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Blue Jays unlikely to move top players, Olney thinks

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Bo Bichette Toronto Blue Jays Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Bo Bichette - The Canadian Press

Rumours have begun to swirl surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays and their top young stars, shortstop Bo Bichette and first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., but ESPN Baseball Insider Buster Olney is not convinced either player is likely to be traded this off-season. 

Olney joined First Up on TSN 1050 on Wednesday to discuss the off-season outlook for the Blue Jays.

"What I'm hearing is, the Blue Jays are not pushing [to trade] those guys," said Olney.

"If someone were to call and throw out an offer, the perception is that the Blue Jays would listen. But folks with other teams don't think they're going to trade either guy."

The 25-year-old Bichette is coming off a third-straight strong year with Toronto, where he hit .306 with 20 home runs and 74 runs batted in and finished 16th in American League Most Valuable Player voting. 

His play has earned MVP votes in each of the past three seasons, and All-Star nods in 2021 and '23.

Guerrero Jr., meanwhile, is coming off a second consecutive down year where he hit .264 with 26 HR and 94 RBI in 156 games. He has not been able to recapture his brilliant 2021 season, where he led the majors with 48 HR and finished second in AL MVP voting.

Guerrero Jr. is also eligible for free agency after the 2025 season.

"The Blue Jays are so offensively challenged, and they have holes in their lineup. If you trade Bichette in this moment, you're going to have to replace him with an impact bat," Olney said. "You have to bet that Vladdy has a bounce-back year and that he's more effective."  

Another player on Toronto's roster that people are curious about is pitcher Alek Manoah, but once again Olney doesn't believe a trade is likely.

"This would be the worst possible time to trade Manoah, [because] your leverage is going to be at its lowest," he said. 

Manoah is coming off a disastrous season in 2023, where he struggled to a 5.87 earned-run average with 79 strikeouts in 87.1 innings pitched. He was jettisoned between the majors and minors twice through the summer as the team sought to save what was becoming a lost season.

When Manoah was demoted to AAA in August, he did not report to Buffalo for over two weeks in what was later clarified by general manager Ross Atkins to be a “mutual decision” to put Manoah through a full set of tests in case of an undiagnosed injury.

“Any time a pitcher of his success is optioned, it’s a very difficult thing to stomach and he disagreed with that decision,” Atkins said of the August demotion. “That created some frustration. He felt as though he should remain with the team.”

Because of these issues with performance and the possible rift between player and team, Olney thinks that the Jays would struggle to receive fair value in a trade.

"The idea that they're going to get some elite prospects, some guys that might be difference makers in the lineup is just not going to happen," he said.

"The only question it comes down to is 'do the Blue Jays believe, internally, that his situation with the team is irredeemable?' Is the relationship so far gone, is his anger going into Spring Training going to be a problem? If that's the case, that's when you dump him."

While the rumour mill has been churning at the outset of the off-season, Atkins has not indicated that any of the young players on the roster are likely to be moved. 

He said earlier in the off-season that Manoah earned "the right to have a strong leg up" in the competition for the Jays' final rotation spot next spring.

Atkins also spoke strongly about Bichette, saying "We are very fortunate to have him and he is our shortstop moving forward."