5. Trading Nick Frasso and Moises Brito for Mitch White
For an organization short on 100mph, high-leverage relief arms, the Blue Jays front office has made some odd decisions over the past few seasons. Whether they're looking at the wrong analytics for relief pitching, or they just are bad relief arm evaluators is up for debate, but teams that went deep in the postseason last year, including the World Series Champion Houston Astros and their opponent the Philadelphia Phillies, featured ‘shut down’ bullpens.
So far in 2023, the Orioles bullpen leads the league in reliever fWAR at 3.5, and they feature hard throwing pitchers like Félix Bautista, Yennier Cano and former Blue Jay Bryan Baker, 28, who Baltimore claimed from Toronto off waivers after the 2021 season. The same can be said for Jason Adam, who has 15 saves with a 1.97 ERA in 86.2 innings with Tampa Bay, with 108 strikeouts against only 26 walks. The Jays front office let him walk as a free agent after the 2019 season.
But the one that might end up hurfting the most was the 2022 trade deadline deal to acquire Mitch White and infielder Alex De Jesus from the Dodgers for two pitching prospects in righty Nick Frasso and lefty Moises Brito. White has been nothing short of a disaster as a Blue Jay, with a 7.74 ERA over 43.0 innings with an ERA+ of 49 and bWAR of -1.2. His fastball averaged 93.7 mph in 2022, with a .299 batting average against. He had a 8.61 ERA over 23 innings with a 1.87 WHIP on his minor league rehab assignment at New Hampshire and Buffalo before being reinstated by the Jays, and is out of minor league options.
Meanwhile, 24-year old Nick Frasso has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the minors this season, pitching to a 1.69 ERA in 9 starts covering 32.0 innings so far in the Dodgers’ system for the Double-A Tulsa Drillers, with 45 strikeouts against only 9 walks; he’s also only allowed six runs. According to MLB Pipeline, he’s the 9th ranked prospect in the loaded Dodgers system, with a 75-grade fastball. Baseball America (subscription required) ranked him #68 in their latest top 100 prospects ranking.
While his development was delayed by elbow surgery in June 2021, the scouting report says Frasso “has the upside of a mid-rotation starter and his [95-97 mph] fastball alone could make him a high-leverage reliever if he winds up in the bullpen,’ i.e. exactly the type of arm the Blue Jays could use in their bullpen instead of Mitch White. This one could end up hurting.