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Steve Phillips

TSN Baseball Insider

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The trade deadline is just a week away and phone lines are buzzing in front offices across the game.

Whether a team is considered a buyer, seller, or bystander, their general manager is talking to his counterparts across the league. This is the time of year when general managers compete. It’s their chance to affect the playoff race for this season or build for the future. 

The week leading into the deadline can sway whether a team ends up buying or selling. When a team is in limbo like that, its front office can’t just sit and wait. By the time a direction is clear, it can be too late to begin negotiations. Those clubs that are uncertain have to start the discussions about both adding and subtracting players. 

The Blue Jays seem to be clear buyers at this point. It’s highly unlikely, but if they were to lose the next seven games while the Red Sox, Rays and Athletics all put together win streaks, it could change their perspective.

Toronto general manager Ross Atkins has already added a couple of quality relievers. It’s also helpful that the Jays’ needs are clear. Their offence is championship calibre but their starting pitching and bullpen are not. 

Team president Mark Shapiro has said that the Jays’ focus is on impact players at this deadline. That should be music to Jays fans’ ears. Remember, it was Shapiro who was somewhat critical of former GM Alex Anthopoulos when he traded away a bunch of prospects in 2015 to acquire ace pitcher David Price and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Shapiro’s preference then was to hold onto the prospects. The Jays made great playoff runs in 2015 and 2016 and the deals paid dividends. Plus, none of the prospects traded away came back to haunt Toronto. 

Unless my view of impact is different than Shapiro’s, it means the Jays are inquiring about a starter like Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer (seeking a multi-year extension to waive his no-trade rights), a closer like Cubs reliever Craig Kimbrel (one year option for 2022), or a power bat like Texas Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo (one more year of arbitration).

Those are impact players. A contract extension for Scherzer, a future Hall of Famer, would be something like three years at $105 million, which is a lot for a 37-year-old veteran. But Scherzer is worth it. He’s a three-time Cy Young award winner who still has fuel in the tank. Kimbrel is the best closer available and is back on track in what could be a Hall of Fame career. Gallo likely doesn’t fit for the Jays unless they strikeout on pitchers and decide to add offence, hoping to outslug the opposition.

 

Jays will have to part with prospects

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The Jays will have to part with prospect talent to get impact major-league help. They would likely have to part with at least one high-upside arm to land an ace. I would be willing to include Nate Pearson in that deal.

Pearson’s injuries worry me. He has a great arm but has lost significant development time due to being hurt. It will still take a couple of years for him to fulfill his potential considering he is being directed to the bullpen for the rest of this season.

If I include Pearson in a deal it means that I would not trade Simeon Woods Richardson, who is pitching in Double-A right now. He was acquired in the Marcus Stroman deal with the Mets in in 2019. Scouts like him as much or more than Pearson, and he is younger.

I would also include Austin Martin, the Jays first-round pick from 2020, in a trade if it’s for a player the team can control beyond this season. Martin is a good player who can play multiple positions, but his lack of power in his first season is glaring. If I trade him in a big deal I would not include Double-A infielder Jordan Groshans or young Class-A shortstop Orelvis Martinez, who already has 17 home runs and 60 RBI playing in Dunedin. 

The Jays have enough depth of talent in their farm system to make just about any deal they want. The question is whether they be willing to pay the price. They should, if the acquisitions come with controllability beyond 2021.

 

Blue Jays finally head home

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They are finally coming home. The Jays will return to the Rogers Centre for the homestand starting July 30, playing 11 games in 10 days against the Kansas City Royals, Cleveland and Boston Red Sox.

The players have to be ecstatic to finally have a true home field that they hope turns into an advantage. It could really be a shot of energy for this young team, especially during the dog days of August when the rigours of the season can take a toll.

The return to the Rogers Centre probably won’t affect the budget or personnel decisions this season. The biggest impact can be the spark of finally being home. The inconveniences that road clubs face when they come to town to make sure they are following more restrictive protocols could negatively impact the Jays’ opponents.

The Blue Jays deserve a ton of credit for not feeling like or acting like victims by their vagabond existence over the last year-plus. It had to be tough to live out of their suitcase for months at a time.

 

Trade deadline predictions 

The Rays adding Nelson Cruz from the Twins was a great fit. Cruz will impact the Rays with his big bat and mature personality. Here are my predictions for some of the other players I expect to be traded at the deadline:

Designated Hitter
Trey Mancini, Baltimore Orioles, traded to Oakland Athletics
 
First Base
Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs, traded to Boston Red Sox
C.J. Cron, Colorado Rockies, traded to Milwaukee Brewers
 
Second Base
Adam Frazier, Pittsburgh Pirates, traded to Chicago White Sox
  
Shortstop
Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs, traded to New York Mets
Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies, traded to Oakland Athletics
 
Third Base
Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs, traded to the San Francisco Giants (1B/3B/OF)
Eduardo Escobar, Arizona Diamondbacks, traded to San Francisco Giants (3B/2B)
 
Outfield
Starling Marte, Miami Marlins, traded to New York Yankees
Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers, traded to San Diego Padres
Eddie Rosario, Cleveland, traded to Atlanta Braves
 
Starting Pitchers
Kyle Gibson, Texas Rangers, traded to the San Diego Padres
Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals, traded to Toronto Blue Jays
Jon Gray, Colorado Rockies, traded to the Philadelphia Phillies
Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals, traded to Atlanta Braves
JA Happ, Minnesota Twins, traded to New York Mets
 
Relief Pitchers
Raisel Iglesias, Los Angeles Angels, traded to Oakland Athletics
Daniel Hudson, Washington Nationals, traded to Milwaukee Brewers
Craig Kimbrel, Chicago Cubs, traded to Philadelphia Phillies
Ian Kennedy, Texas Rangers, traded to Atlanta Braves
Richard Rodriguez, Pittsburgh Pirates, traded to Toronto Blue Jays
Taylor Rogers, Minnesota Twins, traded to Houston Astros
Brad Hand, Washington Nationals, traded to Los Angeles Dodgers