for a solution to pad the rotation, and in a perfect world I’d be trying to acquire a pitcher with multiple years of contract control. Ryu likely won’t pitch in the 2023 season either, and Stripling is a free agent at the end of the year, so the Blue Jays would do well to add a reliable piece alongside Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, and Jose Berrios.
Enter the Miami Marlins, who have an embarrassment of riches in their starting rotation. Sandy Alcantara has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this year, and Pablo Lopez might be the most underrated starter in the game. Trevor Rogers has had a disappointing 2022 campaign relative to his All-Star calibre 2021, but his future is bright regardless. On top of that the Marlins depth chart also includes high-upside young starters like Jesus Luzardo, Elieser Hernandez, Sixto Sanchez, and Max Meyer, who was just called up to the big leagues to make his debut.
While the Marlins are pretty stacked in their rotation, the same can’t be said for their catching ranks. Jacob Stalling is at the top of their depth chart at the moment, and they only have one catcher among their top 30 prospects according to MLB.com, and that’s Joe Rock, whose ETA is roughly 2025.
The Blue Jays could offer from an area of strength of their own, and perhaps there’s a fit here. I’m going to go a little drastic here right off the bat, but I truly believe the Blue Jays are at a point where they need to make a significant move.
Blue Jays get:
Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
It seems like a big price for the Blue Jays to pay, but a quality arm like Lopez wouldn’t come cheap, if the Marlins even considered offers on him at all. The only reason I think they’d even consider it is because of the quality of what they’d get in return, the fact that Lopez will be a free agent after the 2024 season, and that he has two trips left through arbitration before he gets there.
Jansen is in a similar spot as far as his contract control is concerned, and while I’d truly hate to see the Blue Jays trade him, I can’t really imagine them moving either of Alejandro Kirk or Gabriel Moreno. He’d be a big upgrade on both sides of the ball for Miami, and he’d be around for at least a few seasons to work with their talented young pitching staff.
As for Gurriel Jr., this is a move I wouldn’t have made a year ago. That said, at that time we all believed he would be with the Blue Jays until at least the end of the 2024 season. Since we learned more about his contract last fall, he’s actually going to be eligible to test the open market at the end of next season. It would be a big blow to lose him, but Jansen alone wouldn’t be enough to convince the Marlins to move a top of the rotation arm like Lopez. Maybe the Blue Jays could try to expand the deal and include a veteran left-handed hitter like Garrett Cooper, but a Jansen/Gurriel Jr. for Lopez swap probably isn’t all that far off in terms of value.
Is this likely to happen? Probably not, but is it something the Blue Jays should be exploring? In my mind the fit makes too much sense not to at least make the phone call.