With the All-Star festivities in the rearview mirror and 69 games left in the season, the Blue Jays find themselves in a difficult position.
Every team in the AL East is sporting over .500 records and the New York Yankees are running away with the division. The Jays currently occupy the third Wild Card spot with the Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners sitting just ahead but there are also four teams that sit under 4.0 games back of the Blue Jays and the last playoff spot.
With a few injuries and some poor performances impacting the team this season, it is no secret that the Blue Jays are in need of some outside help if they want to make the playoffs and challenge for the World Series. The bullpen needs another arm or two to solidify the relief corps. At the same time, the club could also benefit from another starter with Yusei Kikuchi struggling and Hyun Jin Ryu out for the season. The Jays could also be in the market for a left-handed bat to complement their right-handed lineup, but I would imagine the two areas mentioned previously rank higher than a left-handed hitter.
This brings up two questions:
- How much is the Jays’ front office willing to dive into their prospect pool to get some deals done before the season’s trade deadline?
- Are there any prospects that they will not include in any trades?
As per FanGraphs, the Blue Jays farm system ranks at #22 with a value of $137 million. Prospect-wise, Gabriel Moreno, Orelvis Martinez, Ricky Tiedemann, and Jordan Groshans find themselves on the MLB Top 100 prospects list while a bevy of pitchers and middle infielders make up a majority of the Jays’ top 30 prospects.
Looking at the Juan Soto Trade Rumours
The biggest name potentially available at the deadline is Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto, a generational talent who is two and a half years away from free agency and looking for a monster payday. He has already rejected numerous contract extensions from the Nationals and it now appears that the club that signed him back in 2015 is willing to trade him away to assist with the rebuild.
The haul for Soto will be massive, and while the Jays do have prospect capital they could throw at the Nationals to get a deal done, the prospect cupboards will be pretty bare when all is said and done.
It appears that the Nats want at least three to four top prospects and most likely an MLB player or two to sweeten the deal, and even if any willing club takes on a bad contract like Patrick Corbin, the price tag is still going to be high. There is even a situation where the Jays will likely have to consider adding a top player like Bo Bichette to get a deal done, which may be too high a price to trade for the front office. Soto is a talented player and it makes sense that the Nationals want the absolute max in value if they are going to trade him, especially since multiple suitors are involved.
The Blue Jays’ front office will have some tough decisions before the trade deadline as they work to add some assets in order to help with the playoff push.
Best of the Rest
While Soto is the big fish, there are lots of other players and pitchers who could fit in well with the Blue Jays. Let’s take a quick look below at some potential fits:
- Luis Castillo – RHP
- David Bednar – RHP
- Scott Barlow – RHP
- Frankie Montas – RHP
- Josh Bell – 1B
- Andrew Chafin – LHP
- Joe Jimenez – RHP
- Daniel Bard – RHP
- Michael Fulmer – RHP
- Ian Happ – OF
- Jose Quintana – LHP
- David Roberston – RHP
With controllable years worth their weight in gold, players like Castillo, Bednar, Barlow, Happ, Jimenez, and Montas will cost more in prospect capital because they are not considered rentals for the season. Others like Bell, Fulmer, and Robertson are all on one-year deals and playing well, so the deals might not be as prospect heavy but will still require Ross Atkins and co. to dig at their farm system to get deals done. What makes this trade deadline even more difficult is the expanded playoff format, with more teams vying for a playoff spot and looking to buy rather than sell, driving up the trade cost for players mentioned above.
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Do the Blue Jays have untouchable prospects?
Looking at the farm system, if the Blue Jays are serious about contending for the playoffs this year and over the next couple of seasons, the front office may have to consider that there might not be an untouchable prospect come the trade deadline. If a few more pieces are needed to get this team into the postseason conversation, combined with the young core and strong veteran presence playing well, dealing some top prospects and trading for a shot at the World Series does make a lot of sense.
Of course, this comes with risk, as any added player does not guarantee the Blue Jays any postseason glory, as evident by the Brad Hand deal imploding last year and the Jonathan Villar trade in 2020 not paying off as the front office had hoped for. Trading a top prospect could come back to bite the Jays down the line but as we know from internal examples, not every highly regarded prospect pans out to be a great player at the big league level right out of the gate. Those who follow the Jays Minor League system will not like any deal involving prospects but that’s where the value is when it comes to trading with teams looking to sell at the deadline.
The deal has to obviously make sense and if the Jays front office wants to trade for an impact starting pitcher or pull off a mega-deal for Juan Soto, the simple fact is that the Jays might not be able to have any untouchable prospects at the trade deadline. Clubs will come calling about Moreno, Martinez, and Tiedemann and the Jays front office will have to weigh the pros and cons when it comes to the return and whether the incoming pieces really move the needle for the Blue Jays to become postseason contenders. Atkins did this last year by trading Austin Martin and Simeon Woods-Richardson to the Twins for Jose Berrios, who signed an extension with the Jays this offseason which helps offset the cost of trading two top prospects. Will he do it again?
The Jays also have to deal with players’ vaccination status, as some like Tyler Mahle and Andrew Benintendi are essentially unavailable given the current border entry requirements for both Canada and the United States for unvaccinated individuals in relation to COVID-19.
The next couple of weeks will be interesting to see what the Jays and the rest of the Major League teams do before the August 2nd trade deadline passes.
Will the Jays empty out the farm system ala Alex Anthopoulos style? Will they add one or two minor pieces or will they go after some of the bigger names on the market?