Heading into the 2023-2024 offseason, the Toronto Blue Jays have a few obvious needs to round out their roster. Adding some pop to their lineup is going to be paramount, as the club's obsession with defense worked out in some aspects this past season, but also led to a significant dip in offense. On the other side of things, perhaps another starting pitcher to fill out the bottom half of the starting rotation would be a wise addition.
In a recent article, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith mapped out 10 hypothetical offseason paths for the Blue Jays. Some of them include the Jays going nuts on the free agent market and signing Shohei Ohtani. Some of them involve trading bench pieces and prospects for big league-ready pieces.
Then there's one that centers around a trade between the Blue Jays and the St. Louis Cardinals. In this path, BNS floats a deal that would see Dylan Carlson head north in exchange for right-handed pitcher Alek Manoah. These two clubs are intimately familiar with each other, as they made three separate deals at this past year's trade deadline involving Paul DeJong, Génesis Cabrera and Jordan Hicks.
By now, everyone is well aware of how the 2023 season shook out for Manoah. Point blank, it wasn't pretty. The 25-year-old entered the year expected to be the staff ace but just couldn't get it going for the life of him. At times, the big righty showed promise. In his second start of the year against the Royals, he went seven shutout innings while allowing just one run. Three starts later, he threw sevne more shutout innings against the Yankees. The talent he showed in 2022 was obviously still there, but nearly every single other start he made this year went horribly.
Multiple demotions to the minor leagues undoubtedly took a major toll on the relationship between Manoah and his representatives and the Blue Jays. The second time around, Manoah elected to skip out on his assignment to Triple-A Buffalo in a story that has been well-documented to this point. He did not make a single appearance at any level after his start against the Guardians on Aug. 10.
All told, the former All-Star made 19 starts at the big league level; going 3-9 with a 5.87 ERA, 6.02 FIP and 72 ERA+. If there's anything working in his favor here, it's his track record that has shown previous success at the game's highest level, and the fact that he's still so young.
Joining the Cardinals could be exactly what Manoah (and the Cardinals) need. At this point, it's no sure thing that the Blue Jays could mend their fractured relationship with their former ace. In St. Louis, they are losing longtime ace Adam Wainwright to retirement and could use all the help they can get to piece together their 2024 starting rotation.
Speaking of the Cardinals, this potential deal would see once-promising outfielder Dylan Carlson head to Toronto. The 25-year-old is a former first-round pick of the Cardinals (2016) and has had some massive expectations on his shoulders since he debuted in 2020. At times, the potential has been there. For instance, in 2021, he finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting thanks to a 115 OPS+ in 149 games.
Since then, his offensive numbers have declined but he's in a similar boat to Manoah. The potential is there and his past success means that that player who seemed to be an upcoming talent is still in there as well. Historically, he has played center field but the presence of Daulton Varsho would likely mean Carlson's playing time would mostly come in the corners.
Both of these players are young and seem to fit the "change of scenery candidate" bill perfectly.
In the rest of this offseason plan from BNS, the Blue Jays would be signing Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to a four-year contract in free agency. Joining him would be starting pitcher Michael Lorenzen (two-year deal), Joc Pederson (one-year deal) and Evan Longoria (one-year deal). The logic from Nicholson-Smith is that Pederson and Carlson, who is a switch-hitter, would form a platoon in the corner outfield.
Interestingly, this path is one of multiple that has Manoah heading to St. Louis for Carlson. Another one in the article has the Jays signing Jorge Soler, JD Martinez, Kyle Gibson and James Paxton on the free agent market. Another has the Jays signing Josh Bell, Kenta Maeda, David Robertson and Gio Urshela.
Ultimately, this article from BNS is just a way to get some offseason content out there, and many of the ideas are not going to come to fruition. One of the possibilities that actually makes a bit of sense is the potential deal between the Blue Jays and Cardinals. It may not be a one-for-one if it happens, but it's an interesting trade to ponder.