Revisiting the Teoscar Hernández trade
Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
3 months ago
The Drew Hutchison trade in 2016 is the trade that keeps giving.
I’ve written numerous articles on how that could be one of the best Blue Jays trade trees in history, such as this article about it coming full circle, or this article. However, we’ll be focusing on just a single trade that came on November 16th, 2022.
The Blue Jays packaged the long-time Blue Jay to the Seattle Mariners for reliever Erik Swanson and left-handed pitching prospect Adam Macko.
Like with all the other trades, we’ll look at how each player involved is doing, as well as the other ramifications of this trade. Let’s start with the beloved Hernández.
The 30-year-old outfielder is having an okay season at best. With Seattle, he’s slashing .249/.293/.428 with 11 home runs in 276 plate appearances. His BB% has dropped to 4.7%, while his K% has risen to 31.9%, the highest mark since 2019. Moreover, his 102 wRC+ is the worst he’s had since the 2019 season as well.
Since May 24th, he’s slashing .286/.342/.500 with three homers in 76 plate appearances. His BB% has risen to 7.9%, while his K% has dropped to 25%. Overall, he has a 137 wRC+ in this three-week stretch.
His season is a little bit similar to last season with the Jays. Between the start of the season and May 31st, he slashed just .185/.250/.293 with two homers in 100 plate appearances. From June 1st onward, he slashed .285/.331/.536 with 23 homers in 435 plate appearances, giving him a 146 wRC+.
This is just who Teoscar Hernández is, a player who usually starts off cold, but heats up as the summer draws close. The only difference is that in 2022, he missed a large part of the early season with an injury, while he’s had good health in 2023.
The 29-year-old righty was a much-needed reliever in the Blue Jays system in 2023.
With the Mariners in 2022, he posted a 1.68 ERA and a 1.85 FIP in 53.2 innings pitched. His 34 K% would have been the highest on the team, while his 4.9 BB% was also quite impressive.
While Swanson has been good in 2023, he hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations of last season. His ERA has jumped a full run to 2.76, while his 4.01 FIP is fifth for regulars in the pen, behind Tim Mayza, Jordan Romano, Nate Pearson, and Yimi García.
What’s more worrisome is his rise in BB%, as it went from 4.9% to 10.5% in a little under a season. His K% has had a minor drop to 32.2%, but this isn’t too concerning.
Still, he’s the second most trusted reliever in the bullpen for a reason, allowing two runs in 8.1 innings of high leverage. The 31 batters he’s faced in that scenario are slashing just .111/.200/.259 against him, and Swanson has struck out 10 of them.
Had the Jays not traded Hernández, it’s possible that Hernández would have tested free agency, meaning the Jays could have lost him for nothing other than a fourth round pick if given a qualifying offer.
Swanson on the other hand, has two more seasons of arbitration remaining before becoming a free agent after the 2025 season.
The Blue Jays also received 22-year-old left-handed pitching prospect Adam Macko in the deal.
The Slovakian-born, Irish-raised lefty has a 6.38 ERA and a 4.42 FIP in 36.2 innings pitched with the High-A Vancouver Canadians, a province over from where he played high school ballin Alberta with Damiano Palmegiani.
Compared to last season in the same High-A League, his K% is down from 35.9% to 25%, but his BB% has also dropped to 10.1%. The latter is a good sign, as his command and control has been a big concern of evaluators for the past few seasons.
Macko’s makeup is intriguing, as he has touched 98 mph with his fastball, and has a fantastic looping breaking ball. He also throws a changeup and a slider, both of which could become at least average pitches.
He’ll still need to get results in dropping the ERA, FIP and BB% and will need to stay healthy, but Macko is an exciting prospect.
Moving Hernández allowed the Blue Jays to retool with the money saved:
While the Jays are over Competitive Balance Tax of $233,000,000 this season for the first time in franchise history, moving Hernández’s $14,000,000 helped them retool their outfield and spend money elsewhere.
Chris Bassitt is making $21,000,000 for the next three season, while they replaced Hernández with Daulton Varsho (more on him later). The Jays also signed Brandon Belt and Kevin Kiermaier to one-year deals at $9,300,000 and $9,000,000 respectively.
While they were more than likely going to go over the tax anyway, moving Hernández (and Gurriel) allowed them to use the saved money elsewhere and retool the outfield.
The Blue Jays outfield has improved drastically:
Speaking of the outfield, Hernández had a -2 Defensive Runs Saved and a -4 Outs Above Average in 1000 innings in the field last season. This season, he has a 1 DRS and a 1 OAA in 500.2 innings in the outfield. Gurriel has similar numbers, a 3 DRS and -2 OAA in 2022, and a 2 DRS and -2 OAA in 2023.
Kevin Kiermaier already has a 10 DRS and 7 OAA in centre field this season, while Daulton Varsho has an 11 DRS and 2 OAA in 589.2 innings in the outfield.
Moving Hernández and Gurriel allowed the Blue Jays to drastically improve their run prevention. What’s more is that Kiermaier is having a career year with the bat, owning a .287/.346/.460 slash line with four homers in 192 plate appearances for a 124 wRC+.
Varsho has been slow to start the season, but his numbers are expected to improve.
Free agent relievers were incredibly expensive in the 2022-23 off-season:
Another layer to the trade is just how much free agent relievers went for during the 2022-23 free agency. Below is a table listing free agent relievers, the term and how much money they signed for.
|Name||Term of contract||Overall value|
|Edwin Díaz||5 years||$102,000,000|
|Robert Suárez||5 years||$46,000,000|
|Rafael Montero||3 years||$34,000,000|
|Taylor Rogers||3 years||$33,000,000|
|Kenley Jansen||2 years||$32,000,000|
So yeah, the top end free agents pretty much all got double figures. All except for Díaz are worse than Swanson, yet they all make significantly more than the Blue Jays right-handed pitcher.
Who won this trade:
The Blue Jays definitely won this trade.
While Hernández’s power may be something the Blue Jays lack, they moved an outfielder who provides little else in his final season of team control for an elite reliever, and an intriguing prospect.
Moreover, it allowed the Jays to shape their outfield, spend the money saved (and much more) elsewhere on more productive players (Brandon Belt, Kevin Kiermaier, Chris Bassitt), while picking up a reliever in a market where they’d be paying an arm and a leg for a significantly worse reliever.
So yeah, the Blue Jays have won this trade, and continue to build on the laughable 2016 Drew Hutchison trade.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Brennan_L_D. In the next revisit article, we’ll look at the Daulton Varsho trade.
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