If you follow me on Twitter, you know the phrase “banners fly forever” irks me.
Not because I don’t want the Blue Jays to win the World Series, but because I want them to win multiple World Series. While I’m sure National fans are ecstatic they won it all in 2019, I’m absolutely positive they aren’t happy with their 19-35 record in 2022.
Couple this with a farm system that ranked in the 20’s by both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America in the preseason, and it’s safe to say that the team should look to rebuild.
While there were rival GM’s saying that Juan Soto could be available, I just don’t see the Nationals trading him until at least 2024.

Josh Bell:

On May 5th, I wrote an article about how ESPN’s Buster Olney thought Josh Bell would fit well with the Blue Jays. After speaking with the Nationals’ blog site, Talk Nats, I believe Bell should be the number one target if the Jays want to upgrade their position players.
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Statistics:

Bell is a switch hitting, 29-year-old first baseman who is on an expiring contract. While the Blue Jays already have the best first baseman in baseball, Bell could slot in nicely as a designated hitter. Not just that, but Bell also played some left field in 2021, posting a 2 DRS in 51.2 innings at the position.
For his career, he’s slashing .264/.351/.465 with 118 homers in 2981 plate appearances. He also has a career K% of 18.2%, while walking 11.6% of the time. His best season came in 2019 with the Pirates, when he slashed .277/.367/.569 with 37 homers and a wRC+.
This season, Bell is slashing .306/.382/.430 with just five homers in 222 plate appearances. Furthermore, his K% of 11.7% would be a career low if the season were to end today. On the surface, he’s already well worth the cost, but Bell’s splits are also rather interesting.
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All five of Bell’s home runs this season have come from him batting lefty. Furthermore, he has a .331 average in his 141 plate appearances as a left handed batter. If we expand this trend to his career, 88 of his 118 homers have come from the left side, and he has a .274 average in 2168 plate appearances.
This isn’t to say that he’s bad from the right side. In 813 plate appearances as a righty, he has a .238 average with 30 homers. This season, he still has a .261 average from the right side and has walked more (9) than he’s struck out (8). Regardless, he’s still at his best, batting left handed.
However, if the Jays were to acquire Bell, he’d be the best left handed slugger that the team has had since Adam Lind.
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Contract:

Mentioned earlier in the article, Josh Bell is on an expiring contract making an annual average of $10 million. The 2022 Jays have around $169,841,513 towards payroll, while the tax threshold is $230 million.
Acquiring Bell would keep them under the threshold while not impacting the payroll in the upcoming years if the Jays choose to let him walk.

Positional need:

The Jays don’t really have a backup first baseman. Yes, Biggio and Gurriel have played there in times of need, but they certainly aren’t naturals at the position. Bell is, but when he’s not starting at first base, the Jays can play him as their designated hitter or even in the outfield.
Not just that, but Bell would give the Jays pinch hitting option off the bench.

Steve Cishek:

Cishek was another player mentioned by Talk Nats. The reliever has been around forever, as the 35-year-old righty is in his 13th season in the bigs.
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Statistics:

His statistics this season don’t look fantastic by any means. In 20.1 innings pitched, he has a 4.43 ERA and 4.08 FIP. He also has a 3.98 BB/9, but this has dropped since 2021, when it was at 5.40.
Cishek had a poor April, where he posted a 7.04 ERA in 7.2 innings pitched. However, he rebounded in May, where he posted a 2.19 ERA in 12.1 innings pitched where opponents only hit .188 off of him.
If the Jays were to trade for Cishek, it would be for his past body of work. For his career, he has a 2.90 ERA and 3.37 FIP in 664.2 innings pitched. This is matched with a K/9 of 9.37 and a BB/9 of 3.66.

Contract:

Like Bell, Cishek is on an expiring contract, making just $1,750,000. The cost of acquiring him wouldn’t be a lot, and I could see the Jays trading a similar package to the Joakim Soria trade last season as their numbers were shockingly similar.
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Positional need:

A team can never have enough relievers, and the Jays could use a middle inning reliever like Cishek. So far this season, Cishek has pitched the majority of his innings (12.2) in low leverage where he has a 5.04 FIP. Surprisingly, he has excelled in medium leverage as his FIP drops to 2.06.
The Jays can certainly use him.

Nelson Cruz:

The last player Talk Nats mentioned was Nelson Cruz, who they described as “a big bat for hire”.
In fact, the Jays were interested in him before the 2021 trade deadline per Jon Heyman.

Statistics:

This season, the 41-year-old Cruz is slashing .240/.325/.358 in 205 plate appearances for the Nationals. While this may seem like decline, he had a fantastic 2021 with the Twins and Rays.
He slashed .265/.334/.497 with 32 homers (again, he was 40) in 584 plate appearances last season. 2021 had been his worst offensive season since 2012, so yeah, Nelson Cruz doesn’t care about his age.
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Contract:

Cruz’s annual average sits at $12 million this season, along with a mutual option for $16 million in 2023. If the Jays were to acquire him and decide to buy him out heading into next season, there is a $3 million buyout attached to his contract. I wish I was good at sports.
The Nationals likely signed him to be able to acquire some prospects at the upcoming trade deadline, so I believe Cruz will definitely be moved.

Positional need:

Cruz is strictly a DH, and has been since 2018. In fact, he hasn’t played in the outfield regularly since 2016 with the Mariners.
As you probably know, the Jays like to rotate players through the designated hitter position, which works for Bell, but not for Cruz. Not just that, but Bell is in his prime, while Cruz is 41-years-old.
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I don’t think there’s a spot for Cruz this season.

Are the Nationals an ideal trading partner:

Much like the Reds, the answer is absolutely. Nationals need to trade off their expiring free agents to help their rebuild. I could see a prospect package for Josh Bell and Steve Cishek, which I believe would make the Jays much better.

Previously in the series….

Meet the Sellers: Cincinnati Reds

As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D. Shout out to @TalkNats on Twitter as well, as they gave me a list of players who are the most likely to be shipped out.

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