Blue Jays: Balancing the present and the future on the trade market

Milwaukee Brewers v Toronto Blue Jays
Milwaukee Brewers v Toronto Blue Jays / Tom Szczerbowski/GettyImages
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While fans wait for the Blue Jays to make their next roster move, it's been interesting to read all the rumours, and maybe even more so about the trade ideas coming from writers and bloggers covering this team.

After coming across a pair of trade ideas over the last few days, I've started to wonder how much Ross Atkins and the front office will try to balance the future along with making sure they put the best group that they can for next season. There might be a way to do both of course, but that's easier said than done and it's fair to question whether it's how the front office should proceed when this team is clearly in a win-now stage.

The first trade idea in this vein that I read about came from Kaitlyn McGrath over at the Athletic, and if for some reason you're not familiar with her work you should check it out. McGrath wrote an article that was focused on what the Blue Jays could get in return if they do in fact trade one of Alejandro Kirk, Danny Jansen, or Gabriel Moreno. The idea that really caught my eye was a potential swap with the Cleveland Guardians that would send Kirk their way in exchange for Cal Quantrill and George Valera.

My first thought after reading that was that I'm not sure either team would be able to pull the trigger on the deal. The Jays obviously love what Kirk brings to the table after he earned the starting catcher's gig for the American League All-Stars in 2022, and he's still on a pre-arbitration eligible contract as well. It would take a pretty significant return for Atkins to be able to trade the popular backstop without fans trying to run him out of town, but I have to say... I don't hate the idea. I'm not sure I could actually go through with trading Kirk if I were in Atkins' seat, but this proposal would certainly make me think long and hard about it.

The immediate appeal would be adding Quantrill to the rotation, which is an area of the roster that certainly still needs to be addressed at this early stage of the offseason. The Canadian-born right-hander could easily slot in as a #3 starter or maybe even better, and he was quietly very good for the Guardians in 2022 when he went 15-5 with a 3.38 ERA over 32 starts that covered 186.1 innings pitched. The degree of his success was a bit deceiving when you start to dig deeper into his numbers, but he was still a solid rotation arm last year, and he still has three more seasons of contract control.

Quantrill has appeal on his own, but what really caught my eye was the addition of Valera, who split last season between AA and AAA. He thrived early in the year in AA, but he struggled a bit to make the adjustment at the next level, which likely means he'll start where he finished last year when a new season begins. However, Valera has the potential to be a special hitter when he's big league ready, and he currently ranks #42 on the Baseball America's top 100 list, and #31 on MLB.com's list. Honestly, I'd be a bit surprised if the Guardians would be willing to include him in trade offers over the winter, but in this case at least what they would be receiving back would be of premium value.

Could this trade happen? I'm doubtful, but I will say it's one of the more fun ideas that I've read so far this offseason, and I'd be fascinated to know how both sides felt about it.

The other idea that included a player with a lot of future value came from Mike Wilner over at the Star where he proposed that the Blue Jays talk with the Arizona Diamondbacks about one of their talented young outfielders. He brought up names like Alek Thomas and Jake McCarthy, who would both fit pretty nicely with this young Blue Jays roster, and would carry a lot of future value as well with their pre-arbitration contracts.

That said, and with all due respect to Mr. Wilner, I'm a lot less excited about this idea even if I'm a big fan of Thomas in particular. As I mentioned above, I believe that the Blue Jays are very much in a win-now phrase for the franchise, and that means they'll hopefully be targeting roster additions that will help get them beyond the first round of the playoffs in 2023. While I believe that both Thomas and McCarthy will be excellent big leaguers, I'm not sure that counting on them to contribute to a true contender next season is all that wise. Thomas finished last season slashing just .231/.275/.344 over 381 at-bats in his rookie season, and McCarthy was good for a line of .283/.342/.427 during his sophomore campaign.

All that said, I can see where both ideas come from, and I definitely think there's appeal to acquiring players that can add value to the Blue Jays beyond just another season or two. That's especially the case when thinking about the eventual desire/need to extend core players like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Alek Manoah, and maybe more. We're already seeing a bit of a payroll crunch this offseason, and it could certainly be worse depending on how they manage their resources.

For now, we're all pretty much left to speculate on possible trades, and just how Ross Atkins and company will go about improving the roster. If there's a way to do that for both the present and the future then that would be ideal, but at the end of the day I hope the biggest priority is trying to return to the World Series for the first time since 1993.

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