So this is turning into an interesting little deal. The details are still filtering out, but right now what we know is that the Blue Jays have traded Francisco Liriano to the Astros for 35-year-old outfielder Nori Aoki, plus a minor leaguer.
Why is that interesting? Because Aoki makes $5.5 million this season (about $1.8 million remains on the deal), and will be arbitration eligible in 2018. He’s far more likely a non-tender candidate than an actual candidate to play for the Jays next season, but Aoki has a chance (assuming he’s not immediately D’d FA) to play a little down the stretch for the Jays and maybe opens some eyes. He gives them a little bit of insurance for an outfield that will be in flux — and maybe he even gets tendered, with an eye to giving him a DFA in the spring and only paying one sixth of what his deal is. He has a .350 career on-base in the big leagues (he only arrived from Japan in 2012), and before this season was a perfectly slightly-below-average-ish player.
This year, however, he’s been merely replacement level, as his wRC+ has sunk to 87, and his defence has never really graded out well.
What’s more important about this is taking on that financial commitment. Aoki’s money balances out some of Liriano’s money going to Houston, so the Jays are indeed using some of their financial muscle here. Hopefully they’ll accommodate the Astros even more eating a bunch of money on Liriano’s contract, too — thus receiving a better “minor leaguer” in the deal.
There’s also this:
I have two Nori Aoki memories:
1.) wanting the Jays to go after him in '14
2.) him whiffing on a foul ball and getting hit in the dick pic.twitter.com/Xkg2IX3LvW
— Richard Lee-Sam (@RLeesam) July 31, 2017
We now know the name of the prospect coming along with Aoki, and — holy piss — it’s a pretty decent one!
— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) July 31, 2017
All of the main sites seem to have Hernandez as being a top 10 prospect in the Astros’ system (Baseball America ranked him eighth on their recent mid-season top 10), and we also have this:
Pre-season, @keithlaw on Teoscar: "chance to be someone’s regular in right field, maybe in center if you can live with subpar defense there"
— Andrew Stoeten (@AndrewStoeten) July 31, 2017
Really like this deal for both teams. Blue Jays get a high-floor prospect in Teoscar Hernandez, Astros have 1,278 outfield prospects.
— Christopher Crawford (@Crawford_MILB) July 31, 2017
— Canucks/Jays (@CanucksJays) July 31, 2017
Return for Francisco Liriano for #BlueJays all about Teoscar Hernandez, whom they believe can be an everyday player.
— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) July 31, 2017
Teoscar Hernandez' first big league plate appearance was in Toronto… against Francisco Liriano. He drew a walk.
— Jamie Campbell (@SNETCampbell) July 31, 2017
Teoscar Hernandez 1st MLB homer vs the guy he was just traded for, Liriano. pic.twitter.com/qvV9kzuKxB
— Gruber's Mullet (@GrubersMullet) July 31, 2017
#BlueJays GM Ross Atkins said priority at deadline was controllable, young, near-MLB talent. Hernandez is, by all definitions, that.
— Keegan Matheson (@KeeganMatheson) July 31, 2017
The Jays just got a big league ready OFer w/ some upside, and has 6 years of team control. I'm floored Liriano brought that kind of return.
— BK (@brendonkuhn) July 31, 2017
Yep, Hernandez was in the big leagues already. In fact, he took 112 plate appearances in the majors last year, putting up a 93 wRC+. He was basically replacement level, but obviously the Jays see potential for more from the 24-year-old. This year he has slashed .279/.369/.485 in Fresno, and while there may be a little bit of PCL inflation to that, we don’t seem to quite worry about that stuff the way we used to (it’s really more about specific parks).
Hard not to like this trade for a team that will need a replacement for at least one corner outfielder next season — and especially the bit about him being able to play a little bit of centre in a pinch, albeit not very well. Gives them another nice young option in the mix — and a cheap one at that.
Not bad, Jays. Not bad at all.