The Blue Jays had a few areas to address heading into the non-waiver trade deadline. They needed to add a starting pitcher, a couple of relievers, and a corner outfielder. All of that had to be done with a limited prospect pool. Over the course of one week, the front office was able to find a solution for each. In a perfect world, one of the relievers would have been left-handed. Even without a lefty, the deadline was a success. On top of the incoming players, they didn’t move any significant prospects (but instead added a pair), and cut some fat from the bullpen. This deadline might not have been as exciting as last year’s, but it will still benefit the team moving forward.
FRANCISCO LIRIANO AND CO.
Chris Szagola – Associated Press
Toronto Blue Jays Trade – RHP Drew Hutchison
Pittsburgh Pirates Trade – LHP Francisco Liriano
The Jays made off like bandits in their biggest deal of the season. They were able to trade their sixth-best starter for a former front-end arm and a pair of top-100 prospects. While I am confident that Hutchison will be a consistently good starter one day, he wasn’t worth all of this in return. The Blue Jays did very well with this deal.
The addition of Liriano answers the biggest question of the past few weeks. Aaron Sanchez will soon go to the bullpen, and his spot in the rotation will be given to Liriano. The veteran has had a poor season with the Pirates. He will need to turn it around to help fill the Sanchez-sized hole in the Jays’ rotation. Liriano has struggled this year due to his high amounts of walks and home runs. Those are significant issues when pitching in the Rogers Centre. Fortunately for the Jays, Liriano had three great seasons before this, and also had success with Martin behind the plate. Liriano won’t be expected to pitch as well as Sanchez, but he will have to perform better than he has recently. The left-hander is under contract through 2017, with a salary similar to Dickey’s. This move suggests that the knuckleballer won’t be back next year.
The Pirates are trying to cut costs. As such, they did not include any money in this deal. Instead, they sent the Jays two top-100 prospects. Ramirez’s value is in his bat, as he has posted impressive numbers over the past couple of seasons. His defence isn’t a hindrance, though it also isn’t particularly strong. He could be an option in right field going forward. Mcguire is arguably the best piece of the package. A defence-first catcher, he could be in contention for the backup’s job next season. The two prospects make this deal an absolute steal for the Blue Jays.
As for the piece that was traded, you know what Hutchison is. He has a fairly significant amount of MLB service time for his age, but has not been able to consistently perform. Hutchison could be a perfect project for Ray Searage to work on. He might be an important part of the Pirates’ rotation in a year’s time. Speaking to this season, the hope was always to replace him with a better option down the stretch. The Jays have done so by adding Liriano.
MELVIN UPTON JR.
Rick Madonik – Toronto Star
Toronto Blue Jays Trade – RHP Hansel Rodriguez
San Diego Padres Trade – OF Melvin Upton Jr.
While it didn’t have the same haul as the Liriano deal, this was another shrewd move. The Jays needed an outfielder to replace Bautista’s defence, and they found just the guy to do it. Upton provides solid defence and great speed along the base paths. That’s a change for this team. While Upton has not lived up to his full potential, his bat is still worth something (about the same as Smoak’s, really). The real value of this deal is in his defence. One would assume that this will allow the Jays to put Upton in the outfield, rotate Saunders and Bautista at DH, and keep Encarnacion at 1B. It seems that the team has other plans, though, as they intend to platoon Upton’s playing time with Smoak’s. I don’t love that idea. I think that Upton’s defence is more valuable than Smoak’s splits. In-game strategies aside, Upton is a solid addition to the roster.
So what did the Jays have to give up to acquire an everyday outfielder? Not much at all. Hansel Rodriguez is a 19-year-old pitching prospect in A-ball. He might turn out to be something one day, but the odds aren’t great. Apparently the Padres like him though, as they are also chipping in all but $5M toward Upton’s $22M contract. Further to that point, Upton is under control through 2017. This was a strong move to kick off the deadline.
Troy Taormina – USA TODAY Sports
Toronto Blue Jays Trade – RHP Guadalupe Chavez
Houston Astros Trade – RHP Scott Feldman
The Jays took some modest steps to address their bullpen at the deadline. Sanchez aside, Feldman will be the most notable addition to the relief corps. Between the Rangers and the Astros, Feldman has spent his entire career in Texas. A move up north will be a change of pace. While Feldman’s ERA is impressive, his peripherals suggest that his performance doesn’t match. I wouldn’t expect him to be a high-leverage piece, but rather to play more of a middle-inning role. He is something of an odd acquisition for this front office, as he comes with no control beyond this season.
Feldman’s team control – or lack thereof – is off-set by the price paid to acquire him. Similar to Rodriguez, it is difficult to predict what Chavez might develop into. He is still only 18, and is years away from reaching the Majors. While Chavez has posted strong numbers in rookie ball, they aren’t enough to make him more valuable to the organization than Feldman. This trade is similar to last year’s Mark Lowe deal. If you can flip a rookie prospect for a decent Major League reliever, then you should do it.
It would have been nice to see Feldman start his Blue Jays career on a better foot. It should be noted that he had thrown 38 pitches on Sunday, so really shouldn’t have been in Monday’s game to begin with. Don’t let that first appearance sour him for you.
Aaron Vincent Elkaim – Associated Press
Toronto Blue Jays Trade – RHP Drew Storen
Seattle Mariners Trade – RHP Joaquin Benoit
At first glance, this was a “project for project” swap. Both Storen and Benoit have had horrible seasons so far. That said, the Jays probably got the better end of deal here. Benoit has a longer track record of success than Storen, and only stumbled through 25.0 innings this season. Beyond that, he has had a good career. If he can recapture the same form that he showed in the previous 10 years, then he could be a serious shot in the arm. Benoit has already shown flashes of greatness in his first few outings with the Jays. At the end of the day, he is a gamble worth taking. One would assume that the Jays were prepared to let Storen walk and receive nothing in return. At least Benoit offers a potential improvement. This might not be a season-changing move, but it could help stabilize the bullpen.
Mark J. Terrill – Associated Press
Toronto Blue Jays Trade – RHP Jesse Chavez
Los Angeles Dodgers Trade – RHP Mike Bolsinger
The Jays also parted ways with Chavez. Based on his recent outings, it seemed like he was next in line to be DFA’d. Getting some type of return for him is a bonus. Chavez struggled mightily with the long ball and with inherited runners this season. He just didn’t work out in the role that was given to him.
The Blue Jays received a replacement for Hutchison in return. Bolsinger began his career as a starter, and had some success with the Dodgers last season. He got hit around in the Majors this year, and was sent down to AAA. At that point, the Dodgers transitioned him to a reliever. With no starting pitching depth, it would not be a surprise if the Jays stretched Bolsinger back into a starter over the next few weeks. He can provide a safety net in the unfortunate event that a starter were to get injured. That net might not be as strong as the one offered by Hutchison, but at least it’s there. If Bolsinger works out, then he could be part of the organization for the foreseeable future, as he is under control until 2021.
AROUND THE DIVISION
The Jays had a strong deadline, even without adding Chris Sale or Wade Davis. Theirs was probably the best of the three contenders in the AL East. The Red Sox needed starting pitching, and added Drew Pomeranz. The prized acquisition hasn’t exactly hit the ground running. Boston also added Brad Ziegler and Fernando Abad to beef up their bullpen. Outside of Steven Wright and David Price, their rotation is still a big question mark. The Orioles did less still. They needed even more starting pitching, so they added Wade Miley, one of the weaker starters in the league. Miley is an upgrade over Ubaldo Jimenez, but so are some position players. The O’s have also been reunited with Steve Pearce. As it stands, the Jays still have the strongest rotation of the three teams, and look to be in the best position for the next couple of months. Also, fair play to the Yankees. They finally decided to be sellers. The decision allowed them to receive some great returns on their relievers, as well as some pieces for Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova. The Yankees are out of it this year, but they are set to do big things by 2018.
With five new Major League players in the organization, and two top-100 prospects, the Jays are in a better position today than they were a week ago. The rotation has some stability, and the bullpen has been fortified. With the additions of Benoit, Feldman, and Sanchez, one could argue that the bullpen is now a real source of strength for the team. The rotation will obviously be weaker once Sanchez moves, but it should still be able to cover 6.0 innings on a regular basis. The Jays are well-positioned to make a serious push over the next two months.