Digging into eight proposed trades involving Blue Jays catchers!
Photo credit:© Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
2 months ago
It’s the time of year when we all make hypothetical trade suggestions. It doesn’t help that this off-season has felt incredibly slow. Grab a snack and get curled up, this article is going to be a long one.
A few days ago, Kaitlyn McGrath of The Athletic wrote an article pitching eight trades involving Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk. She spoke with the other team’s beat writers of The Athletic to compile these trades, while former general manager Jim Bowden gave his assessment.
As a somewhat rational Jay fan, I also wanted to take a look at these trades and give my opinion. The fact of the matter is that some of these trades actually make sense, and I want to dig into those ones in particular.
We’ll start by looking at Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk by the numbers and attempt to gauge their value.
The 2022 season was a career year for the 27-year-old catcher, at least with the bat. He slashed .260/.339/.516 in 248 plate appearances and had a 10.1 K% and 17.7 BB% during that time.
Where he really impressed though, was the fact that he hit a career-high 15 homers in such a short span, which was good enough for a 140 wRC+ and 2.6 fWAR.
Defensively, he just hasn’t been the same as his 2019, when he was nominated for a gold glove. Catcher Defensive Adjustment is a great statistic from Baseball Prospectus, which measures framing, throwing, and blocking.
In 2022, Jansen had a -0.5 CDA, mainly hindered by subpar framing. This isn’t to say that he isn’t good defensively, as he was one of the best blockers, probably the best in the majors when he was behind the dish.
For context, his CDA in 2019 was a very impressive 12.7, and he was one of the better framers in the league at this point. No idea why it had a rapid decline, but he’s been average defensively, at least in terms of CDA since 2020.
Once you factor in the raw power he’s tapped into (and always had), Jansen is a valuable player.
The next aspect is his contract. The 27-year-old has two seasons of arbitration left before becoming a free agent at the end of 2024. He’s expected to make $3,650,516 in arbitration, well worth what he provides if he can repeat 2022.
While he’s certainly an above-average catcher, his value may take a hit due to the fact he hasn’t stayed healthy throughout his career. It’s also worth mentioning that while he was fantastic in 2022, he has a career slash line of .223/.307/.423 slash line, for a 98 wRC+.
Now, he’s always had the raw power, and he did make changes to his approach, but due to the injuries, pitchers may not have had time to make their adjustments. I’m skeptical that he can do this over a full season, but he once again is a good catcher with a lot of value.
The silver slugger isn’t just one of the best-hitting catchers in the league, but he’s also one of the best defensive catchers in the league.
In 2022, he slashed .285/.372/.415 with 14 homers in 541 plate appearances. He was one of only six players this season to have a higher BB% (11.6%) than K% (10.7%) and had a wRC+ of 129, the highest amongst qualified catchers.
Yes, there is cause for concern that his second half was not so great, but overall this season, he was absolutely fantastic. Even if he was considered a below-average hitter for the second half of the season, he was spectacular defensively.
Back to Baseball Prospectus, the recently turned 24-year-old had a 12.1 CDA, which ranked third in the league behind Jose Trevino (20.5 CDA) and Tomás Nido (16.9 CDA). He ranked higher than guys like Jonah Heim, Austin Hedges, Cal Raliegh, J.T. Realmuto, and Adley Rutschman.
While he was one of the best framers, he also happened to be one of the best blocking catchers as well, only allowing 12 wild pitches. His arm is average, sure, but he did manage 25.5% of batters, which is fine.
As for his contract, well, he’ll be making the league minimum before becoming arbitration eligible at the end of next season. The Jays have four seasons of team control for a 24-year-old catcher, who is one of the best hitting catchers as well as defensive catchers. Honestly, there are only a few players I’d trade him for.
There are some concerns for some, of course. Firstly, there’s a weird notion that due to his weight, his body will “break down”. For that, I say: A) he’s a professional athlete for a reason, and I think the Jays know what they’re doing. And B) If that does happen, it probably wouldn’t happen until he’s at least 30.
Another common argument is that he’s at best an average game caller, while Jansen is fantastic. Honestly, it’s unquantifiable and opinion based. There’s a reason why 2021 American League Cy Young winner Robbie Ray worked with him, while 2022 American League Cy Young nominee Alek Manoah worked with him. I could be wrong on this, but nothing has changed my opinion yet.
There are also some that believe that the Jays should sell high because Kirk will never have another season like this again. I also disagree with that, as he just turned 24 years old, and people his age tend to get better with experience. He may not have the same raw power as Jansen, but Kirk will be a good hitter for years.
With all that out of the way, we’ll start with the “no chance” deals.
The Minnesota Twins trade:
Blue Jays acquire:
OF Max Kepler
RHP Jordan Balazovic
RHP Cole Sands
C Danny Jansen
Let’s dig into the numbers of the three players that would come to the Jays in this trade.
Kepler slashed .227/.318/.348 with an 11 BB% and a 14.8 K% with nine homers, good enough for a 95 wRC+ in his 446 plate appearances in 2022. His best season came back in 2019, where he slashed .252/.336/.519 with 36 homers in 596 plate appearances for a 122 wRC+.
Career-wise, he’s been an average offensive player throughout his career, slashing .232/.317/.427 with 129 homers in 3361 plate appearances. Which is good enough for a 101 wRC+. He doesn’t strike out a lot while also being able to walk, which is always a plus.
He had a 12 Outs Above Average and a 9 Defensive Runs Saved in right field, so he’s a good fielder, which the Jays are apparently looking for.
He’ll make $8,500,000 in 2023 (with $4,800,000 being sent to the Jays). He has a club option for $10,000,000 next season.
He had a 7.39 ERA and 6.61 FIP in 70.2 innings pitched as a starter in Triple A. The 24-year-old had a 22.2 K% and 10.2 BB% as well.
He sits 93-95 mph with his fastball and is Canadian though!
Another pitcher with limited exposure in the big leagues, the 25-year-old had a 5.55 ERA and 4.38 FIP in 61.2 innings with Minnesota’s Triple A team. He had a solid 25.4 K% and an 8.5 BB%.
He averaged 91.7 mph on his fastball velocity in the majors, where he posted a 5.87 ERA and 4.74 FIP in 30.2 innings pitched. Fangraphs gave him a 70 curveball heading into the 2022 season, which is interesting.
No chance. The Jays are trading a very valuable surplus that is their catching for essentially a fourth outfielder who’s been average his entire career, and two Triple A starting pitching prospects.
The Jays could sign Michael Conforto or Andrew Benintendi while moving a catcher for a bigger need (like an established starting pitcher).
Chicago White Sox trade:
Blue Jays acquire:
RHP Liam Hendriks
OF Gavin Sheets
OF Yoelqui Céspedes
White Sox acquire:
C Alejandro Kirk
Like with the Twins trade, I’ll give you the numbers before my final verdict.
Is Hendriks good? You damn betcha.
This season, he posted a 2.81 ERA and 2.68 FIP in 57.2 innings pitched. The Jays needed swing and miss, and Liam Hendriks brought that, as he had a 36.2 K%, along with a 6.8 BB%.
The 33-year-old will make $14,000,000 in 2023, which sounds like a lot for a reliever, but he had been one of the most dominant relievers in the game before signing that contract. There’s also a team option for the 2024 season worth $15,000,000.
He’s a great reliever.
When I did some random thread for Twitter featuring which outfielder I’d want, the 26-year-old outfielder stood out to me.
He slashed .241/.295/.411 with 15 homers in 410 plate appearances, which was his first full season. Despite the raw power (Fangraphs gave him a 70 after graduating in 2021), he only had a 21 K%, which really isn’t that bad. He finished with an average 100 wRC+.
Sheets mainly played right field, where he had a -9 DRS and -5 OAA in 646 innings at the position. He’ll be making the league minimum next season, before hitting arbitration after the 2023 season.
An intriguing prospect due to the blend of raw power and speed, Céspedes slashed .258/.332/.437 with 17 homers in 512 plate appearances with Chicago’s Double A team.
As a 24-year-old in Double A, he had a 103 wRC+ and a pretty darn high 30.1%.
This has to be a no from me dawg.
Hendriks is good, but he’ll be 34 years old next season, and he hasn’t been as dominant as he was in 2019 and 2020 before signing with Chicago. While the Jays would only be paying around $4,000,000 for his contract, you don’t trade one of the best catchers in the league for a reliever, like ever.
Gavin Sheets is intriguing, but compared to Kepler, he is the worse defender while only having a slightly better season at the plate with less of a track record.
As for Céspedes, the blend of power and speed is interesting, but he strikes out more than Orelvis Martinez while hitting fewer homers and was four years older than him.
Detroit Tigers trade:
Blue Jays receive:
RHP Joe Jiménez
C Danny Jansen
So uh, this is a trade idea. For the “lottery-ticket prospect” we’ll look at some of the Tigers’ prospects that are ranked in the teens.
Jiménez had a 3.49 ERA and 2 FIP in 56.2 innings pitched with the Tigers in 2022. He had a pretty impressive 33.3 K%, while posting an equally impressive 5.6 BB%. His fastball sits at 95.9 mph, but velocity doesn’t always generate swings and misses (it helps, of course), so don’t look too much into that.
For his career, the 27-year-old has a 5.24 ERA and 4.03 FIP in 266 innings, with 2022 sort of being his breakout season.
He is estimated to make $2,681,412 before becoming a free agent at the end of next season.
Some prospects that are interesting:
So my assumption is an Adrian Pinto-esque lottery prospect. One somewhat intriguing name is 19-year-old Roberto Campos, who slashed .257/.326/.385 with five homers in 448 plate appearances with Detroit’s Low A team. He has a lot of growing to do, but the raw power is there for the projected corner outfielder
Christian Santana, who literally turned 19 two days before this article went live, is an intriguing shortstop. With Detroit’s Low A team, he slashed .215/.379/.366 with nine homers in 340 plate appearances. He had a marginally high 25.9 K%, but he walked a ton, like 15.9% of the time.
If the Jays made this trade, I’d probably stop watching baseball entirely. Jiménez is a fine reliever, but on top of already filling the swing and miss that was missing in the bullpen, Jiménez has a year remaining, while Jansen has two.
This isn’t mentioning that trading a catcher (which almost every team needs) for a reliever with “meh” results throughout his career will always be a loss. There’s definitely room for discussion if it’s for a reliever such as Gregory Soto, but still, this wouldn’t be a good trade.
The presumption is that prospects like Colt Keith, Wilmer Flores, Dillion Dingler, and others wouldn’t be considered “lottery-prospects”. So yeah, this trade is awful for the Jays.
Boston Red Sox trade:
Blue Jays receive:
RHP Josh Winckowski *or* RHP Kutter Crawford
OF Jarren Duran
Red Sox receive:
Like the other few trades we’ve looked at so far, let’s look at the numbers of the players.
This season in Triple A, he had a 3.82 ERA and 3.26 FIP in 61.1 innings pitched. Command was the name of the game for the former Blue Jay prospect, as he had a solid 7.1 BB% while posting a 24.3 K% with Boston’s AAA team.
His callup to the big leagues was a mixed bag, where he had a 5.89 ERA and 4.95 FIP in 70.1 innings pitched. His 8.5 BB% was still solid, but his K% plummeted to 13.9%, meaning he relied heavily on contact, which isn’t necessarily bad… unless the Boston Red Sox defense is behind you.
His fastball averaged 93.8 mph per Fangraphs
The 26-year-old righty had a 5.47 ERA and 4.34 FIP in 77.1 innings pitched as a swingman.
His 23.1 K% is fine as a starter, as is his 8.7 BB%. His fastball velocity averaged 94.7, topping out at 96 mph.
He slashed .221/.283/.363 with three homers in 223 plate appearances. He also had a 28.3 K% and a 6.3 BB% for a 78 wRC+.
Defensively in centre field, he had a -9 DRS and a -2 OAA.
So as I was formatting this trade into the article, I realized that the original trade proposal had an or instead of “and”. It was probably already going here, but the fact that in this hypothetical trade, Jansen can’t net two AAAA pitchers and an AAAA outfielder is enough to say no.
Factor in that Durran hasn’t been able to field, has limited power, and hasn’t hit for average, this is a big no. He bats left-handed and is fast, that’s about it.
Cleveland Guardians trade:
Blue Jays receive:
RHP Cal Quantrill
OF George Valera
C Alejandro Kirk
So this one is interesting because I actually like both hypothetical pieces coming back. Let’s look at their numbers.
This season, the 27-year-old right had a 3.38 ERA and a 4.12 FIP in 186.1 innings pitched. Quantrill isn’t a guy that strikes a lot of batters out, as he had a 16.6 K% in 2022, and for his career, that number sits at 18.8%. He pitches for weak contact, and that’s why he had a sub-3 ERA in 2020 and 2021.
He has three seasons of arbitration before becoming a free agent after the 2025 season.
Valera is a great prospect who slashed .264/.367/.470 with 15 homers in 387 Double A plate appearances. He had a 129 wRC+ there, as well as a great 13.4 K%, but a slightly elevated 25.8 K%.
He was promoted to Triple A as a 21-year-old, which is no easy feat. He struggled there, slashing .221/.324/.448 with nine homers in 179 plate appearances. His 12.3 BB% and 25.1 K% were relatively the same, but his wRC+ dropped to 104 at the level, which is to be expected with how young he is.
He’s on Cleveland’s 40-man roster and has a shot at making it to the majors as soon as next season.
Quantrill would make a wonderful third pitcher in the rotation, and Valera has a pretty damn high ceiling, but Cleveland would have to add significantly. Despite the fact that Quantrill is pretty damn good and Valera is shaping up to be a high-ceiling outfielder, this would be a huge overpayment from the Jays.
Unless a team massively overpays the Jays for Kirk, they really shouldn’t be trading him for anything, except for pitchers such as Sandy Alcantara, Corbin Burnes, potentially Zac Gallen, or Shohei Ohtani with an extension.
St. Louis Cardinals trade:
Blue Jays receive:
OF Lars Nootbaar
RHP Michael McGreevy
C Alejandro Kirk
In the last “why is this being suggested” trade, we have a pretty popular hypothetical trade amongst Jays fans.
Nootbaar slashed .228/.340/.448 with 14 homers in 347 plate appearances in his first full season with the Cardinals. He had an impressive 14.7 BB%, with a decent 20.5 K% as well, which was good enough for a 125 wRC+.
Defensively, he was average to slightly above average, registering a 3 DRS and -1 OAA in right field, as well as a 1 OAA in centre field in 80 innings played there.
The 25-year-old who bats left-handed will make the league minimum in 2023, before hitting arbitration and becoming a free agent at the end of the 2027 season.
McGreevy is a 22-year-old right-handed pitcher who spent the majority of the season with St. Louis’ Double A team. He had a 4.64 ERA and 4.85 FIP in 99 innings pitched but had a pretty low 18.4 K%.
He finished his 2022 season in High A and Double A with a, 3.99 ERA in 144.1 innings pitched. This included a 19.8 K% and a pretty darn good 5.1 BB%. McGreevy sits 91-93 mph with his fastball but has touched 96 mph. His curveball, slider, and changeup are all above average according to Baseball America.
If you follow me on Twitter, you know my thoughts. Trading one of the best catchers in the league, both defensively and offensively, for a corner outfielder isn’t the proper use of assets. Could Nootbaar move to centre and be a plus fielder? It’s possible, he’s a good player. Despite how good he is, it’s not worth Kirk. If for some reason the team decides to move Kirk, it should be for an ace.
Nootbaar is good, in fact, I’d love to see his name pop up in a Jeff Passan Tweet saying that he’s being traded to Toronto. In my opinion, this would require Jansen to go the other way, which I actually don’t think St. Louis would do.
This quote from Bowden also made me chuckle: “As much as I love Kirk’s bat, I think St. Louis would prefer a better defensive catcher.”
Please don’t trade Kirk.
Moving into the trades that make sense:
Do these two trades make sense for both teams? I’m not too sure. However, as a Jays fan, I know that I would probably do it, or at least the framework of the deal.
San Diego Padres trade:
Blue Jays receive:
OF Trent Grisham
C Danny Jansen
Grisham struggled last season, but there’s still hope for his bat. Let’s dive in.
The left-handed batting outfielder slashed .184/.284/.341 with a 28.6 K% and a 10.9 BB% in 152 plate appearances. Despite the 83 wRC+ for the season, he hit 17 home runs, which shows that he has some pop.
In 2020, he had a .251/.352/.456 slash line with 10 homers in 252 plate appearances. He also had a career-high 12.3 BB% and a 122 wRC+, but it was the plague year after all. In 2021, he slashed .242/.327/.413 with 15 homers in 527 plate appearances. He had a career-low 22.6%, and was still considered average by wRC+, as it stood at 103.
There’s certainly an upside with his bat, but the 26-year-old is a fantastic defender in centre field. In 2022, he had a 8 DRS and a 13 OAA in 1143 innings played at the position.
This off-season will be the first where he’s arbitration eligible, and he’s expected to make $2,816,744. He’ll become a free agent after the 2025 season.
I figure that San Diego may have to add here. Nothing major, just something to balance it out a bit.
There are a few roadblocks in this hypothetical trade. For starters, it really depends on what the Padres’ plan for Fernando Tatis Jr. is. If they plan to move him to the outfield (which they’ve apparently been looking at a shortstop), then this trade is a lot more likely.
It also depends on how much they value Grisham. It’s probable that they value him the same way the Jays do – that being that it was a down year, but he was still worth 2.1 fWAR because of plus defense.
I really have no idea what to make of this trade, but it’s probably the best one in the article and I dig Grisham.
Chicago Cubs trade:
Blue Jays receive:
OF Ian Happ
RHP Adbert Alzolay
C Danny Jansen
Ian Happ is good, Alzolay is interesting. Let’s dig into the numbers.
The 28-year-old corner outfielder is a switch hitter who just had a career year.
In 2022, Happ slashed .271/.342/.440 with 17 homers in 641 plate appearances. He also had a career-low 23.2 K% (career K% is 28.8%), while getting on base by walking 9% of the time. His 120 wRC+ was the third-highest of his career (longest with more than 232 plate appearances), but his 3.5 fWAR was a career-high.
Defensively, he had a 13 DRS and a 1 OAA in 1233.1 innings in left field, winning his first gold glove in his career. It’s interesting to note that his range stat (which is in Ultimate Zone Rating) was an 8.7. While he’s had some below-average seasons in centre field, it’s not a stretch that the Jays may be interested in seeing what he can do in centre.
Happ is expected to make $10.853,308 in his final year of arbitration. After the 2023 season, he will become a free agent.
The 27-year-old didn’t pitch much in 2022, but it’s noted that the Cubs see him as a reliever. In 2021 as mainly a starter, he had a 4.58 ERA and 4.65 FIP in 125.2 innings pitched. He had a 24.7 K%, but also a solid 6.6 BB% that season.
In the six games appeared he in with the Cubs in 2022, he had a 3.38 ERA and 1.91 FIP in 13.1 innings pitched (all in relief). He had a fantastic 36.5 K% and 3.8 BB%, but this was a pretty small sample size.
His fastball velocity averaged 95 mph, so he’s definitely intriguing.
I think this may be the only trade that I immediately say yes to on the list. Happ is a good corner outfielder with plus defense, but he also fits the need of a left-handed batting outfielder and he’s good for 15-25 homers in a season.
He definitely isn’t a long-term solution as he only has a year of team control remaining, and he’s fairly expensive, but if they can get Happ and potentially a solid reliever for Jansen, they have to pull the trigger.
What need will the Jays trade a catcher for?
So now that we’ve looked at all the hypothetical trades, it does beg the question, what is their greatest need? To me, it’s starting pitching, as there is a gaping hole in the rotation.
A left-handed batting outfielder would have to be the second need, but that could be filled through free agency, such as signing Brandon Nimmo, or one of the many corner outfielders available. They should not do any of those reliever trades though, those had my blood boiling.
To me, the most expendable catcher is Jansen, as he’s coming off a career year and his value may never be higher if he can’t produce like he did last season.
There are some players I’d trade Kirk or Moreno for, but I’d prefer to keep them unless pitchers with term like Corbin Burnes, Sandy Alcantara, Shane Bieber, or Zac Gallen become available.
Either way, there’s a good chance that a catcher is moved this off-season, so stay tuned to Blue Jays Nation.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Brennan_L_D. I made the dumb decision of starting this article at 11:00 PM EST. It’s very late.
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