Bo Bichette perfectly meets Dodgers needs after Mookie Betts injury, do the Blue Jays entertain a move?

Blue Jays fans are staring into the abyss of what looks like another rebuild in Toronto.
Cleveland Guardians v Toronto Blue Jays
Cleveland Guardians v Toronto Blue Jays / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

After a disheartening sweep at the hands of the division rival Boston Red Sox, Blue Jays fans are staring into the abyss of what looks like another rebuild in Toronto.

Not even a Bo Bichette bobblehead giveaway and Loonie Dogs could get the crowd into the games against the Red Sox this week – Bichette is on the 10-day injured list retroactive to June 15 with a right calf strain, and wasn’t playing, and the all-important “dogs per fan” metric fell to a season low of 1.66.

The uncharacteristic four errors, and Jays hitters going 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position Wednesday didn’t help, nor did the fact that the team fell 5.5 games back of a Wild Card spot, currently tied with Tampa Bay.

The 26-man roster is deeply flawed, most evidently in their inability to score runs. They’re tied with the Cardinals for 26th in that key stat. But the pitching staff ranks 18th with a 4.12 ERA, and if Wednesday night’s thin bullpen is any indication, there’s no depth absent the high leverage trio of arms who were so reliable last year: Jordan Romano, Yimi García and Erik Swanson.

The fact that manager John Schneider has used 70 different batting lineups in the team’s 74 games this season explains a lot; there’s been no consistency and they’ve been searching a spark all year long. To compare, the AL East leading New York Yankees have only used 42 lineups through their first 76 games, and have scored almost 100 more runs in those games for an average of 5.05 runs per game versus 3.88 for the Blue Jays.

Which brings us to sink or swim time. The front office has apparently said, absent a collapse, that they’ll wait until after the All-Star break ends on July 18th to signal their intentions.

But we can get ahead of that and anticipate a sell-off at the trade deadline on July 30. FanGraphs currently puts the Blue Jays’ odds of making the playoffs at just 10.9%, driven by the fact that all of the teams above them and the Rays in the Wild Card standings have a positive run differential to Toronto’s -40 and Tampa’s -71.

Trade Bo Bichette?

Last Friday, Kevin Barker of Sportsnet 590 the FAN’s ‘Blair & Barker’ show asked Los Angeles general manager Brandon Gomes if he would he consider acquiring Bo Bichette with an eye toward moving Mookie Betts off shortstop and back to the outfield for the NL West leading Dodgers?

The question came just two days before Betts took a 98 mph fastball off his left hand, which has led to a stint on the IL with a broken hand that is expected to take 6-8 weeks to heal according to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

We examined that possibility last fall, and as Jeff Blair of Sportsnet wrote recently, “one of the reasons so many well-sourced national reporters keep mentioning Bichette’s name in trade rumours is there is chatter that the Blue Jays and Dodgers kicked the ball around during the off-season, but the Dodgers mentioned Gavin Lux’s name and that’s no shock: Lux has run his course as a Dodger.”

The point being that, despite his struggles at the plate this year, Bichette’s trade value may never be higher. As Blair wrote, “It makes sense that Bichette approaching free agency and the Blue Jays' wobbly start to the season would provide fertile ground for trade rumours. And let’s be clear: you’d get a bigger return for Bichette now than in the off-season, because theoretically the acquiring team would get him for two post-seasons.”

As we noted last fall, the 26-year-old Bichette had a second All-Star campaign in 2023, with the 4th-most hits in the American League. This was after he lead the AL in hits in both 2021 and 2022. Since his debut on July 29, 2019, Bichette has the 3rd-most hits in MLB at 714, trailing only Freddie Freeman and Trea Turner.

Since he was called up, Bichette has the 29th-highest fWAR of any MLB player at 16.4, while slashing .293/.334/.472 for an OPS of .806, which is 22% better than league average, with a wRC+ of 122, also 22% better than league average. That puts him in elite company, and top-30 players are not usually available via trade. He’s eligible to return from the IL to the active roster on June 25.

With Bichette under team control at a very reasonable $11.2M AAV for his potential ~5.0 annual bWAR production through the 2025 season. Toronto’s front office would be remiss not to at least entertain a move; it’s just good roster management and good governance to see what Bichette’s trade value might be while avoiding a value destroying delay like the Josh Donaldson debacle.

Kiermaier, too?

Heck, they could even include pending free agent Kevin Kiermaier in a deal to the Dodgers to make it interesting, especially given the importance of elite defence in the playoffs. What team wouldn’t want 4-time Gold Glove and Platinum Glove center fielder Kiermaier in their outfield defensively with an October game on the line? 

Sure, Kiermaier’s bat has slowed this year, but his legs and outfield instincts are as solid as ever, even as a 34-year old. According to The Fielding Bible’s DRS leaderboard, Kiermaier has a defensive runs saved (DRS) above average of +5 in only 365 inning played in center field this year, after a +18 DRS and Gold Glove in CF last year. The Dodgers currently have the worst defensive CF in baseball, with a DRS of -8 and their regular center fielder Andy Pages at -5.

In terms of potential return, if the Blue Jays plan to retool for another run behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and a solid starting staff of Kevin Gausman, Chris Bassitt and José Berríos next year, they’d want some MLB-ready prospects from the loaded Dodgers system in return for 1.5 years of Bichette and a rental on Kiermaier.

That return should be better than the PTBNL Atkins got for Donaldson on August 31, 2018, but less than the haul Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo got for 2.5 years of Juan Soto and a rental player in Josh Bell at the 2022 trade deadline, which included current Nationals ace MacKenzie Gore, their starting shortstop CJ Abrams, Washington’s current top prospect, James Wood, as well as two more top ten prospects in Robert Hassell III and Jarlin Susana.

The Dodgers currently have five top 100 prospects on ESPN’s ranking and two on MLB Pipeline’s ranking. Young 19-year-old, left-handed hitting outfielder Josue De Paula is No. 80 on the MLB top 100, and his scouting report says, “De Paula is built to hit with a sweet left-handed stroke and advanced aptitude to recognize pitches and make quality swing decisions. He spent the offseason training with Juan Soto and Elly De La Cruz in Florida, adding significant muscle to his 6-foot-3 frame that should translate into increased power in 2024. With his hitting ability, bat speed and projectable strength, he could develop into a .300 hitter with 30 homers on an annual basis.”

The Dodgers also have two starting pitchers at Triple-A in righties River Ryan and Kyle Hurt, who could help to stabilize a Blue Jays rotation that might be without both the injured Alek Manoah and pending free agent Yusei Kikuchi next year. Both have scouting grades of 50, with above average 95 mph fastballs and highly rated secondary offerings.

Whether or not 1.5 years of Bo Bichette — and a rental on Kevin Kiermaier to tighten up the Dodgers defence in CF — would be enough to tempt Dodgers GM Gomes to move a top prospect like De Paula and two young RHP in Ryan and Hurt remains to be seen, but the Blue Jays should at least be exploring that possibility with Mookie Betts on the shelf with that broken hand.