Will there be other volumes? MAYBE!
So this has been rattling around in my head for a few weeks and I figured, if Hot Stove speculation is kicking off, throw another log in the fire. This concept comes with a lot of caveats (as all such speculation does) and I’ll start with those. First, I’m pretending Ohtani (and Judge) are off the table as too expensive. If they surprise us and blow through the tax threshold, great…wonderful…dance in the streets. But I’ve no reason to assume any such future so when I say something like “my favorite target” know that I’m setting those two aside.
Second, if I’m being honest I wouldn’t bat an eye if the only thing they did to the lineup was re-purpose Tapia’s money and roster spot to someone else (I wouldn’t be shocked at all if JBJ ends up back here to handle the defensive tasks). Say, for example, Joc Pederson. Likewise, I’d be copasetic if next year’s opening day bullpen was manned entirely by players already in the organization. I’m not unaware of the “get some swing and miss” narrative nor do I specifically object to shopping in that aisle (Joe Jiminez looks mighty appealing) albeit such a move would require making room by, say, trading Trevor Richards, but I’m not in the crowd that would call it a failure if no such thing happened.
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But that can’t happen with the rotation. Stripling, or someone capable of replicating his results, is an absolutely essential get. If you’re uncertain about Berrios, you can deal with that better if he’s only got to be the 4th best starter. That could be a trade for my favorite target, Pablo Lopez, or theoretically a signing if the market doesn’t spiral away from them (whoever it is you want to land in an AAV range of $10-15mm or less).
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But there are just too many different paths to really tempt me to speculate (maybe in the future?). The fifth/sixth starter quagmire is even more uncertain. They really do seem to want to try and redeem Kikuchi’s value (I don’t blame them) and my guess is that they will try into at least June to make that work. Mitch White is the first line of defense and it’s perfectly reasonable to not judge his whole career and abilities based on his 43 IP in Toronto (where his BABiP was almost 100 points higher than in his LA career, and his FIP was actually a bit better here than there). You cannot just assume the opposite either, that all will be sunshine and roses.  But it’s as good a Plan B as you’re likely to find on the market. His big flaw is that he’s now out of options so you can’t stash him in Buffalo if he has some issues.
I’ve had a hunch that they will (assuming health) be looking at Zulueta pretty hard if they get to July and this is still an issue, particularly if the other 4 slots are doing nicely. All that to say that if they add anyone with the 5th spot in mind, it won’t be anyone that excites you – more like someone willing to take a low-base bounce-back deal or even a minor league deal. Stripling’s slot is where the action will be.
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By contrast, I feel like the offensive side of the game has a lot more narrow lanes within which to speculate. Particularly if you’ve come to think, as I have, that Whit Merrifield as your primary 2B (pushing Espinal and Biggo into relief roles) could be a pretty nice fit. Between those guys and prospects in the high minors, 2B doesn’t seem to be a place where you try to uncover hidden gems on the trade/FA market (also because few if any “gems” are apparent). So then the only real place to upgrade, if you feel the desire too, is by shuffling the outfield. This could be done with a select signing (again, Joc Pederson and JBJ wouldn’t be the worst choice) or via trade. But what’s out there that fits your needs, is available, and that you can afford?
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My suggestion: Bryan Reynolds.
The idea here is that some observers think you can protect Springer better if you get him out of CF, not that many star performers stay out there as they approach their mid-30s and shifting him to right, Teo to left, and Gurriel into your “fourth” outfielder (who’d still get a lot of playing time with skilled use of the DH slot) would be quite a nice set-up IF you get quality work in CF from Reynolds. His production last year was very close to identical to Teoscar Hernandez’s and was noticeably better the year before thanks in large part to a much better defensive grade. And he’s a switch hitter who hits well both ways but with more power as a left-handed hitter. If you’re willing to look at his defense in ’22 as an outlier (or have more sophisticated internal evaluations that reassure you) I’d argue there’s no single hitter out there who’d better optimize the Blue Jays lineup for a price they can afford. He’s got three years of control left, and is under contract for next season for the same amount that Merrifield is. They could add that salary, and sign a starting pitcher for 10-12 million and still stay at least $10 million away from the tax threshold. Over $60 million comes off for 2024.
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Can it be done? Maybe! As I mentioned, he has three years of team control left. Alejandro Kirk has four. They had almost identical wOBA and wRC+ last year, both were in the top 5 performers in the majors last year at their respective positions. Even when you contrast them they have quite similar values, to outside observation. You might have to throw in someone like Otto Lopez or Spencer Horwitz to sell them on it but maybe not. Kirk fits the age range of their best young stars and lets them take their time with Henry Davis. There’s no incumbent catcher they’d value. The Jays get to keep the veteran catcher they seemingly value, and have a potential stud with at least six years of control to pair with him. It’s pretty ideal.
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UNLESS you want to use your excess catchers to fill that rotation spot (I have no doubt any one of the three could center a deal for Pablo Lopez from the Marlins for example, or possibly one of the Astros’ excess young SP). If you think your lineup is good enough (arguably it is!) but your rotation worries you, particularly on cost, that might be a more favorable exercise in talent management. Or maybe in the front office, they are thinking “why couldn’t we just put Moreno in CF and keep all of them?”
These are certainly valid counterarguments. I can’t take a firm position without knowing what they know about the SP situation. I’m only saying that if you take the hitters in isolation, without regard to what moves you make on the pitching side, I have yet to see a cleaner matchup to optimize the lineup than this. Slide him in between Vlad and Teo in the batting order, what’s not to love? As a bonus, you soften the blow when both Hernandez and Gurriel become free agents next winter.
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I can’t say it often enough, this team played at a 101-win pace under Schnieder in 2022 – they are GOOD just as they are. But hey, could they be better?

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