TORONTO — We know the Toronto Blue Jays are buyers heading into the July 30 trade deadline.
But what will they have to sell in order to get what they need?
Luckily, armed with a minor-league system that is robust enough to deliver whatever major-league talent GM Ross Atkins wants to go get, the Jays are in a great position.
Thanks to the depth and redundancy in certain areas, the Jays will not need to completely tear the system apart to make an impact trade or two, either.
Taking a look at each type of trade chip, here are a handful of names — you can get more in depth on all of them here in our top 50 Jays prospects list for 2021 — to keep in mind this month as Atkins’ trade targets start to become clear.
C Alejandro Kirk
LF Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
C Reese McGuire
The two most asked about areas of the Jays’ roster over the past couple of off-seasons have been their deep catching pipeline, as well as outfielders Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez.
While Hernandez has settled in to become an all-star, Gurriel has struggled both with the bat and defensively in left field. Under control for three more seasons after this one, LGJ’s still a valuable trade chip, but the Jays would love for him to get hot over the next three weeks.
Ditto for Kirk, who’s hitting well on a Triple-A rehab assignment as he recovers from a hip injury.
The Jays need to sort out their catching situation and Kirk is by far the best bat, but he might also fetch the most in a trade, with Danny Jansen and McGuire, who cleared waivers earlier this year, probably not having much value.
If Atkins is going to subtract from his group of big-league position players, Kirk and Gurriel and are the most likely candidates.
Elite trade chips
3B/SS Jordan Groshans
3B/SS Orelvis Martinez
RHP Sem Robberse
You’ll notice there’s no Austin Martin, Gabriel Moreno or Simeon Woods Richardson here. I don’t think those three top prospects are on the table, so we have to dig down a little further to the next level of elite depth in the system.
Groshans and Martinez are the top trade chips, but they won’t be on the move for anything less than an impact arm with control left. Rentals won’t be able to pry these guys away.
Robberse isn’t an elite trade chip from a national perspective, but the 19-year-old Dutch hurler is impressing at Low-A Dunedin, striking out 11.8 batters per nine with a four-pitch mix that’s led by a whiff-generating curveball.
He’s the type of lower-level pitching prospect you can build a package around.
Upper minors chips
SS Kevin Smith
C Riley Adams
INF/OF Otto Lopez
Kevin Smith’s resurgence this year at Triple-A has been lovely for the Jays, giving them an upper-level middle infielder with speed and power, one who any team could’ve plucked for nothing in the Rule 5 Draft last December.
Having just turned 25 on July 4, Smith is close to major-league ready and could help solve the Jays’ own third base hole as a utility bench option, but every rebuilding team should be trying to give this guy an everyday shortstop role to see whether the 12 homers and 10 steals from Triple-A will translate to the majors.
As mentioned above, there’s a logjam of catchers in the upper levels and the front office will have to make a move sooner or later.
Lopez is already on the 40-man roster and quietly enjoying another productive season with the bat, slashing .354/.410/.485 with a pair of homers and six steals in 49 games.
Lower level gems
SS Leo Jimenez
INF Miguel Hiraldo
RHP Roither Hernandez
Jimenez, 20, added some size and strength this off-season and while it hasn’t manifested in over-the-fence power, there’s definitely some more juice in the bat. When you combine that with his solid actions and tools at shortstop, you quietly have one of the better prospects in the system.
The third name in the prospect-heavy infield at Low-A with Martinez and Jimenez is Hiraldo, who has yet to have the breakout season with the stick that many are imaging.
A third base/second base tweener type, the compact right-handed hitter has started walking more than ever this season, upping his BB rate to 11.3 per cent. That’s a good sign for the 20-year-old.
Hernandez, who I had at No. 41 on the top 50 list back in February, is a live arm with the typical fastball/slider bullpen look.
The gangly Dominican has been touching 98-99 mph and getting good results in A-ball with a 2.52 ERA and 34 Ks across 25 frames.
As with any organization, there are a few under-the-radar arms flashing in A-ball that will draw interest, including Naswell Paulino, Alejandro Melean, Lazaro Estrada, Adrian Hernandez, Jol Concepcion and Luis Quinones.
THINGS I PROBABLY TWEETED
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Marcus Semien, Teoscar Hernandez and Bo Bichette landing on the AL all-star squad is impressive, but it still doesn’t equal the seven players the 1993 Jays sent. Chalk up a point for yourself if you can name them without Googling … You can make the case Semien is trending towards being worth George Springer money on the open market this winter. Heading into his age-31 season, Semien will be the same age Springer was last winter, he’s graded out as one of the best defensive second basemen in baseball and earned his all-star game start on the back of 21 homers and a huge .286/.349/.542 slash line. It’s doubtful he’ll get the 6/150 Springer did, but what’s he worth? It’s clearly a lot if he keeps up anything close to this pace … At the exact halfway point of the season over the weekend, the Jays landed on 43-38, which means nothing unless you have them winning 86 games this year. The issue with that March prediction is they’re better than their record shows, without a doubt … You can’t say the Jays haven’t been consistent in the first half. From 12-12 in April to 15-13 in May to 14-12 in June to now 2-2 in July, the .500 mark has been a constant companion.
STAT DIG: 670 or 691
If the Blue Jays have their way, that’s the number of days they’ll have mercifully endured between games at their home ballpark in Toronto.
A year after their first attempt to convince the federal government to allow them to play games north of the border, the Jays are back at it again this month, eyeing two potential dates and hoping to get approval: July 30 or August 20.
Both mark the start of homestands and — like last year — the municipal and provincial arms of government, according to sources, have already given their support, once again leaving the closed border and all of the quarantine nuances that come with it as the most important hurdle.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I think we’ve done what we’ve done this year, and we haven’t clicked on the same cylinder all at once yet. We’ve had some moments in this series and this homestand, but we can definitely be better. We’re really confident. We know we’re better. We’ll just continue to work hard, play hard and see what happens.”
—Bo Bichette on clubhouse mood ahead of all-star break
THE CALL-UP LIST
Five players closest to a promotion to the big leagues when a need arises:
1—LHP Ryan Borucki, Triple-A rehab: Borucki hasn’t pitched since May 7 when he was shelved with another elbow injury, but the lefty threw live BP recently and should be ready for a rehab stint this week.
2—C Alejandro Kirk, Triple-A rehab: He’s slashing .385/.474/.692 in five games with the Bisons, but he may have to bide his time for a couple weeks.
3—RHP Thomas Hatch, Triple-A rehab: Hatch spun his longest outing of the year in his most recent tuneup, going five full frames while allowing three earned runs and walking three.
4—RHP Julian Merryweather, rehab: The oft-injured 29-year-old’s rehab continues to inch along from an April oblique injury and he’s expected to throw off a mound soon.
5—1B Rowdy Tellez, Triple-A: He’s running out of chances, but Tellez has hit .297 and swatted three homers in 10 games since being demoted.
Highlighting one player in the system that you need to know about:
2B/OF Samad Taylor, Double-A New Hampshire
Acquired four years ago at the trade deadline from Cleveland in exchange for reliever Joe Smith, Taylor has always been a toolsy prospect, blessed with great wheels and some pop.
Until this year, however, Taylor had failed to put it all together, even spending some time dabbling in Australian winter ball this year.
Assigned to a team littered with top prospects, Taylor has been right alongside the now-injured Gabriel Moreno in stuffing the stat sheet on a nightly basis, slashing .303/.393/.567 with 12 homers and 17 stolen bases.
The main issue in the profile is Taylor is still striking out at a 31 per cent clip, but the swing-and-miss becomes more acceptable with this newfound pop.
Like Kevin Smith a level above him, Taylor needs to be added to the 40-man roster by November so his timely breakout could turn him into a trade chip.