Well it's no secret that the 2018 version of the Toronto Blue Jays has been nothing short of disappointing. With a record of 51-59 heading into Sunday's action against the Mariners, the Jays dipped into the "sellers" market for the first time in a few years. In this article, I'm going to hand out a grade for every Blue Jays trade made thus far, plus give my predictions for potential August trade candidates and provide an overall thought on the Jays and the 2018 deadline.
Without further ado, let's get started.
To Houston: Roberto Osuna
To Toronto: Ken Giles, Hector Perez, David Paulino
In one of the more stunning and most controversial trades across the MLB during this deadline, young Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna was shipped off to Houston for Ken Giles and a couple of solid pitching prospects.
I am honestly shocked that this trade happened. I'm not shocked that the Blue Jays were willing to trade him, I am shocked at the fact that there was another team willing to trade for him, in particular the Houston Astros. The Astros recently have had to deal with their own domestic violence issues with one of their minor league players, which can be read about here. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow claims that the organization has a "zero tolerance policy" on domestic violence issues, but because the issue occured prior to the Astros acquiring him, this issue does not fall under the same scrutiny.
I purposefully waited a few days post non-waiver deadline to publish this article for the sole fact of gauging fan and media reaction on this trade. The Astros have been crucified for making this trade and having poor reasoning as to why they made the deal. Jeff Luhnow and the Astros deserve all the criticism coming their way, especially for an organization that just dealt with this issue recently internally. They clearly prioritize winning over ethics, and all it takes is one team in this league to make a deal. The Blue Jays jumped all over the opportunity, and got a great return for a "problem pitcher". Kudos to Shapiro and Atkins for valuing ethics over assets.
I've seen some Blue Jays fans upset that the front office traded away a player like Osuna, with years of control remaining and stellar numbers on his resume. If you're going to be mad as a fan, that's okay. Just don't direct your anger at the front office, direct it to Osuna. He put himself and his club in this position, and there's nobody else to blame but Roberto himself. Do you think the Jays would trade a 23 year old with a 2.87 lifetime ERA if he wasn't a problem? Of course they wouldn't. Instead, they turned their problem into a struggling yet young former closer, and two top tier pitching prosects that have good potential, with Perez becoming the 11th ranked Jays prospect and Paulino becoming the 20th ranked prospect. Great for them to give away their massive problem to another organization, and great for them to receive a package of any value back for him.
To New York: J.A. Happ
To Toronto: Brandon Drury, Billy McKinney
Jays fans and media alike were going into this trade deadline saying that J.A. Happ was our most valuable piece that was likely to be traded before July 31st. While he did struggle over his last couple of starts as a Blue Jay, he did put together a solid campaign that saw him make his first ever All-Star appearance. The original ask of a top-3 prospect from the Blue Jays was never realistic, but I stated on the last South of the 6ix podcast that I believed J.A. Happ could fetch a top 5-7 prospect, top 20-30 prospect and a long shot, hoping that one of the prospects coming back was a pitcher. My reasoning for the return was simple: J.A. is a proven veteran lefty who can provide you with solid innings in the playoffs as your 3rd or 4th starter, and having that lefty option in the playoffs is massive.
When the trade was announced and the details were confirmed, I was a little disappointed in the return. I have never been sold on Brandon Drury's game, but he has just entered into the league so hopefully for the sake of the Blue Jays, he can return to similar form that he had in Arizona. I don't see him as a piece for the future. I believe the Jays are hoping he can rebuild some value here in Toronto with regular playing time so we can trade him away for something of use. McKinney has been in a few blockbuster trades as a key prospect, but has never really panned out. He did crack the Yankees roster at the beginning of the year, but that all came crashing down (literally) when he crashed into the outfield wall at the Rogers Centre during the opening series against the Blue Jays. You can never have enough depth however, and he is a fringe MLB-ready prospect at this point (19th on Blue Jays prospect list). I felt like Shapiro and Atkins could have gotten a better return, especially from trading to an in-division rival such as the Yankees, which should have commanded a higher premium.
To Colorado: Seung-hwan Oh
To Toronto: Forrest Wall, Chad Spanberger
For the bullpen trades, I won't go too in-depth with them, just because there's not as much substance or storyline to them. Saying that, the ROI from Oh was enormous for the Blue Jays. They signed him to a $1.75 million contract late this offseason (pennies in baseball terms) and they have now been able to convert that asset into two prospects, with Wall sliding into the 26th spot on the Blue Jays top-30 list. This is just another example of a smart "low-risk, high-reward" move that most casual fans hate at the beginning of the year, and then love when they see good results or a good trade package in return. Moves like these are what help to build a more deep farm system and a sustainable winning team.
To Los Angeles: John Axford
To Toronto: Corey Copping
One of the hottest commodities in baseball lately is solid bullpen arms. Looking to capitalize on that trend, the Jays shipped out reliver John Axford to the Dodgers for minor league reliever Corey Copping
This trade seemed to have caught Axford off guard, as he had done some "asking around" and thought that he would be staying put with the Blue Jays. You can read more about that story here. I understand the need to trade expiring contracts for younger assets, so this deal on paper makes complete sense. Not to mention that Copping is putting up impressive numbers across AA and AAA this season (2.52 ERA, K/9 at 9.9). If they were to have kept a veteran reliver behind, I would have liked to have seen it be Axford because of his love for the city and experiences with the game. I believe it could have benefitted some of the new bullpen arms and September call-ups, but I digress.
To Philadelphia: Aaron Loup
To Toronto: Jacob Waguespack
The longest tenured Blue Jay is no longer. For those that follow me on Twitter (@TO_SportsViews in case you're wondering, or just follow me here), you know that I have been openly against Aaron Loup pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Club. He is only a shell of his former 2012-2014 self, and has been ineffective for quite sometime now. He is brought in to face lefties, and quite frankly sucks against them. Danny Barnes is a better lefty specialist and he's a right hander.
The Jays received minor leaguer Jacob Waguespack back in the deal. His numbers aren't anything to boast about (4.75 ERA, 1.46 WHIP between AA and AAA in 2018), but I honestly would have been okay receiving a bag of balls back in return for Loup. In Loup's first and only appearance so far for the Phillies, he hit the only batter he faced. Chalk this one up as a win for the Blue Jays.
Bonus Trivia Question: Who is now the longest tenured Blue Jay currently on the roster? I'll provide the answer at the bottom of the article.
To Boston: Steve Pearce
To Toronto: Santiago Espinal
Ahh, the trade often forgotten about in the shuffle and commotion of trade deadline. This was the first major move the Blue Jays made this season, and it was an in-division trade. Once Steve Pearce returned to the Jays healthy, there was really no room for him, and it was time to ship him while the value was high instead of letting his rust away on the bench.
Pearce was batting .291 with an OPS of .868, 4 HR's and 16 RBI's in 79 AB's for the Blue Jays. Respectable numbers for a small sample size. Boston has seen exponential returns on investment here, as Pearce is batting .357 with an OPS of 1.162, 5 HR's and 14 RBI's in 56 AB's for the Red Sox. I always liked Pearce. He is a truly "clutch" player... *cough* two walk-off grand slams in one week *cough*. He even hit 4 HR's in 2 games for the Red Sox. I'm happy he is succeeding there and being put in positions to not fail.
The return for the Blue Jays on this deal is not something to be overlooked either. In A and AA baseball this year, Espinal is batting .299 with an OPS of .817 along with 9 HR's and 50 RBI's. Anyway to add valuable youth to the organization at this stage is imperative, and Shapiro and Atkins were able to do just that with this deal.
Potential August Trade Candidates
Editor's Note: When listing "potential suitors" I have put them in the order in which I believe is the best fit for said player, based on player cost and acquiring team need.
One of the most intriguing names entering into the 2018 season was Josh Donaldson. He was the key, and arguably biggest difference maker, for the Jays having either a competitive season or a bad season. If the team were to be sellers at the deadline, it was expected that JD would be the most valuable asset that can be moved and the rebuild could be accelerated a little bit.
Fast forward to August 2018, and here we are talking about an incredibly devalued asset. Playing only roughly a third of the season (36 games played out of 110 total games), Donaldson has looked old and worn on the defensive end with his shoulder issues, has appeared to be a liability on the basepaths with his calf injuries, and has shown no offensive flashes of his former MVP self from three years ago, batting just .234 with 5 HR's, 16 RBI's and an OPS of .757. Remember the dream trade packages we were all mock creating last season? You can take those and throw them in the trash.
Despite all of these poor numbers, there are still teams that showed interest in Donaldson before the July 31st deadline. According to Yahoo! Sports Canada, Atkins tolf Gregor Chisolm of MLB.com that there were "lots of discussions" on Donaldson. He continued by saying "The challenge is, with any player that is not playing, is understanding that risk and that timeline, with not the same access to information that we have." You can read the entire article here.
A return for Donaldson is still tough to gauge at this point, mainly because if he were to be traded in August, it would be closer to the end of the month as teams would need to see him healthy and playing for longer than a week at a time. They need to see that he still has the ability to play at an elite level and be a difference maker. If he can prove that in a short window, then I'm sure some competing team will take a shot at him. I don't necessarily think that JD will be traded this month, as I believe it will be tough to build up value in a short period of time, but as I stated earlier there was interest in him before the July 31st deadline, so anything can happen.
Expected Trade: Josh Donaldson and cash for a top 20-30 prospect
Potential Suitors: Braves, Cardinals, Pirates, Diamondbacks
This move might come later on in August just because of the recent strained glute injury that put him on the 10-day DL as well as the $13 million contract that he has for this year. Prior to the injury, Marco was putting up impressive numbers, so it was a shame that he had to get hurt. This circles back to my point of selling high on starters. You never know when they can get hurt and missed starts closer to the deadline are amplified. Saying this, I'm sure a team that is looking to bolster their pitching depth and add a reliable, proven playoff starter into their 3rd or 4th spot will pony up for Marco. In his last start in Seattle, Estrada was looking like ACEstrada once again, going 7 innings and giving up 1 earned run. I'm sure this caught the attention of plenty of competing GM's across the league looking to add starting depth. Houston just lost Lance McCullers to the 10-day DL, so maybe they now enter the market for starting pitching depth? I wouldn't expect either the Red Sox or Yankees to be interested in him, as he hasn't done well in their ballparks as of late, especially Yankee Stadium. The return will not be as much as Happ's was, but if healthy, Marco could be considered a "trade deadline steal" come October.
Expected Trade: Marco Estrada for a top 25-30 prospect, single A prospect
Potential Suitors: Mariners, Athletics, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Astros, Nationals
I don't know if there's a more likeable duo in sports than Granderson and Solarte (more on Solarte later). Granderson is a true professional. At the age of 37, he still finds ways to bring value to a ball club. This article written by Jon Paul Morosi at the beginning of the year perfectly summarizes why Granderson is still MLB's top teammate. He's a teacher, he's a mentor, he's a counsellor for not just the youth, but for the vets too.
Saying all of this, it's not like he only contributes off the field. On the field, Granderson is batting .234 with 10 HR's and 31 RBI's and can still contribute on the defenisve end as well. He also doesn't ground into many double plays (only three this year). So it's no wonder that a team like the Phillies is calling Shapiro and Atkins about Granderson. Granderson would be a perfect fit for the Phillies, a young up-and-coming team that could use a vet like Granderson to help mentor them for the later part of the season and help them through the playoffs. I don't expect too much of a return for Granderson, probably something just below what Pearce got for the Blue Jays.
Expected Trade: Curtis Granderson for a top 30-40 prospect
Potential Suitors: Phillies, Braves, Dodgers, Mariners
Before I dive into this, I just want to say how fond I've grown towards Solarte. This is a person who could have let his past troubles affect him, but he challenged the adversity head on and kept on persevering. If you don't know what I am talking about, this Jays Journal article does a great job in summarizing Solarte's story. This is a player who has an infectious smile, some pretty cool dance moves, and is the "spirit animal" for all the other Blue Jays players in the clubhouse. In a short period of time, he has become the heart and soul of the Jays, and embodies what it means to be a blue bird. Oh, and he's a pretty good baseball player too.
He's currently hitting .233 with 17 HR's and 53 RBI's in 106 games played this season. Not only can he contribute with the bat, but he can essentially play any position on the field that you want him to. He's a true "super utility" player, and I believe that championship teams need a player like this on their roster in order to win a World Series (ie. Ben Zobrist and Marwin Gonzalez). With the newest Blue Jays infield addition in Brandon Drury, this leaves five men for three spots. I expect one of these men to be dealt before at some point, especially with Tulo recently stating his intentions of returning to the field, which leaves Solarte being the likeliest out of the bunch.
Expected Trade: Yangervis Solarte for a top 25-30 prospect and "long shot" single-A prospect
Potential Suitors: Diamondbacks, Phillies, Braves
Overall 2018 Trade Deadline Thoughts
I have to say that as a fan that was expecting these "seller" moves to happen, I am impressed with the most part about the return for the players we traded away. I was expecting more for Happ, as I think he will be dominant for the Yankees in the regular season and playoffs, but otherwise the Jays did a great job of acquiring some MLB-ready pieces to not field a completely awful team, and a lot of prospects that provide value, some more than others. I'm sure that we will be able to look back on this deadline in a few years and see how some of these moves helped to put the Blue Jays back into World Series contention.
Overall Grade: A-
Bonus Trivia Question Answer!
For those who didn't cheat, the answer to the bonus trivia question is...
Superman himself, Kevin Pillar!