Blue Jays: If you’re going for a starter, spend big and go for Pablo Lopez

CINCINNATI, OHIO - JULY 26: Pablo Lopez #49 of the Miami Marlins pitches in the sixth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 26, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - JULY 26: Pablo Lopez #49 of the Miami Marlins pitches in the sixth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 26, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Blue Jays are fighting for a playoff spot via the Wild Card, occupying the top spot with the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays also in the hunt. Outside the WC is a handful of teams like the Cleveland Guardians, Baltimore Orioles, and Chicago White Sox, all within striking distance should a team in the playoff standings falter or struggle over the remaining months of the regular season.

Looking at the current roster, the Blue Jays need another bullpen arm or two to go alongside the current relief corps, ideally, a strikeout power arm like Tigers reliever Joe Jiménez. The club could also do with an additional left-handed bat to counter the right-handed heavy lineup and the front office could also look to trade for a starting pitcher to finish out the rotation with Hyun Jin Ryu out for the remainder of this season and most of next.

With Luis Castillo already heading to Seattle, setting what appears to be a seller’s market for pitchers with team control, if the organization wants to truly add to the rotation, I believe the Blue Jays should utilize some of their higher-valued prospects for Miami Marlins starter Pablo Lopez compared to other pitchers on the trade block such as Frankie Montas or Noah Syndergaard.

The Blue Jays could be in the market for a premium starter and if they are going to spend big, they should go after Miami Marlins RHP Pablo Lopez.

Lopez has been fantastic this season and is starting to slowly gain some traction on the trade deadline rumour mill. It isn’t a guarantee that the Marlins are willing to trade the talented right-hander right now but if they want to sell high on his trade value, doing so before the Tuesday deadline could net them a high return. He is currently pitching right now against the New York Mets but prior to today’s game, Lopez was sporting a 3.03 ERA through 20 starts with a 2.7 BB/9 and a 9.2 K/9. His 3.63 FIP is also a stellar mark and he also owns a 2.8 bWAR on the season. He struggled against the Mets to the tune of six earned runs through 2.2 innings off 12 hits, seeing his ERA balloon up to 3.41 but New York might have his number, scoring six earned runs against him back on June 17th as well. Lopez now sports a 9.0 K/9 and a 2.7 BB/9 (unchanged) after today’s game.

Compared to Lopez, Oakland’s Montas has one less start but is sporting a similar ERA at 3.18 and has a slightly better BB/9 (2.4) and K/9 (9.4) with a FIP sitting at 3.36 on the year. The stats with Montas might be better overall but Lopez has two additional years of control compared to Montas’s one year, which is a real difference maker over the long run for a Blue Jays team looking to be a World Series contender with the current young core. Montas also missed two starts with a shoulder injury earlier this month which is cause for concern heading down the stretch, something Lopez has not dealt with this season.

With Syndergaard, the Blue Jays would be downgrading compared to Lopez or Montas, as the Angels right-hander and former Jays prospect has been inconsistent this year while still posting a 3.58 ERA through just 14 starts. Syndergaard does have a troubling injury past that could see the Texas product fade as the season wears on and he’s a free agent at the end of this season compared to the other two with team control.

The one thing both Montas and Syndergaard have over Lopez is the trade value will be lower (slightly for Montas) considering Lopez is pitching well, the Marlins don’t necessarily have to deal him now, and he has two additional years of control.

Last season’s trade deadline acquisition, Jose Berrios, cost the Blue Jays Austin Martin and Simeon Woods-Richardson, both of whom were featured high on the internal top 30 prospect rankings. Similarly, the Mariners’ acquisition of Castillo, the prime starting pitcher trade candidate this year, cost Seattle three prospects featured in the top five of their prospect list as well as an additional prospect.

In my opinion, if the Blue Jays want to really bolster the rotation to finish out the year, Pablo Lopez should be the trade target, especially if the front office is willing to deal some of their top prospects away in trade regardless if it is Lopez or Montas. He has more years and has been pitching well since his MLB Debut (career 3.87 ERA through 83 starts) and would bode well against the current rotation of Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, Jose Berrios and Ross Stripling/Yusei Kikuchi.

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It will be interesting to see if the Marlins are willing to deal Lopez this trade deadline and if so, will the Blue Jays brass be willing to deal some top prospects to bring a premium arm like Lopez North of the border.