Right now the Blue Jays have to be asking themselves if some of their potential trade chips are at their highest value this offseason, and it’s not an easy thing to evaluate.
As Ross Atkins and company look ahead to their offseason checklist, one of the biggest moves they will consider is whether to trade one of their talented trio of catchers in Alejandro Kirk, Danny Jansen, and Gabriel Moreno. It’s a great problem to have to employ three catchers with significant upside, but the Jays could also turn that depth strength into help to address other areas of weakness with the roster.
In my opinion, the hardest part will be figuring out which one of those three catchers to trade. Part of that will be dictated by the market and the offers that come in, but Atkins will also have the opportunity to initiate trade talks, and even present formal offers to other teams, and I expect that all three players will be attractive to rival clubs for various reasons.
Jansen had a breakout year at the plate and has a reputation as an above-average defender, and with just two years of contract control left he won’t have the same price tag as the other two. Moreno has been a consensus top five prospect in baseball at various times throughout the year, and no doubt would have received more MLB playing if not for the talent ahead of him. As for Kirk, the 23 year old had a breakout season that included an All-Star appearance as the starting catcher for the American League.
It’s not going to be an easy decision for Atkins and the front office team, but I can’t help but wonder if they’re not spending as much time evaluating their own players as they are scouring the market. For one thing, they know they have three players that could make a significant impact for just about any big league club right now, and it’s not easy to let that kind of player go. Of course, there’s always the fear that you trade the wrong guy as well. For example, back in 2012 the Blue Jays dealt Travis d’Arnaud to the Mets as part of the package for R.A. Dickey, and Yan Gomes (along with Mike Aviles) to Cleveland for Esmil Rogers, keeping J.P. Arencibia as their backstop of future. It made sense at the time, but ultimately Arenecibia flamed out pretty early his career, making his last MLB appearance less than four years later.
Having said all that, I can’t help but wonder if the Blue Jays are looking at Jansen and Kirk in particular, and wondering if they may have just had career-best seasons? That’s a bit strange to say about Jansen considering he only played in 72 games around a pair of trips to the Injured List, but he made his time on the active roster count. With by far the best offensive numbers of his career, the 27 year old slashed .260/.339/.516 with 15 home runs and 44 RBI in just 215 at-bats. The sample size was smaller, but in a lineup that included the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., George Springer, Bo Bichette and more, Jansen actually led the team in OPS+ with 141. I’m a big fan of Jansen and there’s a big part of me that hopes he’s still a Blue Jay in 2023, but I also have to acknowledge that his trade value may never be higher than it is right now.
What about Kirk? As I mentioned, he was so good in the first half of the 2022 campaign that was named as the AL’s starting catcher. We’ve always known that he can hit, but last season Kirk proved that his defence is an asset as well. He developed a great rapport with Alek Manoah, and he rated very well in a variety of catching metrics. I’ll readily admit that it might be a stretch to say that we just witnessed a career season from a 23 year old, especially one that had limited development time in the minor leagues, but his second half numbers didn’t come close to his performance prior to the All-Star break. You can probably chalk that up to the biggest workload of his career, especially because he caught more and played nearly every day between catching and spending time as the DH, but you just never know. Of the three Blue Jays’ catchers, I’ve gotta think that Kirk would carry the most trade value right now. He’s probably not going anywhere, but it’s hard to predict what kind of offer might be waiting for Atkins to consider either.
Lastly, you could make a weak argument that Moreno’s trade value might be at its peak right now, but I don’t believe that to be the case at all. The only real argument for that is that he’s still rated as a top-tier prospect in baseball, and he’ll soon lose that status and need to prove his worth at the highest level. Not all prospects are capable of doing that, even the highest-ranked ones, but for what it’s worth I do believe in Moreno and think he can and will be a star in the big leagues. The question is, will it be in Toronto or somewhere else?
There’s a lot for Atkins and the Blue Jays to consider if they’re going to make a major move like this, and it’s entirely possible that they do hold on to all three of their catchers. They had Kirk and Jansen in the starting lineup regularly by using both as the DH at different times, and Moreno has the athleticism and background to move around a bit, playing third base, second base, and even trying his hand as an outfielder. In my opinion, I think this is the winter that the Blue Jays will make a big trade, and I’d be surprised if it didn’t include one of their three talented catchers. As they evaluate the offers, and their own players, I don’t envy the decisions they’ll be debating in the coming weeks and months ahead.