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MLB experts offer rave reviews of Toronto Blue Jays trade deadline acquisitions

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Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
11 months ago
When the dust settled and the MLB trade deadline passed at 6 p.m. EST Tuesday night, the Toronto Blue Jays were quieter than some had expected.
They moved to bring in shortstop Paul DeJong from the St. Louis Cardinals in the third trade between the two sides in the 10 preceding days. And while many in the market had expected at least another move — namely one to bring in a right-handed bat who could hit lefties well — nothing came to fruition.
One of the Jays’ apparent targets, Tommy Pham, was dealt by the New York  Mets to the Arizona Diamondbacks as they sent another option, Mark Canha, to the Brewers. Teoscar Hernandez, who was rumoured to be someone the Jays were interested in a reunion with, was held onto by the Seattle Mariners for some unknown reason despite trading off the cost-controlled through 2024 Paul Sewald, their closer.
Couple it all with the Chicago Cubs taking Cody Bellinger — who was my top trade target for the Jays coming into the deadline — and you had a market that wasn’t exactly robust in any sense of the term. Through it all, the Jays clearly didn’t want to twist themselves into a pretzel to make something happen.
Instead, the Jays will look within for some improvements from their bats. The slumping George Springer will likely turn the corner at some point, and the team could really use newcomer Daulton Varsho — who has struggled mightily at the plate this season — to turn things around with his bat.
Nonetheless, the Jays still made things happen. The DeJong trade will help in the short term as Bo Bichette deals with a injury to his patellar tendon in his right knee, and in the long term through the rest of the year, too. Acquiring reliever Genesis Cabrera and Jordan Hicks from the Cardinals in two separate deals will undoubtedly help provide depth in the bullpen.
Let’s take a look around the media world to see how some MLB experts graded the Jays moves at the deadline.

Team grades

The Athletic: B+

“The Blue Jays took advantage of the Cardinals being in sell mode, adding two power arms to an already strong bullpen: righty Jordan Hicks (and his 102 mph fastball) and hard-throwing lefty Génesis Cabrera. Toronto also did a nice job of pivoting when Bo Bichette suffered a knee injury, quickly re-engaging the Cardinals to land veteran shortstop Paul DeJong. Manager John Schneider later said an MRI of Bichette’s right knee revealed “no significant structural damage,” which is great news for the Blue Jays. The two-time All-Star is considered “day to day.” But acquiring DeJong gives the Blue Jays depth on the left side of the infield and protects them against injury the rest of the way.” – Jim Bowden

CBS Sports: C

“We liked Toronto’s addition of Jordan Hicks, who has been excellent dating back to early May, and understood their acquisition of Paul DeJong. Will that be enough for them to win a wild-card spot? We’re not so sure, even if they clearly have the talent to do so. The Blue Jays’ apparent disinterest in the starting pitcher market makes us think they have more confidence in Alek Manoah getting straightened out than we do.” – R.J. Anderson

ESPN: “Other winners”

“Whew! At least that was my reaction when, on Tuesday, as we waited to see what would transpire at the deadline, we saw the report on Bo Bichette’s knee: no structural damage. And so the acquisition of Paul DeJong is a luxury move for the Blue Jays. He can fill in for Bichette in the near term, without harming Toronto’s top-10 defense, and can slot in a number of ways beyond that. While DeJong is strictly an infielder, Whit Merrifield can play anywhere, and if he’s needed in, say, center field, DeJong can step in at second as a better option than Santiago Espinal. Good stuff. Also, not for nothing, the Blue Jays’ bullpen depth chart looks much improved with two other ex-Cardinals on it: Jordan Hicks and Genesis Cabrera, the latter acquired earlier in the deadline period after St. Louis set him adrift.” – Bradford Doolittle

Trade grades

Jays acquire DeJong

ESPN: A

“I’m giving the Jays a high grade here not because DeJong is Honus Wagner or Cal Ripken Jr., but for quickly reacting after Bo Bichette left Monday’s game with a knee injury when he rounded first base after a potential double, jammed on the brakes and then limped off the field. Bichette had started all but four of the Blue Jays’ games at shortstop and since backup Santiago Espinal is also a platoon starter at second base against lefties, the Blue Jays needed insurance for Bichette in case he misses significant time.
DeJong is a solid defender and should be a noticeable upgrade over Bichette — DeJong ranks in the 97th percentile in Statcast’s outs above average compared to the sixth percentile for Bichette. Obviously, he’s not the same hitter as Bichette, who leads the AL with a .321 average and 144 hits, but at least DeJong has bounced back at the plate to hit .233/.297/.412 after two miserable seasons. DeJong might end up playing a minor role if Bichette’s injury isn’t serious, but the Jays couldn’t afford to head into the final two months without a healthy shortstop as they battle for a wild card.” – David Schoenfield

MLB.com: 19th best trade

“It’s been clear for weeks that the Jays would be looking for a right-handed hitter, and it was most likely that hitter would be an outfielder. Of course, then Bo Bichette injured his knee the night before the Deadline, and while the severity isn’t fully clear, it made Toronto suddenly need to pivot to adding infield depth. DeJong has had a wildly up-and-down career ever since hitting 30 homers in an All-Star 2019, even finding himself back in the Minors for a large stretch last year, but despite his flaws, he continues to play solid defense (his +8 Outs Above Average rates in the top dozen shortstops and is an upgrade on Bichette, at least with the glove).
Ultimately, ‘good defensive shortstop with some amount of pop [13 homers this year]’ isn’t the player the Jays thought they’d be getting. But until there’s more clarity about Bichette, it might be exactly the kind of player they could end up needing.” – Mike Petriello

Bleacher Report: A

“This A is coming from two places, starting with how the Blue Jays simply had to do something after star shortstop Bo Bichette left Monday’s game with right knee discomfort. They’re now covered if he has to miss substantial time.
Otherwise, we had DeJong on our list of hidden-gem trade candidates. He’s a well-above-average defender and, judging from his .766 OPS on the road, more comfortable in the batter’s box away from Busch Stadium. If that holds true in Toronto, the Blue Jays could end up with one of the steals of the deadline.” – Zachary D. Rymer

Jays acquire Hicks

ESPN: B+

“With closer Jordan Romano landing on the IL after leaving Friday’s game with lower back discomfort, the Blue Jays struck quickly to acquire the best power reliever available. Hicks is still one of the hardest throwers in the game, with a fastball that has averaged 100.6 mph (only Jhoan Duran has a higher velocity among pitchers with at least 100 fastballs thrown this year), but he is still trying to find some consistency. Maybe he has found that over the past two-plus months, though — since early May, he has a 1.88 ERA over 26 appearances with a much-improved 37-10 strikeout-walk ratio across 28⅔ innings.
With Romano sidelined, Hicks may even get a crack at closing. He has done that for the Cardinals since mid-June and has recorded eight saves in nine opportunities, although I wouldn’t read too much into that success rate. Only two of those opportunities were one-run leads, and he blew one of them. Toronto’s other option is probably Trevor Richards, who has 81 strikeouts in 53⅓ innings, but the Jays like him as somebody who can get more than three outs, plus he has allowed nine home runs. On the other hand, Hicks, with that triple-digit sinker, is difficult to get into the air and has allowed just two home runs. Certainly, Romano will remain the closer when he returns, but Hicks lengthens a Toronto pen that has been thin behind Richards, Tim Mayza and Erik Swanson. Given the lack of relievers available, the Jays did well to acquire Hicks, even with the risk that he reverts back to giving up too many walks and can’t be entirely trusted in high-leverage situations.” – David Schoenfield

MLB.com: 4th best trade

“The Toronto bullpen was already pretty solid, but a minor need for another arm became more urgent when star closer Jordan Romano struggled to get through the ninth inning against the Angels on Friday and subsequently went on the IL with a back injury. Despite the fact that Hicks has one of the strongest arms in the game — his sinker averages 100.5 mph — he’s never quite piled up the whiffs like you’d expect, because his game is more ‘get weak contact’ than ‘blow hitters away.’ He has managed to find more strikeout stuff this year, however, seeing that K-rate go from 24% to 31%.” – – Mike Petriello

Bleacher Report: B

“Relief pitching has been more of a strength than a weakness for the Blue Jays, but whether that would remain the case was cast into serious doubt when All-Star closer Jordan Romano went on the IL with a back injury on Saturday.
The Jays, therefore, had to trade for somebody, and they could have done worse here. Hicks’ reputation as a velocity maestro precedes him, and he’s coming into Toronto hot by way of a 1.80 ERA over his last 14 appearances. He is a looming free agent, but that’s no concern while the Jays are in possession of a wild-card spot.” – Zachary D. Rymer

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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