The Toronto Blue Jays were active during Tuesday’s MLB trade deadline day, although perhaps not in the way some fans would like.
The team acquired relief pitchers Anthony Bass and Zach Pop from the Miami Marlins for fourth-ranked prospect Jordan Groshans. Then, just before the 6 pm ET deadline, Mitch White was brought in along with infield prospect Alex De Jesus in exchange for Nick Frasso and Moises Brito. In the most surprising move of the day, Max Castillo and prospect Samad Taylor were traded to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Whit Merrifield.
These may not have been the players that Jays’ supporters were hoping for, but they are all useful in their own way and will contribute to what should be a scintillating stretch run.
Blue Jays, New Jays
It was obvious that reinforcements were needed for a relief corps that had been a middle-of-the-pack unit for much of the season.
The Jays appeared to be in the running for David Robertson and Raisel Iglesias. When nothing materialized with those two, the team engaged with frequent trade partners, the Miami Marlins.
Pop lacks the swing-and-miss stuff that many believe would take the bullpen to the next level, but he induces ground balls like nobody’s business. The Brampton, Ontario native has a ground-ball rate of 62.1%, almost 20 percent better than the league average while producing a minuscule 2.4% walk rate.
Pop also keeps the ball in the ballpark, with just one home run allowed over 20 innings pitched. He’ll likely receive middle relief duties to start.
Anthony Bass will start his second tenure with the Blue Jays after being one of their top bullpen arms in the truncated 2020 season.
Statistically, Bass is having his best season, and his 1.41 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and 1.6 bWAR are as good as any reliever in baseball. His 9.1 K/9IP suggests he does have the ability to accumulate strikeouts.
Bass’ familiarity with many of the players and pitching coach Pete Walker will be beneficial and he’ll be pressed into late-inning work right away, His demeanour suggests a strong character and a good locker room guy, but also a tough competitor who has the respect of everyone.
If these two can take the Jays bullpen from mid-tier to top 10, they will have done their jobs.
Blue Jays: The White Knight?
Starting pitcher depth seemed to be a little lower on the Blue Jays’ wish list but the move for Mitch White makes a lot of sense.
He’s young, and under team control for the next several years. White throws a four-seam fastball in the 92-97 mph range and also features a deceptive curveball, slider, and changeup.
What his role will be is a little less clear. He’s made 15 appearances this season, the last 10 as a starter. His ERA as a starter is 2.25, compared to 3.67 as a reliever. So he’s been brought in to start right? Not so fast.
Ross Stripling has been steady since taking over for Hyun-Jin Ryu and Yusei Kikuchi actually pitched really well in his return to the staff last week. Stripling has gone from reliever to starter and back throughout his career and may be asked to go back to the bullpen again.
Toronto could consider going to a six-man rotation as well but I believe White will start either way.
Blue Jays: Holy Whit
As fans were still taking in the news of White’s arrival, it was reported that longtime Kansas City Royal stalwart Whit Merrifield was also on his way to join the Blue Jays.
This is puzzling on a number of levels. A position player was not thought of as being something that the team needed to add. There’s also the matter of Merrifield’s vaccination status (or lack thereof) which could make crossing the border a non-starter. It’s believed that he will get vaccinated if he hasn’t already so he can play home and road games for his new club.
As far as Merrifield’s position, second base with some outfield time mixed in, the Jays must have a plan. With George Springer’s elbow a growing concern, his ability to play centre field is questionable. Raimel Tapia has been getting most of the starts lately, but Merrifield would be a decent option there as well as either corner outfield spot.
He’ll also fill in occasionally at second base. Merrifield, who has twice led the AL in hits, is having a down year but has been better of late. He’s hit .284 (23-81) with 11 XBH, and 15 runs scored over his last 21 games. It’s worth noting that Santiago Espinal is hitting .256 and Cavan Biggio’s average is .224 over that same span heading into last night’s game against Tampa.
They’re not the players some folks were hoping for but that doesn’t mean that they can’t contribute to what’s sure to be an exciting finish to the season.