The fire sale came as expected, but the return wasn’t what we hoped

The trade deadline has passed and we’ve officially been catapulted into a new era. For the first time in the Mark Shapiro era, the front office has a team comprised fully of their guys as everyone (apologies to Justin Smoak, Dalton Pompey, Ryan Tepera, and Devon Travis) from the previous regime has been let go.

Back in late May, I talked about the next few months as being critical for the Shapiro front office’s rebuild. Beyond having a high pick in the draft and some extra money to fool around with in international free agency, the Jays had some of the best pitchers on the trade market for a selling team. After flubbing Josh Donaldson by hanging onto him for too long, it was critical for the front office to maximize the returns of Marcus Stroman, Ken Giles, and Aaron Sanchez, the three remaining players of value inherited from the previous era.

When writing about the impending fire sale and what it could mean for the rebuild, I looked back at some comparable trades to get an idea of what we could be looking at in return for a year-and-a-half of a quality starter like Stroman and a year-and-a-half of an elite closer like Giles. The Tampa Bay Rays netted an amazing package of players who immediately stepped in and helped their team in 2019 in exchange for Chris Archer while the Yankees turned Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman into Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, and Gleyber Torres.

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I know the situations aren’t perfectly comparable, but it was certainly reasonable to expect the Jays to turn Stroman and Giles into a lot. All told, the return, uh, doesn’t appear to be anything near what we hoped.

Out: Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Joe Biagini, Cal Stevenson, Daniel Hudson, David Phelps, Eric Sogard. 

In: Anthony Kay, Simeon Woods Richardson, Derek Fisher, Kyle Johnston, Thomas Hatch, two players to be named later. 

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Starting with the minor deals, the Jays added Sogard, Hudson, and Phelps to cheap contracts this summer and managed to flip them for some depth for the system. This is something this group has done very nicely in their time steering the ship here, turning guys like Drew Hutchison, Joe Smith, and Aaron Loup into useful depth. We don’t yet know who Tampa will be sending for Sogard, but anything for a guy signed to a minor-league deal weeks before the season is a good haul.

Then we get to the two major trades. The divorce between the Jays and Stroman has been predictable for quite some time, dating all the way back to when he melted down on Twitter over his arbitration hearing. The pulled the trigger on a deal well before the deadline and turned their ace into a low-upside Triple-A arm and an A-ball lottery ticket. This seems like a combination of the front office massively coveting a player (Woods Richardson, who they apparently targeted in last year’s draft) and the market undervaluing Stroman’s pitch-to-contact style. Given the haul Cleveland got for Trevor Bauer, it’s hard to get super excited about this deal.

The Aaron Sanchez trade wasn’t as expected as the Stroman one. Sanchez got off to a nice start this season but fell off a cliff, losing 10 consecutive starts between June and mid-July. It seemed as though the Jays would hang on to Sanchez and try to rebuild his value, possibly even as a reliever. Instead, they packaged him with Joe Biagini and a prospect to acquire a reclamation project in Derek Fisher. This seems like a massive overpay for a soon-to-be 26-year-old and it’s also puzzling the Jays would be keen to sell on Sanchez at his lowest point of value. They must really believe in Fisher.

Finally, there was a trade that didn’t happen. Ken Giles has been dealing with a mysterious elbow issue for a few weeks and it resulted in his deadline value plummeting. Giles hasn’t been able to pitch on back-to-back days since before his stint on the Injured List in early July, which ultimately torpedoed his status as the best closer on the market. The team can now look to try and move him in the off-season, wait and see what happens at next year’s deadline, or, hell, keep him and let him become the closer of the future.

So, uh, yeah. That isn’t what we were hoping for. Back in May, I said the front office needed to compensate for the botched Donaldson situation with good returns on their veteran arms. Of course, some things external to their control (injuries, the market, etc) put a wrench in that, but it almost seems as though the front office was just ready to let go of both Stroman and Sanchez for whatever decent offer showed up.

Why not wait until the deadline with Stroman? Why not wait and try to rebuild Sanchez’s value? I don’t think these trades will make or break the rebuild, but, like with Donaldson, both seem like fumbled situations in which the front office couldn’t manage to turn what they inherited into the best value possible. I mean, it isn’t a disaster as many are making it out to be (I don’t blame you if you’re angry, to be clear, because watching the team get stripped down like this is depressing), but things like control and depth, while certainly important to the long-term success of the organization, simply aren’t things that get people excited.

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Again, there are many reasons to be excited about the future and what the fruits of this rebuild will present, but I don’t blame fans for being disappointed in the results of the trade deadline, especially when our collective expectations were built up as high as they were.