While the 2022 trade deadline didn’t really get moving until Juan Soto was officially dealt to the San Diego Padres, the Toronto Blue Jays eventually walked away with some depth to the bullpen and a utility player from a former playoff rival.
Once it was all said and done, the Blue Jays acquired relievers Anthony Bass, Zach Pop, and prospect catcher Edward Duran from the Miami Marlins, right-hander Mitch White and prospect Alex De Jesus from the Los Angeles Dodgers, and utility player Whit Merrifield from the Kansas City Royals.
While they weren’t the flashiest moves compared to their division rivals and AL Wild Card combatants (and led to some initial disappointment), Bass has been a key part of the Jays’ current relief corps while White has been utilized in the rotation with Yusei Kikuchi being moving to the bullpen. Merrifield has been used sporadically since the deal but has yet to find the bat that made him a hitting threat from 2017 to 2021 but adding value on the base paths as well as for his ability to play multiple positions.
Overall, the starting pitching market had a few key players in Luis Castillo and Frankie Montas leading the charge followed by a bevy of three to fifth-ranked starters. While both top-tier pitchers were moved (and to AL playoff contending teams in the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees respectively), the Jays were tied to former Jays prospect Noah Syndergaard on the Los Angeles Angels, until he was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies. While it would have been nice to reunite with “Thor”, there is one veteran pitcher who I think would have really benefited the Jays if the club was able to pull off the deal at the time.
Although the Blue Jays made numerous moves at the trade deadline, there is one starter that could have made a real difference right now in the rotation.
José Quintana, an 11-year veteran of the MLB, was having a resurgent season with the Pittsburgh Pirates after a few campaigns of struggling at the big league level. Through 20 starts, the left-hander amassed a 3.50 ERA with a 2.7 BB/9 and a 7.8 K/9 while limiting opponents to a .679 OPS through 103.0 innings. He wasn’t at the same level as Castillo or Montas but the Colombian product was having a great year and could have slid into the back end of the Jays rotation, taking Kikuchi’s spot in the roster and helping the club push for a spot in the postseason. The Jays were reportedly interested in the veteran starter at the deadline but didn’t end up acquiring him before he was ultimately traded.
The Pirates ended up trading Quintana and reliever Chris Stratton to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for prospects Johan Oviedo and 10th-ranked prospect Malcom Nuñez, a deal that I think the Jays could have matched or beaten in comparison. The front office could have passed on Stratton considering they also had Bass, Pop, and White potentially in the mix (who knows if a Quintana trade would have altered these deals) but the Jays have some prospect infield depth they could have moved to bring in the veteran starter who will be free agent eligible at the end of the year. It also helps that Quintana’s deal with the Pirates was for just $2 million, with the amount remaining on the contract being on the lower side compared to other options.
Since the trade, Quintana has been pitching well with the Cardinals, owning a 3.15 ERA through seven starts, allowing just 12 earned runs through 34.1 innings. He has seen a slight drop in his K/9 to 6.8 but has not allowed more than two earned runs in an outing since joining the Cardinals while going five-plus innings in five of those seven starts. Overall, compared to White’s outings after taking Kikuchi’s spot in the rotation, I would gladly take Quintana and his track record right now.
There will always be the “what if” associated with a trade like this, as there is always a guarantee that Quintana struggles with the Blue Jays and this article turns into “why did the Blue Jays trade a prospect for the veteran”. In hindsight, having Quintana at the back end of the Jays rotation right now would be fantastic, and a move that I think Ross Atkins and co. will be kicking themselves for not being able to bring in Quintana at the trade deadline.