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Blue Jays add depth, balance in successful deadline

Jordan Hicks Toronto Blue Jays Jordan Hicks - The Canadian Press
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The Major League Baseball trade deadline has come and gone. The stories this year are as much about who made moves as who didn’t. Let’s start with the Blue Jays. 

Toronto added left-handed reliever Genesis Cabrera and righty Jordan Hicks to their bullpen. I like both of these acquisitions because they bring depth and balance to the pen. It gives Jays manager John Schneider multiple options every night.

In Hicks, the Jays get a power-armed righty who can also serve as the closer while Jordan Romano spends time on the injured list healing from a back strain. Hicks throws hard – in fact, his average fastball is 101 mph, and he has been clocked throwing 105 mph. Hicks is just 26 years old and has 59 strikeouts in 42.2 innings pitched this season. He has swing-and-miss stuff that plays well in the postseason. The Jays learned the hard way how important swings and misses are out of the pen last season when the Seattle Mariners’ relievers dominated their hitters in the playoffs. 

Cabrera has a good arm as well. The key to his success is throwing strikes as he has been prone to the walk in his career. He just needs to learn to trust his stuff and throw the ball over the plate. Nothing drives managers and general managers crazier than relievers who issue walks. He should be a nice compliment to Tim Mayza as a second lefty in the pen. 

Jays shortstop Bo Bichette strained his knee on a scary play in Monday’s game against the Orioles. He limped off the field after jamming the knee while rounding first base after a hit. The MRI on Tuesday didn’t reveal any structural damage, and the Jays are currently listing him as day-to-day.

Despite that news, the Jays traded for Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong on Tuesday. The move was not solely in response to Bichette’s injury. The Jays were already interested in DeJong as the right-handed bat they were looking to add. DeJong can hit lefty pitchers and is a solid defender at shortstop. He is also a solid citizen and good teammate. DeJong can shift to second base when Bichette is healthy enough to return, which frees up Whit Merrifield to play more outfield.

I can understand that fans are somewhat underwhelmed by the Jays’ deadline, but Toronto didn’t need a monster deal at the deadline. Think back to late June of 2018 when the Jays traded utilityman Steve Pearce to the Boston Red Sox for a then-minor league infielder named Santiago Espinal. Pearce went on to be named the World Series MVP that season.

I can imagine a world in which DeJong homers to give the Jays the lead in the sixth inning of a World Series game. Then Cabrera and Hicks throw back-to-back innings, striking out six straight batters, before turning the ball over to a healthy Romano who does the same thing for a Blue Jays’ win.

Winners and losers of the trade deadline

The Jays were winners at the trade deadline because the Red Sox, Yankees, and Mariners, who are behind them in the standings, didn’t do anything of substance. The Red Sox are one-and-a-half games behind, the Angels are three games behind, while the Yankees and Mariners trail by three-and-a-half games. Los Angeles made moves after deciding to hold on to superstar Shohei Ohtani, but not enough to predictably pass the Jays.

This deadline had plenty of twists and turns, and a few surprises. Here is how I see the winners and losers at the deadline:

 

Winners

Max Scherzer Texas Rangers

Texas Rangers: General manager Chris Young satisfied his team’s needs in a major way. They lost Jacob deGrom to Tommy John surgery and recently placed Nate Eovaldi on the injured list with a forearm strain. Now they have Max Scherzer (Mets) and Jordan Montgomery (Cardinals) in the rotation, plus they added Aroldis Chapman (Royals) and Chris Stratton (Cardinals) to the bullpen. They also added catcher Austin Hedges, who is one of the best pitch framers in the game, to replace injured All-Star Jonah Heim. 

Houston Astros: Houston went back to the future, bringing back reliever Kendall Graveman from the Chicago White Sox and the 2022 AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander from the New York Mets. GM Dana Brown was able to get the Mets to pick up close to $54 million of Verlander’s remaining salary through 2024, with a vesting option in 2025. Verlander is throwing like his Cy Young self with a sub-2.00 ERA in his last nine starts. The Astros are armed and ready to defend their World Series title.

Miami Marlins: The low-budget Marlins needed offence and they got it. They sent third baseman Jean Segura and a prospect to the Guardians for switch-hitting first baseman Josh Bell. The stunning deal was the Marlins acquiring slugging third baseman Jake Burger, who has 25 homers this year, from the White Sox. Chicago did get a top pitching prospect in return, but that was an area of strength and depth for the Marlins, so it didn’t hurt too much. The Marlins also made a big trade to get a closer when they acquired Mets reliever David Robertson. Plus, they swapped reliever Dylan Floro for Jorge Lopez with the Minnesota Twins.

Other winners: Rays, White Sox, Phillies, Mets, Braves, Brewers, Cubs, Padres

 

Losers

Farhan Zaidi

Cincinnati Reds: The up-and-coming Reds are currently a playoff team. Sure, they are probably a year ahead of schedule, but they have a chance to win. The Reds desperately needed a starting pitcher at the deadline, but all the landed was a left-handed reliever Sam Moll from the Oakland A’s. Manager David Bell is going to have to handle the emotions of his young team to make sure they don’t misinterpret the lack of movement as a lack of confidence in the club.

San Francisco Giants: The Giants are the top wild-card team in the National League, but they barely caused a ripple at the deadline. They acquired outfielder AJ Pollock and infielder Mark Mathis from the Seattle Mariners. But they needed a starting pitcher and a reliever and didn’t get either. 

Minnesota Twins: The Twins (55-53) aren’t a great team, but they are in first place in the AL Central. Their starting pitching has been excellent, but their offence is lower middle class. They have all kinds of swing-and-miss in their lineup and they lead baseball in strikeouts. The failed to add any hitters to their lineup and only swapped relievers with the Marlins. They had a chance to separate from the Cleveland Guardians and didn’t take it. Bizarre.

Other Losers: Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, Dodgers, Backs, Mariners, Guardians, Orioles