A past trade that has the potential to haunt the Blue Jays in 2023

Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles
Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles / G Fiume/GettyImages

The José Berríos trade could potentially begin to hurt the Blue Jays in 2023.

When it comes to trading players, the main objective for any MLB general manager is to help the team be better, whether it be for the present, or the future.  Some trades may work out tremendously, whereas others, one would wish it just would have never happened.

Looking back at some of the more recent trades made by the Jays to help strengthen the current core in leading them to potential championship aspirations, one of those that certainly stands out was the one made by Ross Atkins and Co. at the 2021 trade deadline. 

The Blue Jays acquired José Berríos from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Austin Martin and Simeon Woods-Richardson. Both Martin and Woods-Richardson were top prospects in the Jays organization at the time, and were expected to make significant contributions to the team in the near future. 

The plan for this expensive acquisition of Berríos was that despite the cost, he would help stabilize the front end of the rotation down the stretch that year, and hopefully beyond as well. Berríos definitely didn’t disappoint, as he performed to an admirable 5-4 record, with a 3.58 ERA and 78 strikeouts over 70 innings pitched.

In doing so, Atkins rewarded the star righty with a seven-year, $131M contract extension during the 2021-22 offseason.  Paired with Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah, the trio was expected to form a bonafide three-headed monster at the front end of the Blue Jays' rotation for 2022 and the years to come.

However, when the 2022 season rolled around, Berríos struggled mightily with control and consistency throughout the season.  He finished with a respectable 12-7 winning record, but with concerning numbers such as a 5.23 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, and 29 home runs allowed in the process, ranking him near the bottom of the American League amongst qualified starters.  He looked amazing one game and not-so-great the next.

The scary part was no one was quite exactly sure what might have been affecting Berríos, whether it may be changes made in his pitching mechanics, a sudden lack of confidence, or maybe even an underlying injury. In addition, with the new shortened outfield dimensions of their newly renovated home ballpark Rogers Centre, giving up the long ball may even become more an issue than ever before. Also, his recent performance on a national stage at the World Baseball Classic sure didn’t help either. Whether the 2022 season and WBC are behind him or not remains to be seen.

In the meantime, for Martin and Woods-Richardson, they had made some progress in terms of their development from the 2021 to 2022 season. 

Despite a continuous lack of power, Martin has shown some glimpse of his former hitting prowess and self-discipline stature during his time in the Arizona Fall League in 2022, hitting to an average of .374 and drawing more walks than strikeouts.  Woods-Richardson, on the other hand, had shown even more growth, cutting down his ERA by almost half from the previous season, as well as lowering his WHIP from about 1.5 down to 1.0.  He even made his major league debut for the Twins at the end of the 2022 season and performed decently.

Martin is looking for a breakout year in the minors in the upcoming season and hopes to be a potential call-up later in the season or next, whereas Woods-Richardson is further up in the pecking order, and may be the second or third pitcher in line to be called up if any injuries occur.

With the uncertainly at the back end of the Blue Jays' rotation, will Berríos be able to turn it around in time to make a difference?  With both Martin and Woods-Richardson looking to make an impact for the Twins organization this coming season and Berríos potentially continuing his struggles with most of his contract still on the books, 2023 may be the year that the big deadline acquisition from 2021 may begin to feel more like a huge bust than boom for the Jays. 

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