Saturday, August 13, 2022

Blue Jays trade deadline preview: Biggest needs, possible fits, Toronto’s top trade chips

The Toronto Blue Jays had high hopes heading into the 2022 season. They were a trendy pick to win the AL East, but that isn’t going to happen barring a historic comeback. But the Jays still have their sights set on a World Series title, which is actually much more possible than the division at this point. 

The expectations are part of the reason manager Charlie Montoyo was fired earlier this month. The Blue Jays were fresh off an awful stretch of nine losses in 10 games before Montoyo was shown the door (they won his final game, so technically they closed on a 2-9 run). They went into the All-Star break having won five of six and were then ready for the second half. 

The Blue Jays are currently in playoff position and given how they’ve treated the season, they’ll likely be aggressive in buying before the Aug. 2 deadline.

Needs

There are pitching needs to be shored up. The Jays have a pair of aces in Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman. Ross Stripling has been very good as well, but after that it gets murky. Will José Berríos pitch back to All-Star form? He’s been awful all year. Hyun-jin Ryu is out for the season. Yusei Kikuchi has had a down season and he’s hurt now. If youngster Max Castillo is having a breakout year, that would help. 

They’ve been in the bottom third in bullpen ERA much of the season and have blown 17 saves. If Stripling could be moved back to the bullpen, it would give a boost. They could also use a pair of one-inning relievers to bulk up the depth and stop relying on the soft underbelly. 

Heading into the deadline, the offense was third in the AL in runs, first in average, second in on-base percentage and second in slugging. They also had underachievers in Bo Bichette and (maybe) Matt Chapman. We know Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. is capable of more because he did a lot more last season, too. All this is to say, they don’t have to add on the position-player side. Upgrades can never hurt, however, if they are out there. 

Potential targets

First, we’ll name one that isn’t a trade target. Ex-Mets outfielder Michael Conforto was a free agent last offseason and never signed. There was word at one point that he’d have season-ending shoulder surgery and revisit free agency. Now, though, it seems like his agent, Scott Boras, is saying Conforto might be able to help a team this season. In a report from Jon Heyman, Boras said every team interested in Conforto “except one” is from the United States, which obviously means the Jays have inquired. 

The Big Fish of this trade deadline very well might be Juan Soto, if the Nationals end up dealing him. What a deadly lineup this could be come postseason time with Soto and Vlad Jr. hitting back-to-back. As I said, even if there isn’t a glaring need in the outfield — or the DH spot, if making room for Soto in right — there’s a clear upgrade on the market and every effort should be given to acquire him. 

As for the pitching … 

Luis Castillo and Frankie Montas are the top starting pitching options and either would work beautifully here. We should note it seems incredibly unlikely that the Jays could land Soto and one of these frontline starters, though. 

Past that, Reds starter Tyler Mahle, Pirates lefty José Quintana, A’s All-Star Paul Blackburn or a reunion with Noah Syndergaard (who was drafted by Toronto) could work. Further down, even, sit the Cubs with Drew Smyly.  

If they fail to land a starter, perhaps heavy emphasis on the bullpen — along with hoping for better versions of Berríos and Kikuchi — would be the route. David Robertson, David Bednar, Michael Fulmer and others would be available.

Potential trade chips

If we’re talking about the big-league roster, Cavan Biggio seems like a realistic player who could be flipped. He’s hit pretty well since coming back from the minors in late May, has good on-base chops and isn’t a regular starter here at age 27 when everyone else is healthy. He’s a good change-of-scenery candidate. 

As far as the farm, the Blue Jays don’t rank highly anymore after some high-profile graduations from the system the last handful of seasons (Guerrero and Bichette at the top). 

Their top prospect is catcher Gabriel Moreno and the Jays have an All-Star starter in Alejandro Kirk. The number two prospect is shortstop Orelvis Martinez and they’re good there as well with Bichette. Kirk spends a lot of time at DH, however, and Martinez can play third base, so it’s possible the Jays will be reluctant to deal one or both of these prospects. Still, expect their names to be bandied about these next two weeks. 

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