The Toronto Blue Jays’ implosion in Game 2 of the AL Wild Card Series was followed by an instinctive reaction from the fan base: something had to change.
Maybe the Jays need a new manager. Well, that won’t happen as Toronto has long-term jailed skipper John Schneider. How about a new GM? Again unlikely. Ross Atkins is under contract until 2026.
So is the answer a new bullpen? More pitching? A revised outfield? Questions, questions, questions.
That agonizing loss to the Seattle Mariners sparked some innovative ideas on how to retool this Blue Jays franchise. Among many far-reaching suggestions, there was one idea that caught my eye: What if the Blue Jays made a franchise-changing deal with core players?
Shipping Bo Bichette or Vladimir Guerrero Jr. from Toronto? Insanity. But I loved the audacity of such a theory, albeit unlikely.
It would be great for Blue Jays fans to get their own Kawhi Leonard moment, just as the Toronto Raptors pulled off a stunning star-for-star trade and took home a championship a year later. So let’s take a look at how such a move could play out for the Blue Jays in 2023.
How a core shifting trade could help the 2023 Blue Jays
A new voice. fresh blood. This sporting wisdom – based on change for the sake of change – has value when the clubhouse is complemented with the right elements. I saw firsthand the immeasurable effect Matt Chapman’s presence had on his Jays teammates.
Chapman’s vocal leadership and hot-corner activity brought a unique touch to Toronto’s roster, just as Alek Manoah’s confidence or Kevin Gausman’s acumen made the pitching team. Another presence at the Toronto clubhouse could spark something.
There is also the element of reallocating unilateral resources. Trading Toronto’s positional depth (perhaps at the catcher) seems like a logical first step to increasing the club’s rotation and bullpen.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly to fans, a seismic deal that uproots the Blue Jays’ modus operandi would allay concerns about Toronto’s creative readiness to compete at the highest level. It would counteract the lukewarm reaction to the Jays’ efforts for the 2022 trade deadline and show that this team is “all in” for the remainder of its competitive window.
MLB precedent for a core relocation trade
Major league vs major league swaps can be a little harder to iron out than packages with lots of prospects. For this analysis, we also limited our scope to off-season trades.
In January 2021, the Cleveland Guardians and the New York Mets struck a deal with superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor. The full deal saw Lindor and Carlos Carrasco go to the Mets in place of Amed Rosario, Andrés Giménez, Josh Wolf and Isaiah Greene. The core of this deal had to do with Lindor’s upcoming free agency, so that element wouldn’t matter if Toronto wanted to negotiate a player like Bichette or Alejandro Kirk, for example.
The one-for-one trade between the Detroit Tigers and the Texas Rangers in November 2013 also stands out. In this exchange, the Tigers received second baseman Ian Kinsler and the Rangers received first baseman Prince Fielder. Clean and simple. Two core players of relatively equal value swap shirts of competing teams. There is certainly a way for the Blue Jays to make such a deal.
As an honorable mention, we can also include the outrageous 14-player trade between the Jays and the Miami Marlins in November 2012. This trade, carried out under the Alex Anthopoulos regime, resulted in Toronto inheriting players like Mark Buehrle, José Reyes and Josh Johnson for Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria and others.
Building Blockbuster Trades by the Blue Jays
Blue Jays get: SP Sandy Alcantara, INF Miguel Rojas
Getting Marlin: SS Bo Bichette, C Gabriel Moreno
This deal trades pure offense, Toronto’s greatest strength, for elite defense and pitching, two of the Jays’ greatest weaknesses. Alcantara will win the NL Cy Young this year, meaning it will likely take a player of Bichette’s caliber to rid him of the ever-renewing Marlins. While underperforming at the plate, Rojas is among the best defensive infielders in the game (+12 outs above average at shortstop in 2022).
With Alcantara by 2027, the Jays would have their new star locked up for a while. The same applies to the Marlins with Bichette, which will not be released until 2026.
Getting Blue Jays: BY Dylan Carlson, SP Jordan Montgomery
Cardinals get: C Alejandro Kirk, OF Teoscar Hernandez
This deal makes sense on several levels. The Cardinals need to be caught, and the Blue Jays have an abundance of catchers. Dishing Kirk for Carlson, a 24-year-old switch-hitter, brings some variety to Toronto’s right-hander lineup and offers a future defensive replacement for George Springer in midfield.
With Montgomery and Hernández both on expiring contracts, this is a hit for pitching swap, like our first trade. Left-hander Montgomery could come in as an excellent third or fourth starter, depending on what José Berríos looks like in 2023.
Blue Jays got: SP/DH Shohei Ohtani
Getting Angels: SS Bo Bichette, SP Yusei Kikuchi
This deal comes with risks for Toronto. The Jays would essentially bet on four years of top-flight bichette for just one year of baseball’s most talented players. Would it be worth it? If Los Angeles eats up the Kikuchi contract, the trade will become a little more understandable. And the acquisition of Bichette would encourage the Halos not to rush into another rebuild.
Contract aside, going all-in for Ohtani obviously isn’t hard to justify. The 28-year-old takes up just one spot on the list and immediately fulfills Toronto’s two biggest needs: to start pitching and hitting with his left hand. As for the franchise-changing trades, a deal for the two-way Japanese phenom would instantly make for one of the most compelling offseason trades in MLB history.
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