Pitching Depth Targets at the Trade Deadline
Looking at pitchers who are potential free agents after this season or next, and overlaying that with where their teams may be in the standings and in terms of rebuilding stages, yields a list of potential targets. And given the Blue Jays are clearly in “win now” mode, any potential acquisitions would have to clearly be a “difference-maker” who could make them a better playoff team.
In terms of starters, Shohei Ohtani obviously tops the list. He will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, but the Los Angeles Angels are only 1.0 games back in the Wild Card standings, and could the Blue Jays even afford him? A package for the 2021 AL MVP would surely start with top 100 prospect Ricky Tiedemann and would further empty the cupboards in a bare farm system.
More realistic “playoff difference-maker” targets who could improve the Jays postseason chances include the following starters and relievers on teams that will likely be sellers at the deadline:
Starter Zack Greinke and relievers Scott Barlow & Aroldis Chapman of the Kansas City Royals
With Kansas City already 19.0 games back in the Wild Card standings, they are already sellers. They also have some pieces who could immediately improve the Blue Jays bullpen, like 35-year old lefty Aroldis Chapman, who’s been throwing smoke again this year, averaging 99.5 mph on his fastball and 88.1 mph on his slider according to Statcast. He also threw the hardest strike by any MLB pitcher so far this season at 104 mph.
Having rediscovered his velocity (2.82 ERA in 22.1 innings, with 38 strikeouts and two saves), could he also turn back the clock and be the same pitcher who had four saves for the Cubs in their 2016 postseason run to a World Series championship, and ten saves and a 2.40 ERA over 41.1 playoff innings for his career? He’s on a one-year, $3.75 million deal and will be a free agent after this season.
Future Hall of Famer Zack Greinke will also be a free agent after this season, and might like an opportunity to finally win a World Series as he nears 40 in October? He’s been solid, with a 4.59 ERA and 0.9 bWAR in 13 starts and 66.2 innings. He’s making $8.5 million in 2023.
In addition to Chapman, Royals closer Scott Barlow (seven saves in eight opportunities, with 34 Ks in 23.2 innings) is also available, with another year of arbitration eligibility before he becomes a free agent after next season. He’s making $5.3 million this season.