The Toronto Blue Jays are keen on improving their team after back-to-back 90-plus win seasons that ended without a single playoff victory.
Although there is an impressive list of free agents available on the open market, given the Jays' existing financial obligations and their young players in line to get big paydays, exploring the trade market could prove to be a more suitable means of upgrading.
The team has a surplus of talent at catcher and a pair of desirable corner outfielders who are set to become free agents next offseason. Finding the right trade partner could be the way the Blue Jays get over the top in 2023 to bring a World Series back to Toronto.
Blue Jays: Trade Kirk, Hernández & a ranked prospect to the Pirates for Bryan Reynolds & David Bednar
Toronto’s need to add swing-and-miss arms to its bullpen, plus a left-handed power bat, leads them to Pittsburgh and former Jays executive Ben Cherington. The Pirates are in dire need of catching help and could also use a reliable player in the outfield, preferably one with power.
As hard as it is to imagine the Jays moving on from Kirk after his sublime, Silver Slugger-winning campaign, they would be trading from a position of strength and you must trade quality pieces in order to get them back.
Bryan Reynolds is a commodity worth trading for. He can play all three outfield spots, hits left-handed, and has power. He’s also only 27 and has three more years of team control before hitting free agency in 2026. Reynolds hit a career-high 27 home runs last season and was an All-Star in 2021.
Bednar broke out last season as the Pirates' lone All-Star game representative, but he’s been one of their best players since 2021. He’s averaged over 11 K’s/9IP over that span and has allowed an opponent’s batting average of just. 215 for his career.
Having another pitcher that can close out games and pitch in the late innings is vital. Bednar made 19 saves in 2022 but doesn’t need to fill that role exclusively. He’d be in the mix with Jordan Romano and Yimi Garcia to get high-leverage outs.
Hernández has had a nice run in blue but he could leave the Jays next winter and cash in as a free agent elsewhere. This deal likely will also need a kicker from the Blue Jays in terms of a top prospect or two, likely a pitching talent in the form of Dahian Santos or middle infield help like Otto Lopez or Leo Jimenez but it wouldn't be surprising if the Pirates ask for an MLB type player like Santiago Espinal in return as well.
Tough decisions need to be made on some of these players and this megadeal should be helpful for both teams.
Blue Jays: Trade Danny Jansen, Alex De Jesus, and Dahian Santos to Marlins for Pablo López
Adding at least one starting pitcher would seem to be another clear area of need this off-season. There are many valuable options on the open market, but again, trading may be more fruitful.
Pablo López was rumoured to possibly be on the move at the deadline, but nothing materialized although he remains highly sought after. He’s averaged over a strikeout per inning since 2020 and would slot in nicely in the rotation after Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman. There’s also a sense that, at 26, Lopez has yet to hit his ceiling. Lopez features a 95-97 mph fastball, and a nasty, sinking changeup.
Jansen would be a natural fit for the Marlins. They have an experienced catcher in Jacob Stallings, but he hit just .223 with four homers last season. A platoon with Jansen and Stallings would give Miami two above-average defensive catchers, while D.J. would provide some much-needed pop. They could come calling for Kirk as well but that would likely change the rest of the deal given the two catcher's differing values.
Jansen’s recent rash of injuries may give some teams pause, but throwing in De Jesus, a strong-armed infielder with power potential set to debut in 2024, and Santos, a right-handed pitching prospect, would help balance this trade.
Blue Jays: Trade Gabriel Moreno, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., & a prospect to Guardians for Cal Quantrill and Óscar González
The Jays' catching trio has garnered much discussion over the past several months and has heated up now that trade season is underway.
Although Moreno is the least experienced of the three, he showed last year that he’s big-league ready. He’s got great contact skills, can contain the run game, and could even have some positional flexibility. He’d immediately push for plenty of playing time on a Cleveland roster that features Austin Hedges and Luke Maile behind the plate.
It seems fairly likely that the Blue Jays could trade one of Hernández or Gurriel Jr. this offseason. Considering they had their best stretch of play while he was hurt, and his staggering power outage, it could very well be Lourdes. Although he has shown advanced bat-to-ball skills, is capable of getting red-hot for extended periods of time, and has shown improvement as an outfielder, getting a young, potential future star player like Gonzalez back, lightens the blow.
As exciting as the prospect of bringing in Gonzalez, the Guards’ hero in their marathon AL Wild-Card series against the Rays is, Quantrill would be the centrepiece of this deal. He’s coming off a season in which he went 15-5 with a 3.38 ERA but the buzz is that the son of longtime Jays’ reliever Paul Quantrill is just scratching the surface.
He’s a perfect example of why the trade market could be more enticing to the Jays, and they’ve got the pieces to go out and makes some major moves. This deal will likely also require a prospect or two to move from the Blue Jays side given the contract control of both Quantrill and González, likely one of which is in the top 30 (10-15 area) and another one close to the MLB.