Roberto Osuna is set to return from his suspension from Major League Baseball on Aug. 5, and while the front office previously indicated that he will remain the team’s closer, it appears that might not be the case. According to reports from Jerry Crasnick and Ken Rosenthal, Osuna is among the players the Blue Jays are actively shopping prior to Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline.
The #BlueJays deadline trade conversations are focused on Roberto Osuna, Aaron Loup, Tyler Clippard, John Axford and Curtis Granderson. They're all in play. Josh Donaldson is working out in Dunedin and expected back in August. Deal could be revisited next month.
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 30, 2018
Rival executives say #BlueJays are trying to trade Roberto Osuna, who is eligible to return from his 75-game domestic-violence suspension on Aug. 5. Osuna currently on rehabilitation assignment. Has yet to allow run in six IP in rookie ball, High A and AAA.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 30, 2018
Back in June, Ross Atkins made it clear that Osuna would be back with the team following the conclusion of the suspension he was handed by Major League Baseball.
“Roberto is our closer,” said Atkins. “We’re running a baseball team and our goal is to win championships. Roberto could potentially be very much a part of that. The word that comes to mind for me when you talk about that is empathy. That’s not just for Roberto, that’s for everyone involved, that’s where we’re going to spend our time and energy, on being empathetic and trying to understand. We don’t have a background in investigations.”
This quote doesn’t really mean anything. Is Atkins going to come out and actively say that the team badly wants to get rid of him because he’s a PR nightmare? Of course not. If the Jays want to get something of value in return for their young, controllable, All-Star closer, their general manager can’t come out and openly say that the organization is finished with him.
That said, it’s hard to imagine an Osuna trade during the season. While his suspension from MLB will be over and he’ll be eligible for the playoffs if traded before the end of August, Osuna still has a looming court case that could effect his ability to work (play) in the United States. Osuna’s next court date is scheduled for Aug. 1 and he intends to plead not guilty to his assault charge.
In comparison to the Aroldis Chapman situation, the Yankees dealt the closer to the Cubs back in 2016 while he was under investigation for domestic violence. That said, Chapman was set to become a free agent at the end of the season and the Cubs weren’t planning on keeping him around long-term. With Osuna, the team who acquires him will be making more of a long-term investment as he’s still controllable for three more years.
With that in mind, while Osuna would be a big get for a contending team like, say, the Astros who don’t really have a closer, it still makes more sense for a deal to be struck in the off-season when the results of his trial are known.
I think the Chapman situation makes it very clear that teams care more about the business of winning than they do PR ramifications, and, for lack of a better description, simply doing the right thing. Chapman netted the Yankees a massive haul of prospects, the Cubs shrugged at the backlash as he helped them win the World Series, and then the Yankees signed him again in the off-season, again shrugging off the heat.
I’m not sure that the Blue Jays, owned by a publicly traded telecommunications company (one that can easily be boycotted by angry fans), could pull off avoiding the backlash quite so easily, though it does seem inevitable they’ll do their best to make a decision that best helps them win baseball games in the future.