Taking a look back at the three trades the Blue Jays made with the Cardinals before the 2023 trade deadline

Photo credit:© Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports
Ryley Delaney
1 month ago
The 2023 trade deadline is starting to look questionable for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Heading into the 2024 season, the starting pitching depth was at its best in the Ross Atkins/Mark Shaprio era. However, trading recently designated for assignment players (Mitch White and Wes Parsons), plus injuries (Bowden Francis, Alek Manoah, Yariel Rodríguez, Ricky Tiedemann), has put the Jays’ depth in question once again.
On Tuesday, Trevor Richards will start the game against the Baltimore Orioles, but it didn’t have to be this way. At the 2023 trade deadline, the Blue Jays traded two upper-minor starting pitchers to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Jordan Hicks. 
That, plus two other trades, have come to bite the Blue Jays in the butt. Let’s look at all three trades the team made with the Cardinals before the 2023 trade deadline.

Sem Robberse and Adam Kloffenstein for Jordan Hicks

At the time, this wasn’t that bad of a trade, as the Jays needed to reinforce their bullpen. Both Sem Robberse and Adam Kloffenstein were in Double-A, and needed to be added to the 40-man roster to avoid the Rule 5 draft.
Hicks, on the other hand, filled in as a second option for a closer and was successful in Blue, as he had a 2.63 ERA and a 3.63 FIP in 24 innings pitched, along with a 22.9 K% and an 8.3 BB%, along with four saves and seven holds.
It’s hindsight that makes this trade not-so-great. The Blue Jays made the postseason, but once again failed to win a game, bowing out to the Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card Series. Hicks went on to pitch as a starter for the San Francisco Giants, where he has a 2.70 ERA and a 3.82 FIP in 63.1 innings pitched, but that’s not the problem.
The problem is the fact that the Blue Jays depth has been tested this season and has been obliterated . Robberse and Kloffenstein would have to be added to the 40-man roster, but both are ready to pitch in the big leagues. Let’s take a look at how those two have done this season.
Robberse pitches in Triple-A for the Cardinals organization and has a 3.53 ERA and a 4.40 FIP in 66.1 innings pitched. On top of that, he has a 24.6 K% and a 7.2 BB% for a 17.4 K-BB%, the highest at any level he’s ever had with 20+ innings pitched. The 22-year-old Dutchman is the better of the two and could be up with a struggling Cardinals team at some point this season.
Kloffenstein has a 4.43 ERA and a 5.34 FIP in 63 innings pitched this season with the Triple-A Cardinals. His K% has dropped from 27.6% in Double-A with the Jays to 20.4%, but his command and control has been solid as he has a 9 BB%. It was a tough start for the 23-year-old, but Kloffenstein has a 3.55 ERA and a 4.98 FIP over his last eight starts with a similar K% and BB% to his season totals.
Having two MLB-ready prospects in Triple-A would help the 2024 Blue Jays significantly, but let’s look at the two other trades.

Matt Svanson for Paul DeJong

This trade was pretty bad off the get go.
Paul DeJong hit 30 home runs in the 2019 season, but had just a 101 wRC+. After three seasons of “meh” play, DeJong found himself having his best year since 2019 in 2023, slashing .233/.297/.412 with 13 homers in 306 plate appearances for the Cardinals.
Due to Bo Bichette’s injury around the trade deadline, the Jays decided to acquire DeJong in exchange for relief prospect Matt Svanson. In 44 plate appearances for the Jays, DeJong slashed .068/.068/.068 with three singles before being designated for assignment.
His game has improved with the basement dwelling Chicago White Sox, as he’s slashing .231/.283/.444 with nine homers in 184 plate appearances, but has an insane 34.2 K% along with a low 3.8 BB% for a 104 wRC+. This included a series at Rogers Centre where he had four hits with a homer in 12 plate appearances. In fact, he equaled the total of hits he had as a Jay in his first game back.
Svanson, on the other hand, is a 25-year-old righty who touches the upper-90s with his heater and has a good slider. With the Cardinals’ Double-A team, he has a 3.42 ERA and a 4.16 FIP in 26.1 innings pitched, along with a 22.7 K% and a 10.1 BB%.
The Blue Jays have a ton of intriguing relievers in the upper-minors, but it’s never a bad thing to stockpile relief pitchers. Who knows if Svanson will make the big leagues, but he’s certainly an intriguing prospect.

Sammy Hernandez for Génesis Cabrera

Of the three trades, this was probably the best for Toronto.
Upon landing with the Jays, the left-handed pitcher posted a 2.66 ERA and a 3.68 FIP in 23.2 innings pitched, along with a 20.8 K% and a 6.3 BB%. Over his first month and four days, Cabrera pitched 16.1 innings of scoreless baseball (2.34 FIP), before he gave up a run on September 1, 2023.
The 2024 season hasn’t been quite as good for the 27-year-old, as he has a 4.43 ERA and a 5.73 FIP In 22.1 innings pitched, while his K% has dropped to 14.4% and his BB% has risen to 11.5%. He also received a pretty underserved suspension.
He’s been better than what his ERA suggests, as he has a 2.45 ERA and a 4.77 FIP in 18.1 innings pitched since April 12. Since the 24th of the same month, Cabrera ERA sits at 1.88 with a 4.67 FIP in 14.1 innings pitched, but has a 13 BB% and K%. Cabrera is coming around, which is good for a Blue Jays bullpen that has seen their other left-handed pitcher, Tim Mayza, struggle as well.
This individual trade for the Blue Jays has been good and is already a win, but it’s worth looking at Sammy Hernandez. The 20-year-old defence first catcher plays for the Cardinals’ Single-A team and is slashing .312/.421/.391 with nine doubles in 164 plate appearances. On top of that, he has a 9.8 BB% and a 13.4 K% for a 143 wRC+.
Hernandez just missed out on ranking in Fangraphs’ Cardinals’ Top 36 list, but it’s noted that he’s an athletic catcher who has to improve as a defender, as well as his plate discipline. His bio also states that he has “rare bat speed for a catcher”, but with his performance so far in 2024, safe to say he’s improved.
Whether or not Hernadez develops into a big league catcher, the Blue Jays won this aspect of the trade as Cabrera has been an above-average reliever for the team in his first year in the organization. Hernandez may be someone worth monitoring in the future though, as no doubt he’ll land on the Cardinals Top 30 list in the future.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Ryley_L_D.

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