The Blue Jays made their first significant move of the offseason on Wednesday, and it was met with mixed feelings from the fan base.
Understandably, it was never going to be easy to say goodbye to Teoscar Hernandez, as the 2x Silver Slugger award winner had grown to be a fan favourite in Toronto. He's been one of the most potent bats in the Blue Jays' lineup for a few years now, and it's not going to be easy to replace his production. Admittedly, it's also a bit of a bitter pill to see him off to Seattle, the team that eliminated the Jays in this year's postseason.
Before we get to that, I think it's worth celebrating what the Blue Jays did receive for Hernandez, even if it might be a bit underwhelming at first glance. Admittedly, I felt that way when the news first broke of the two players coming back to the Jays. They are right-handed reliever Erik Swanson, and a southpaw pitching prospect by the name of Adam Macko that they've apparently liked for a while. I'm sure they were relatively unknown to a lot of fans out there, but there is a lot to like about both players the Mariners sent north.
I can honestly say that I predicted both that Hernanderz would be dealt this offseason, and that there was a good chance the Blue Jays used him as a trade chip to help address the bullpen. As much as I love and appreciate what he's done for Canada's only team, I also understand that his value has gotta be higher to the average Blue Jays fan than it is in reality. That reality is that even if he's still a talented and dangerous hitter, his rising salary, questionable defence, and pending free agency all weighed down his value. Frankly, the more I read and watch about the two players that the Blue Jays got back, the more I like the swap.
What's more important is that the Blue Jays just opened up some payroll space, as well as a position in their outfield in order to bring in a new player. Let's be clear that Hernandez was not the problem for the Blue Jays, but swapping him out for a different style of hitter could turn out to be very beneficial in balancing the lineup. There is always a lot of discussion about the need for more left-handed bats in the order, but even just a varied approach could have an impact. As talented as the Blue Jays' lineup is, there are a lot of similar styles of hitting among their right-handed sluggers, and pitchers often feast on that redundancy.
With the newly created payroll space and a vacancy in the outfield, Ross Atkins and the front office team have an significant opportunity in front of them. Right now there are a lot of fans wondering why they'd trade a potent slugger and also open up a hole in the outfield while getting only bullpen help in return, something that's also available on the free agent market. However, the Blue Jays saw an opportunity to get a pair of arms they really liked, and just as important, they recognized that they had a chance to cash in on Hernandez now before he leaves in the offseason, and potentially reallocate the projected 14.5 million or so he'll receive in his last goaround through arbitration.
Make no mistake about it, Atkins and co. have to deliver on replacing Hernandez one way or another, whether that comes with another corner outfielder, or if they acquire a centre fielder so they can move George Springer to right. Either way, it's too early to judge the full context of Wednesday's roster moves, even if it's not easy to say farewell to a popular player like Hernandez.
For what it's worth, trading Hernandez showed me that Atkins isn't afraid to make some bold moves to improve the roster this winter. Here's hoping they make the right ones, and once the dust settles, then I imagine the canvas on which they're painting the Blue Jays 2023 roster will start to come into focus.