As we’ve known since the miserable month of May that ultimately sunk Toronto’s season, we have a yard sale on the horizon. The non-waiver trade deadline goes down in a week and the Blue Jays are open for business.
I wrote earlier in the season about this team having a nice roster composition because, if everything went right, the team could be competitive. That, uh, clearly didn’t happen. But even if things went south, this roster is pretty easy to tear down in order to recoup future assets.
The prime targets are obvious. There are the impending rental free agents like J.A. Happ, Curtis Granderson, Josh Donaldson, Marco Estrada, John Axford, Tyler Clippard, and Aaron Loup who could potentially benefit a team looking to go on a run this fall. I think we’ve talked about that enough and we don’t need to dive further into it.
But what about the non-rental players? The trade deadline isn’t always just for one-and-done acquisitions. Last year, the Yankees got two-and-a-half years of control of Sonny Gray from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for three pretty good prospects. The Astros, a month later at the true trade deadline, got a year-and-a-half of Justin Verlander for a lighter cost than he was actually worth because they ate his salary.
While his 2018 season hasn’t been as sexy as his breakout 2017 campaign — partially because of the difference in expectations attached coming into a season as a pumpkin vs. coming into a season a returning All-Star — Smoak has been just as effective this year as he was last.
He’s got a 130 wRC+ which is right in line with last year’s 132 wRC+, and while he’s hitting for less power, Smoak is getting on base at a higher clip. He’s currently getting paid pennies, which is hilarious because we all thought the contract sucked so much ass at the time it was signed, and he’s got a still-very-team-friendly option for $6 million next year. There’s no doubt Smoak could help any lineup out there. Somewhat amazingly, Smoak currently has the highest wRC+ among any first baseman in the American League. He’d be an upgrade on a lot of teams for his bat and his glove and his contract is absurdly good.
One of the biggest bright spots on this year’s team has been Yangervis Solarte who has injected a refreshing energy into the team after being acquired from San Diego last winter for a sack of potatoes.
After an extremely hot start, Solarte has cooled down quite a bit and currently owns a 93 wRC+ which is the same that he had last season with the Padres. Still, Solarte mashes lefties, can hit for power, and has a lot of positional versatility. He’s signed this season for $4.125 million and he has club options for 2019 and 2020 worth $5.5 million and $8 million respectively.
The Final Boss has lived up to his nickname in Toronto. After an excellent 33-year-old rookie season with the Cardinals back in 2016, Oh struggled last year and ultimately found himself hunting for big league work in February.
He signed with the Rangers, failed the physical, and then ended up signing with the Jays shortly after. It’s certainly worked out for Toronto. Oh has been excellent in 2018, posting a 2.74 ERA in 46 innings while striking out 10.6 batters per nine and walking only 2.0 per nine. In regards to his splits, Oh works best as a righty specialist, as he’s holding right-handed hitters to a .463 OPS. He’s making just $1.75 million this year and he’s got a club option for $2.5 million next year.
Okay, this might be a stretch, but it’s worth mentioning that Kendrys Morales has been quite good at the plate over the past couple months. Since we’re all about random, arbitrary starting points, Morales has posted a .914 OPS since that time in mid-May when they Jays sent him out there to pitch.
He’s got a heinous contract worth $11 million this year and $12 million next year, but maAAAaaybe if the Jays ate some money they could get out of it. I don’t know. He’s a World Series Champion and he can hit bombs. That’s attractive, right? RIGHT?!!
Was anybody fooled by Kevin Pillar’s April? Of course not. He lit the world on fire for the first month of the season and then crashed back down to earth. Despite talk of a new approach and better patience, Pillar is what he is. He’s going to hover around a .700 OPS and make up for it with good defence in centre field.
He’s under control for three more seasons and he’s arbitration eligible this off-season. If a team is looking for an upgrade on their glove in centre field, Pillar could make some sense. That said, I figure if the Jays do decide to move on from him, it’ll come in the off-season.
After being pretty useless at the plate last season, Luke Maile has been a shocking revelation in 2018. Obviously he was going to cool down and not hit walk-offs all year, but Maile owns a respectable .678 OPS through 163 plate appearances this year.
His calling card is defence and game calling, but his hot year with the stick makes him stand out a little as a backup catcher on the trade market. Given the fact the Jays will likely want to give Danny Jansen and extended look come September and Russell Martin isn’t going anywhere, Maile could be an interesting trade candidate.
The big picture
As we know, this team is set up nicely for a firesale. There are quite a few impending free agents who can be dealt to contenders as rentals for prospects who can continue to fill up the already-deep farm system. Beyond them, the Jays also have a handful of aforementioned players with multiple years of control who could help a contending team right now.
The organization is clearly looking towards the future. The way this roster is set up is essentially built on two different windows. First there’s the Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Kevin Pillar, Devon Travis, and Roberto Osuna cheap years window that ends after 2020. They’ve made a modest attempt to be sorta competitive during that window, but it hasn’t worked out. What they haven’t done, though, is invested too much cash that it muddles up the more important window. That’s the Bo, Vlad, and Co. window set to begin likely right after the other one closes.
While it would have been nice to see the Jays make some big splashes and try to win after their back-to-back ALCS appearances with this seemingly-good-young-yet-experienced core, there’s also something to be said about the financial versatility they’re going to have during the next wave of talent’s window.
So, what does this mean in regards to this year’s deadline? Sell, sell, sell. Sure, but remember that Bo, Vlad, and the rest of the Large Adult Sons need a team to play around them.Like I said when I wrote about it earlier in the season, I think there’s merit to the Large Adult Sons joining a somewhat competitive team. Selling away all of Solarte, Pillar, Smoak and even others like Randal Grichuk and Aledmys Diaz for magic beans right now could seem attractive, but bringing top prospects up into a completely barren wasteland doesn’t seem ideal.