Trades between division rivals are becoming harder and harder to come by in today's game.
Since 2017, the Jays and Yankees have lined up on a few minor deals, highlighted by names like Kellin Deglan, Gio Urshela, J.A. Happ, Brandon Drury, Billy McKinney, Rob Refsnyder, Jonathan Diaz and Ryan McBroom going each way.
In that same span, the Jays and Red Sox have lined up on just one trade. In this deal, Steve Pearce went from Toronto to Boston (where he wound up winning World Series MVP in 2018) and 2022 All-Star Santiago Espinal came to the Jays.
Fast forward to this offseason and the Red Sox have not one but two potential trade chips that could be of interest to the Blue Jays in southpaw Chris Sale and outfielder Alex Verdugo.
While neither Sale or Verdugo has been publicly labeled as "on the trade block" there has been some chatter behind the scenes around the league that the Red Sox are at least willing to listen on the duo.
Boston has now had three seasons to see what Verdugo is made of since his being acquired from the Dodgers in the now-one-sided Mookie Betts deal. In 350 games for the Sox, Verdugo has 30 home runs, a .227 batting average and an OPS+ of 108 - not terrible numbers but just barely above league-average.
Each of Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe and Chris Cotillo of MassLive have said to varying degrees that Verdugo fits the mold of a trade chip for the Red Sox, who have high expectations for him that have not quite been met.
The 26-year-old outfielder is still young and is under control through the 2024 season. With Kevin Kiermaier set to come off the books at the end of 2023, it would make sense that the time for the Jays to swing a trade for Verdugo is now. He is a left-handed bat who can play all three outfield positions and is an all-around solid baseball player.
Then there's Chris Sale, the highly-touted left-handed pitcher who not so long ago was on the fast track to the Hall of Fame before being bogged down by injury after injury. Jon Heyman of The New York Post took to Twitter recently to say that teams have been checking in on Sale's availability on the trade market.
Yes, Sale has a full no-trade clause but as Heyman points out, the Red Sox feel that they have a ton of depth in the starting pitching department and, this is purely speculation on my end, likely would love to shed some (or all) of Sale's salary in a deal.
The 33-year-old is signed through 2024 thanks to the huge five-year, $145M contract he signed back in 2020. The deal has a vesting option for 2025 that is worth at least $20M. This option will exercise automatically if Sale earns a top-10 finish in the Cy Young voting in 2024 and does not finish the year on the injured list.
Sure, such a huge contract seems scary on the surface but it's at least somewhere in the realm of possibility that the Jays could take on his contract in order to acquire Verdugo in a deal. Plus, a healthy Chris Sale is an exceptional pitcher. The only issue, of course, is the whole "health" part. To put into perspective, Sale has missed 340 of 384 regular season games played since he signed his huge extension.
You likely do not need me to tell you this, but over the course of Sales' now-12-year career, he is 114-75 with as 3.03 ERA and 140 ERA+. He has finished in the top-six in AL Cy Young voting seven times (seven straight years from 2012-2018) but surprisingly has yet to win one.
Just think about it, Jays fans. Don't you think Chris Sale, who is expected to be healthy for Spring Training, would look better in the No. 5 spot in the rotation than Yusei Kikuchi? No disrespect to Kikchui (who would fit much better in the bullpen for the Jays), but Sale would be an upgrade.
I'm willing to bet that a deal centered around, say, Otto López and Nate Pearson would be enough to get the attention of the Red Sox front office, but a deal would likely require more going from Toronto to Boston.