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Steve Phillips

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Many publications have the Blue Jays' farm system ranked among the best in baseball. In order to earn a ranking like that, the organization has not only a number of impact prospects but also depth of prospects. Not all prospects are the same. Some position players are projected to be everyday impact players (Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette, Danny Jansen) while some are considered role players, part of a platoon or starters on a second division lesser team (Billy McKinney, Rowdy Tellez, Teoscar Hernandez, Jonathan Davis, Reese McGuire). 

The better pitching prospects are projected to be front-end of the rotation starters or closers (Nate Pearson, Eric Pardinho, Adam Kloffstein), while the rest are considered back-end of the rotation starters or middle relievers (Thomas Pannone, Sean Reid-Foley, T.J. Zeuch). The goal in development is to maintain the elite talent of the impact prospects, while trying to propel the marginal prospects to higher levels. 

The rebuilding process is moving ahead full force in Toronto. Many of the impact prospects are at the major-league level and more of the fringe prospects are getting opportunities to show what they have as well. As the trade deadline approaches, the Blue Jays are focused on what talent they can bring back in trades to further fortify the reconstruction of the major league club. Toronto doesn’t need any more inventory of fringe prospects, they need impact, particularly in the pitching area. They have the necessary wave of position players to become a playoff contender by 2022, but the pitching side needs to catch up.

Of course, the Jays can’t take a lesser quality prospect on the pitching side than they could get as a position player, but their primary focus should be to get a couple of impact pitching prospects. Trading Marcus Stroman and Ken Giles should give them a real opportunity to accomplish that. They won’t bring in top-50 prospects, but possibly guys who are ranked in the top-100. If they need to supplement the deal in order to get the right prospect in return they should do whatever they have to do. If coupling Stroman and Giles to the Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins, who both need a starter and closer, brings back impact in return, then do it. If it means adding a Joe Biagini or Daniel Hudson to a deal, don’t hesitate. If a club has interest in Justin Smoak, Freddy Galvis or Eric Sogard and they also need a reliever, then pair them up and get a more impactful prospect.

There are times when adding as many prospects as possible is a good idea, even if they are fringe-type guys. The idea is that maybe one or two of those players will exceed expectations and become impact players. The problem that clubs ultimately face is that at some point, not every player can be protected on the 40-man roster and they lose some in the Rule V draft.

Stroman has been getting the most attention for the Jays at the deadline but there are several other players that are trade candidates as I mentioned above. Here is how they fit in the market.

Ken Giles is the next most valuable chip after Stroman. Almost every contender is going to look to upgrade their bullpen at the deadline. Giles can be considered a closer by teams like the Tampa Bay Rays, Twins, Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. The rest of the contenders would consider him as a set-up man to their established closer. With a year of control beyond this season, he is a valuable commodity that could possibly bring back a top-100 prospect or a player just outside of the that grouping. 

Hudson and David Phelps, both 32-years-old, are veteran right-handed relievers that teams would consider in a deal as depth in the 6th and 7th innings. They have both pitched in high leverage situations in the past. The righties would be used in tie games or to hold deficits to allow the offense to come back later in the game. They would return fringe prospects but could be used to sweeten the pot in a bigger deal to bring back more impactful talent. 

Biagini, 29, is a younger, less experienced version of Hudson and Phelps. He has three years of control remaining before free agency which still makes him valuable to the Jays but could prove a clincher to a contender to pay a bit more for a trade. I would include Biagini if he was part of a deal to bring back a starting position player or a big arm for the front or end of the game.

I could see Biagini, Hudson and Phelps as possibilities for almost all of the contenders.

Sogard is having a terrific season. He always delivers a professional at-bat, is an Energizer Bunny and can play just about anywhere on the field. The 33-year-old can play a position every day for two weeks and has shown pop in his bat and the ability to make contact. He is a good situational hitter who can bunt for a hit and get a runner in from third with a sacrifice fly. Sogard would be a great fit for the Chicago Cubs as they need a lead-off hitter who plays second base. He will only return a second-tier prospect unless paired with another player to deliver more impact in return. The Jays should trade him and then re-sign him to play with their young infielders next season.

Galvis has served his purpose well for the Jays. He was brought in as a placeholder and for his leadership but it’s time for Bichette to be in the major leagues. Galvis is a well-respected veteran infielder who can help a contender and is as sure-handed an infielder as there is in the game. In fact, he currently has the best fielding percentage ever for a shortstop in major league history. Although he has primarily been a shortstop the past couple of seasons, he has plenty of experience at second base and some at third and in the outfield. Galvis is a hitter with more power than one would think and could be a great fit for the Cleveland Indians. He could back up Francisco Lindor and offer rest opportunities for Jose Ramirez and Jason Kipnis. He would bring back a second-tier prospect and has extra value because he has a club option for 2020.

Smoak offers an interested team a quality defensive first baseman with run producing potential. He has post-season experience and has a high level of maturity that could help a young team and could fit with Cleveland, Oakland A’s and Rays. As a switch-hitter, he has additional value coming off the bench as he neutralizes pitching moves by an opposing manager. A trade would likely return a second-tier prospect. If Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox is available, it may diminish some of the interest in Smoak but the Jays may still be able to find a taker and replace him with Tellez in the short-term. 

One guy who is desperate for the Jays to trade Galvis and/or Sogard is Bichette. Bichette sent out an innocuous tweet last week: “No point in chasing an outcome when you can’t control that outcome.”

This is a kid crying out for attention. He is saying, ”I am here.  Don’t forget about me.  See me!” He clearly doesn’t know the plan. General manager Ross Atkins and club president Mark Shapiro pride themselves in being good communicators. I am sure they will reach out to the young man and share their thinking. 

What Bichette needs to understand is that general managers will not feed into the perception that they are reactive to players’ complaints. If the Jays promote Bichette immediately after his complaint, he and others may get the idea that his tweet helped in some way. It is not the case ever. In fact, my natural inclination is to actually delay a call-up if it was imminent just to make sure there is no misperception. 

The good news is that Bichette is taking care of business in Buffalo. He is hitting .309/.367/.519 and playing outstanding defence, recently making some highlight reel plays. I fully expect that as soon as one of Galvis or Sogard is traded that he will be promoted. I am a proponent of protecting service time but since Biggio and Guerrero Jr. are already in the majors I have no problem linking his service time to theirs. 

Spitting Seeds

It appears the starting pitching trade market is getting a bit more crowded as the Texas Rangers have gone 4-10 in their last 14 games. On June 28, they were just 4.5 games behind the Houston Astros and were tied with the Rays for the top wild card spot. Now they are five games behind the second wild card and went from buyers to sellers in the month of July. This means that lefty starting pitcher Mike Minor will be available. He is under control next season for the same $9.5 million salary he has this year and is second in the AL with a 2.73 ERA. He complicates the Stroman market a bit as he is at least as attractive a trade piece as the Jays All-Star. The supply is deeper now than it was a week ago.

New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman made a brilliant under-the-radar move this week when he purchased speedster Terrance Gore from the Kansas City Royals. Gore is not much of a hitter but he can steal a base. In fact, he has almost three times as many stolen bases (40) as he has hits (15) in his career. In parts of six seasons in the major leagues, he has only 62 at-bats but has scored 32 runs while driving in just one. He is a professional base-runner. 

Cashman acquired Gore for the month of September as he is in the minor leagues right now but will join the major league team for the final month and he will likely steal a base or two that will lead to a Yankees' win. That one win could be the difference between being the #1 seed in the AL and possibly the best overall record gaining home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Remember with only one trade deadline, clubs won’t be able to add talent in August. Cashman made a pre-emptive move anticipating a need at some point.

The buyers and sellers have become pretty clear at this point. Here is the list of buyers and what their needs are for a playoff run:

-Yankees need a starting pitcher and possibly an addition reliever.

-Rays could use bullpen help and a veteran hitter who plays first base or as a designated hitter.

-Boston Red Sox need help in their bullpen, possibly even at the closer role if Nathan Eovaldi can’t handle the job when he returns from elbow surgery.

-Twins are looking to add a starter and a closer.

-Cleveland may be buyers and sellers. They need to add a couple of offensive pieces offence in the outfield and at DH and may trade starting pitcher Trevor Bauer in the deal instead of prospects. They could also use an upgrade at the utility spot in the infield.

-Astros need at least one starting pitcher, preferably two. If they only add one then they need an additional bullpen arm, ideally from the left-side.

-Athletics need a starting pitcher and a bullpen arm. They could also benefit from a proven run producer in the DH role.

-Braves need a starter and a closer.

-Washington Nationals need bullpen depth in front of Sean Doolittle, their closer.

-Phillies need starting pitching and bullpen help and could also use a utility infielder.

-Cubs need a lead-off hitter that plays second base and a left-handed reliever.

-Milwaukee Brewers need a starting pitcher and a reliever.

-St. Louis Cardinals need a starter and a reliever.

-Pittsburgh Pirates could use starting pitching help and a reliever and may be a buyer and seller.

-Cincinnati Reds are looking to add bullpen help.

-Los Angeles Dodgers need middle relief help.

-Arizona Diamondbacks will likely be buyers and sellers. Starting pitcher Robbie Ray may get traded while they look to add players with more control. They also need pitching depth in the rotation and bullpen.