The New York Yankees made the first big move of the 2022 trade deadline two nights ago, sending three pitching prospects to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for outfielder and pending free-agent Andrew Benintendi. The lefty-batter is having a great season, sporting a .316 batting average and a .776 OPS through 351 at-bats with three home runs and 39 RBI. He seemed like a good trade fit for the Blue Jays before his vaccination status was made known when Kansas visited Toronto a couple of weeks ago.
Benintendi made headlines just before the All-Star break when it was revealed that he was unvaccinated against COVID-19, staying behind with nine other Royals players when the team made the trek North of the border. It was possible that other teams would be looking for alternative options to the Royals All-Star considering the remaining schedules for a few different teams having to still come through Toronto, both in the regular season and potentially in the postseason, but the Yankees pulled the trigger on a deal for him anyways.
What makes this scenario even more interesting is that the Blue Jays were reportedly still interested in the former Red Sox outfielder, even with his vaccination status known. He could always change his mind and receive the vaccine now that he is with the Yankees but with the Jays keeping an eye on his availability, you would have to think that this is a sign of potential trade in the making amongst the Blue Jays front office.
Ask any Jays fan and they will tell you the club needs pitching, pitching, and some more pitching. This is mostly due to the lineup playing well of late as well as how they rank in the MLB:
- First in AVG (.268) and SLG (.442, tied with the Yankees).
- Second in OPS (.773) and OBP (.331)
- Third in RBI (471) and runs (484)
- Fifth in home runs (129)
It would make sense that the Blue Jays need another two or three bullpen arms and potentially another starter, but with the interest in Benintendi before he was moved to the Yankees, it’s entirely possible that a lefty-bat sits pretty high on their wish list going into the trade deadline given their right-handed heavy lineup.
The Blue Jays were interested in Benintendi before he was dealt to the Yankees. Could that interest translate into a different left-handed hitter?
Looking at the rumour mill, the two biggest names that stick out as fits for the Blue Jays are Josh Bell (Nationals) and Ian Happ (Cubs). Both Bell and Happ can swing from both sides of the plate but the Nationals infielder will hit free agency this offseason while the Cubs outfielder has another year of control before free agency next offseason.
Happ (prior to last night’s game):
Bell is sporting better numbers at the plate with some more power but Happ does have some speed to his game and sports a 5 bDRS in the outfield this year. Happ also has that extra year of control, which may cost some additional prospect capital to get a deal done but helps with adding a lefty-bat when needed this season and next should the Jays choose to focus elsewhere during the offseason to continue the World Series aspirations.
Adding Happ might complicate matters in the outfield given George Springer, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Teoscar Hernandez are already in the fold with Raimel Tapia on the bench, not to mention both Gurriel Jr. and Hernandez would hit the open market the same time as Happ next offseason. Bell would likely platoon with Guerrero Jr. at first base and the DH spot if he was to join the squad. This all would impact how much time Alejandro Kirk would slot in at the DH spot as well when Danny Jansen is behind the plate, something to consider looking at the bigger picture (unless one of Gurriel Jr. or Hernandez is traded before the deadline).
However, given Springer’s elbow injury that is still bothering him and the potential for it to become a problem as the season moves along, trading for an outfielder to help carry the workload like Happ might not be such a bad idea, unless the front office is content with a surging Raimel Tapia or Bradley Zimmer getting some increased looks if Springer needs some additional time off over the next two months.
Both Happ or Bell could also be packaged with a reliever from their respective teams to sweeten the deal and fill more holes on the Jays roster, but if I had to choose between the two, I would take Happ and add reliever David Robertson to the Jays squad before Bell and a Nationals reliever like Carl Edwards Jr. (remember him?), Kyle Finnegan, or Erasmo Ramirez. Robertson is having a fantastic season and has posted stellar numbers at the Rogers Centre through his nine seasons with the Yankees earlier in his career.
With the Benintendi news and the Jays occupying first place in the AL Wild Card, it would make sense for the front office to improve the squad before the trade deadline and it appears the club might have a left-handed batter higher on their trade wish list than fans may have thought. Happ or Bell would be excellent additions and both have their set pros and cons, so it will be interesting to see if the Jays do anything this weekend or wait til closer to the deadline on Tuesday.