Vladimir Guerrero Jr. identified as 'main priority' trade target of AL West hopefuls

“The Astros main priority right now is Vlad Guerrero Jr. of the Blue Jays.”
Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox
Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox / Winslow Townson/GettyImages
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Based on pure speculation in a ClutchPoints article on Tuesday by Jackson Roberts, where he wrote: “This would be a great Vladimir Guerrero Jr. destination if the Astros were willing to fit the 25-year-old's $19.9 million salary under their payroll”, rumours of the Houston Astros identifying Guerrero as a target have taken flight.

By midday Wednesday, SI.com’s Evan Massey was asking, “Could the Houston Astros pull off a massive trade to get star first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr.?” And then the rumour mill went into overdrive after Michael Schwab, an Astros writer at The JuiceBox Journal, tweeted that “The Astros have identified Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as one of their top targets for a trade, per sources.”

ESPN 97.5 sports talk radio in Houston picked up the Schwab post and interviewed him, and presto: “The Astros main priority right now is Vlad Guerrero Jr. of the Blue Jays.”

Of course, if these “sources” are based on the speculation from Evan Massey and Jackson Roberts above, the whole ‘Vladstros’ rumour is probably nothing more than wishful thinking on the part of some easily excited Houston fans. The fact the Astros farm system is ranked even lower than Toronto’s farm should also douse this rumour.

However, here are four reasons why such speculation can’t be ignored

1. The Astros have been on a tear, and have revived their season with seven straight wins to take their record to 40-40, which places them 4.5 games back of Seattle in the AL West, and 3.0 games back of the third and final Wild Card. Their playoff odds have risen to 51% from a low of just 29% on June 18.

2. With a positive run differential of +30, which projects out to a Pythagorean winning percentage of .538, an argument can be made that the Astros have, in fact, been unlucky to win only 40 games so far versus the 43 games they *should* have won. In other words, they have a much better future outlook, and will most likely be buyers ahead of the July 30 MLB trade deadline.

3. While they have a lower ranked farm system, the Astros have churned out excellent MLB talent in recent years like Jeremy Peña, Hunter Brown and Yainer Diaz, while also trading Ryan Clifford and Drew Gilbert to the Mets to reacquire Justin Verlander.

4. Remember also that the Astros haven't picked higher than 28th in the last six MLB amateur drafts, and lost their top two picks in both 2021 and 2022 as part of their punishment for the sign-stealing scandal. What’s fascinating there is that former Astros general manager James Click, who is now Vice President of Baseball Strategy for the Blue Jays, drafted or signed eight of the Astros’ current top ten prospects when he was Houston’s GM from 2020-2022.

Click knows these players, and if he’s been given more power in the front office as we’ve suggested he should be, we can speculate that the ask in any trade for Guerrero would have to start with these Astros’ top prospects:

  • 23-year-old, left-handed hitting outfielder Jacob Melton, who is currently developing with the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks and has a 55-overall scouting grade. Click drafted him in the second round in 2022 at No. 64 overall.
  • 24-year-old right-hander Spencer Arrighetti, who has a 5.68 ERA in 65.0 MLB innings with 75 strikeouts. Click drafted him in the sixth round with the No. 178 pick in 2021.
  • 25-year-old, left-handed hitting rookie outfielder Joey Loperfido, who is slashing .309/.367/.418, with an OPS of .785 in 55 major league at-bats this year. Click drafted him in the seventh round with the No. 208 pick in 2021.

Could the Blue Jays trade another 1.5 years of team control of a core player like Guerrero to Houston, who need a first baseman after they released 1B José Abreu? While it seems unlikely and goes against everything management has told fans to reassure them, the template from the Juan Soto trade at the deadline in 2022, which included five top prospects from San Diego, certainly would imply that such a deal isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility.

This is also a team that traded 1.5 years of control of their ace Marcus Stroman at the trade deadline in 2019 when they were well out of the playoff race that year. The return on that trade - Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson - was underwhelming to say the least, but SWR was packaged in a later trade for José Berríos that has worked out well for Toronto.