Blue Jays trade tiers: From the untouchable to the Randal Grichuk

A look at the likelihood every single Blue Jays player has of getting traded this winter (plus a brief diversion to look at their most notable Rule-5 eligible players for some reason)!

The Blue Jays have a lot of off-season work ahead of them. The core of the team is in very good shape, but giant holes in the shape of Robbie Ray, Marcus Semien, and Steven Matz loom large over the roster.

Those players represented 13.3 wins above replacement according to FanGraphs in 2021, and 15.8 WAR according to Baseball-Reference. And this was already a team that finished nine games behind the division-leading Rays. I think you can argue that the gap would have been smaller had the Jays played the full season in Toronto, but I don’t at all think you can argue that internal replacements are going to sufficiently make up what was lost. The Jays are a win-now club, and they’ll be looking to add as much talent as possible over the winter.

The easy way to do that would be simply to spend money on the free agent market. That certainly would seem to be fans’ preference for how to deal with Ray and Semien reaching free agency — pay them. Based on what’s coming off the books and where we’ve seen this team’s payroll go in the recent past, the funds should be there to do that. The front office, however, is very cognizant of what the additions of multiple long-term contracts would do to their future flexibility. It will be much tougher to address their needs next winter with big contracts for Ray and Semien on the books, in addition to the money owed Hyun Jin Ryu and George Springer, plus very possibly an extension for José Berríos, and escalating salaries for Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Teoscar Hernández, and Bo Bichette, who will be into arbitration for the second (of four), third (of three), and first (of three) times respectively.

Right now it sadly seems like a better bet that Ray and Semien will be playing elsewhere next season, and that the Jays will try to revamp their roster with shorter-term solutions. Some of that could take place via free agency, but with some surpluses on their roster to deal from, they could also be very active on the trade market — potentially taking some big swings there, though also likely making some smaller tweaks.

So let’s talk about it! And, specifically, which of the key players and prospects on the team we’re most likely to hear mentioned in trade rumours over the coming winter. And which will be off limits.

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Making a trade is a whole lot easier said than done. The Blue Jays have some that would be of obvious interest to teams this winter, many of whom they’d be completely unwilling to trade. They also have some players they’d be much happier to send on their way, most of whom won’t be enough to bring back the kind of impact talent the Jays will need. Here are my best guesses at the likelihood of each Blue Jays player being traded this winter…

The “Untouchable” tier

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.: The best hitter in the American League at 22-years old, and delightfully fun player who has very quickly found a long-term home at first base and is just now reaching his first of four arbitration-eligible seasons. Obviously Vladimir Guerrero Jr. isn’t going anywhere for a long, long time.

Bo Bichette: Maybe not quite the 1B to Vlad’s 1A, but a pretty incredible player in his own right. In 2021, Bichette put up a 4.9 fWAR/6.0 bWAR season at age 23 and showed that he can be the Jays’ long-term answer at the most important defensive position on the field. And there’s still room to grow. A little more maturity — and selectivity — at the plate could take him from being a very good hitter to being an elite one yet. Like Vlad, Bo is going to be here a long while.

José Berríos: I’m probably guilty of getting over Robbie Ray a little too quickly, but even if the presumptive AL Cy Young winner were to return to the Jays, my bet for the ace of the staff in 2022 would still be Berríos. Talented, competitive, hard-working, durable, with a classic three-pitch mix. Berríos is maybe just a shade under elite, but otherwise brings everything you want in a starter. Add in the state of the rotation and the price the Jays paid for him at the trade deadline and he’s definitely not going anywhere. I’d figure he’s far more likely to be extended this winter than traded as a rental next July, too.

George Springer: There are 118 million (remaining) reasons why the idea of trading Springer is a non-starter, but even if he were on the league minimum the Jays would not be giving him up at this stage. A veteran leader perfectly at home alongside the Jays’ youngsters and the third best hitter in baseball since the start of 2019 among those with at least 1,000 plate appearances. Other than a less-than-stellar health history, there’s absolutely nothing not to like.

Alek Manoah: You’re not exactly a secret when you were the 11th pick and maybe the best college arm in your draft class, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still surprise. And the way that Alek Manoah exploded onto the scene in spring training and ascended seamlessly to the big leagues in 2021 demanded people take notice. He’s one of just two players drafted in 2019 to have played in the majors so far and has a huge head start in accumulating wins above replacement, with Baseball Reference calculating his value this year at 2.8 WAR. Better things are to come. Bigger? Well, you don’t get much bigger than this lad — or the hole he’d leave if for some reason they decided to move him. It’s not going to happen.

Jordan Romano: From being taken from the Blue Jays as a Rule 5 pick of the useless Texas Rangers (by way of the White Sox) to being listed three years later among the club’s handful of untouchable trade chips is a pretty remarkable feat, but it’s one that Jordan Romano has absolutely pulled off (at least in my estimation). With his “gas ball” regularly hitting triple-digits on the radar gun, Romano was dominant in becoming the Jays’ closer in 2021. He won’t be arbitration eligible for another year yet, so looks to be an important part of this club for as long as his arm stays healthy.

Gabriel Moreno: The way that Moreno rocketed up top prospects lists was less a surprise than it was a validation of the things you hear that Jays people have been saying about him for a long time. Yes, the team has catching depth, but this guy is different. It's not just that he roasted Double-A pitching to the tune of .373/.441/.651 during his brief time there this season as a 21-year-old. It's that the Jays reportedly loved what they saw from him at the alternate site last season, and that he had scouts this year telling Baseball America that “the question isn’t if he’s going to get the big leagues or how good he’s going to be in the big leagues, it’s how many All-Star Games is he going to be in for the next 10 years.” Bo Bichette saw him at the alt-site while rehabbing in 2020 and told TSN’s Scott Mitchell this summer, “He’s electric. He’s kind of one of those guys that I walked on the field and I saw him take one swing and I was like, ‘That’s dangerous.’” You don’t trade that.

The “It would have to be a blockbuster” tier

Teoscar Hernández: I really, really, really don’t think the Blue Jays are going to trade Hernández this winter. Nor do I think that they should. He is a shining example of so much that this organization wants to do. A deserving All-Star at age 28 who held a 132 wRC+ over the course of 595 plate appearances this year, improved his defence, just genuinely seems like a really great dude who his teammates love, and was acquired through a particularly nifty bit of asset-building. His is the story of the Shapiro-Atkins era Blue Jays so far more than any other player, I think. And yet I don't think he's quite in the untouchable category the way those other guys are, largely because the Jays have a number of outfield options, because he could be a casualty of a move to diversify the lineup, and because one day George Springer is going to need to play right field more regularly. Like the heading says, it would have to be a blockbuster. I don’t see it happening. But I wouldn't entirely rule it out either.

Nate Pearson: I don’t think you come this far with Nate Pearson and then trade him cavalierly just as he’s getting so tantalizingly close to looking like the guy you’ve believed all along that he can become. Mark Shapiro has repeatedly spoken about the patience that’s required in developing starting pitching, and while Pearson’s ups and downs and injuries have surely tested that, the way he ended his season made if feel like you could finally see some light at the end of the tunnel. Do the Jays really want to see him become a frontline starter in someone else’s organization? Absolutely not, I’m sure. And yet… if he’s the guy Cleveland has to have in exchange for José Ramírez, or someone else demands in a similar type of deal, I think you’ve got to suck it up and do it. You don’t want to see that guy in someone else’s organization either. There aren’t a whole lot of names one could see potentially available in trade this winter that could make a Pearson trade a reality, but he can’t be untouchable at this point.

Orelvis Martinez and/or Jordan Groshans: Either of these guys could be everyday Blue Jays infielders in the very near future, as both have the upside to be legitimate middle-of-the-order bats. Martinez shows remarkable power, hitting 28 home runs across two levels in 98 minor league games this season — the most of any teenager — while slashing .279/.369/.572 in Dunedin, where he spent the bulk of the year. Groshans needed a torrid finish to end with a respectable .291/.367/.450 line in Double-A — a level he was placed at despite having just 23 games of Low-A experience and none at High-A. He lost a lot of development time because of the pandemic and the foot injury that cost him most of 2019, but is still a very highly regarded prospect in his own right. They both have warts — Martinez is a free-swinger who needed an adjustment when he was moved up to High-A Vancouver late in the year and is still so young that all kinds of outcomes are still on the table, Groshans simply didn’t have as loud a season as was hoped, and neither seems likely to stick at shortstop — and if the front office is especially troubled by those it wouldn’t be shocking to see them decide that their value is higher as trade pieces than as long-term prospects. But the Jays are a little thin on upper echelon prospects following some high profile graduations and the Berríos trade, so I’m not sure this is the avenue they’ll be looking to take this winter unless the return is absolutely enormous. Maybe not even then.

The “Going to have to seriously listen, unfortunately” tier

Lourdes Gurriel Jr.: Gurriel checks a lot of the same boxes that Teoscar does. Seemingly swell guy, good hitter, improving defensively, teammates seem to love him. He’d be an asset to any team that has him, especially given his contract. The deal he’s on will pay him $4.25 million in 2022, then $5.4 million in 2023, at which point he’ll become arbitration eligible for a year, finally reaching free agency after the 2024 season. Also like Teoscar (and, to a much lesser extent, Randal Grichuk), Gurriel is a right-handed hitter who doesn’t walk a ton but makes up for it with some pop. He had three rough months of the season, but three pretty great ones, and especially came on strong at the end. When he’s on a hot streak he can be an incredibly dangerous hitter. But if the Jays are looking to pivot toward a more diverse lineup and see left field as a spot where they can improve defensively — two things they probably ought to be doing — then as great a fit as Gurriel is in the clubhouse, and as possible it is that the consistency can still come, using him as a trade chip is going to have a lot of appeal. And that contract of his is going to make him appealing to other clubs too.

Alejandro Kirk: Kirk is an easy player to like and seemed to make strides defensively this season, even though his hitting was a little uneven as he finished the year with a wRC+ of just 106 over 189 plate appearances. He controls the zone very well, walking nearly as often as he strikes out, he hit the ball hard throughout the year, and yet his overall numbers look low because he only managed to produce a .234 BABIP. Just 36 of 411 players with at least 150 plate appearances had a lower BABIP this year, so that will definitely bounce back. It just might not bounce back as high as it would for, say, a faster player. Still, there’s a lot to like about the youngster, which unfortunately means that he’ll have a lot of appeal on the trade market — especially because, as Ross Atkins noted in his end-of-season Zoom session, there isn’t going to be a lot of catching help available this winter. None of this would matter if Kirk was entrenched as the Jays’ number one behind the plate, but that’s Danny Jansen for now, and will be Moreno potentially as soon as sometime next year. Other teams will be calling, and as much as it would hurt to part with him, there are certainly going to be scenarios where the temptation to do so is big — even if it means leaving your catching depth a little on the thin side in the early part of the season.

Santiago Espinal: Espinal just kept hitting in 2021, putting up a 115 wRC+ (aided by a .353 BABIP) over 246 plate appearances. And with his defensive ability and positional versatility, he really might be turning into a nice little player. There is definitely a case to be made that if you’re going to keep Cavan Biggio around (as I discuss below), keeping Espinal — a right-handed hitter who can handle velocity and play defence late in games, as opposed to the lefty Biggio who can’t and probably shouldn’t — is a pretty good idea. But there are other guys in the organization who could handle aspects of that role, like Kevin Smith and Otto López, and Espinal is just a little more established, which I’d imagine would make teams more interested. He obviously wouldn’t have the same kind of appeal as a Gurriel or a Kirk, and I don’t think it would cause as much consternation among fans to see him go as those guys, but I think he may have done enough to have real value. I could see another team possibly seeing something close to a cheap everyday player there, so using Espinal to pry loose another Trevor Richards or Adam Cimber might be a good option given the other infielders on the roster. Or maybe they can aim even higher.

Thomas Hatch: The Jays don’t have a ton of great starting pitching depth, and as such aren’t likely going to be look to be moving a guy like Hatch. He also, for me, could be a pretty intriguing relief option for the club too — a role he did well in during the COVID-shortened 2020 season, when his stuff played up, sitting 95.5 mph compared to the 93.9 mph his fastball averaged when in the big leagues in 2021. The Jays could have used a guy like the 2020 version of Hatch this season, but just didn’t often seem to feel they had enough minor league starting depth to change his role. That likely suggests they won’t be very interested in moving him this winter. And yet he is a 27-year-old who would get a real chance to start in the big leagues for some (not so good) teams, and will be cheap for long enough that he should have some real value on the trade market. I think he’s got an edge on guys Anthony Kay and Trent Thornton, which means that he’d be a tough loss for the Jays, but they do have cover for losing him to an extent. You’ve got to give up something to get something, so while I see the Jays being very reluctant, he’s probably a guy they’ll have to listen on.

The “Not really worth discussing” tier

Hyun Jin Ryu: I don’t think Hyun Jin Ryu quite deserves to be on the “untouchable” list at this stage, given that he makes a hefty amount of money, will turn 35 in March, and just finished a season in which he was out-performed by Matz. But he doesn’t deserve to be in any of the other categories on this list either. He’s still going to be an important part of the Jays’ rotation going forward, he’s fun as hell, and nobody is trying to run him out of town — especially since the team is as thin as it is when it comes to starting pitching at the moment. Besides, there probably wouldn’t be a whole lot of interest in Ryu at this stage anyway — certainly not at full freight — so the point is essentially moot.

Cavan Biggio: I’m not exactly the world’s biggest Cavan Biggio believer, but I absolutely recognize that it would likely be a mistake to trade him coming off a season in which his numbers were so bad because he spent the year dogged by injury. Particularly if, as I’ve mentioned at least a couple times above, one of the objectives for the Jays this off-season is to change the look of their lineup. Biggio certainly helps to do that, and can give the team more in 2022 than he did this season, especially if his match-ups are chosen carefully and he goes back to playing second base instead of third. Given where I presume his value on the market is at, I’d figure the best course of action is to give him another chance and see if he rebounds. Just don’t pencil him in for everyday playing time.

Danny Jansen: Another bounce-back candidate here. Jansen’s strong end to the season, offensively, was intriguing but his track record as a big league hitter is still pretty ugly. Even so, the Jays seem to love everything else he does and are going to need someone to hold down the fort until Moreno arrives — and presumably to share a bunch of time with him after that point. I suppose the guy to do that could be Alejandro Kirk instead, but given the lack of sizzle on Jansen as a trade chip and the comfort the organization has with him, a trade here seems much more unlikely.

Any reliever not named Romano: The Jays were operating with four reliable relievers in the second half of the 2021 season, and even fewer than that in the months before. I’m not going to call guys like Tim Mayza, Adam Cimber, Trevor Richards, Ryan Borucki, or Julian Merryweather untouchable, because they’re certainly not. If a team had to have one of those guys I’d imagine the Jays would grudgingly find a way to make it work. But the idea this winter is going to be to add to that group, not subtract from it. I also think that, while they definitely deserve their own sub-tier, it’s pretty much the same story for the rest of the relievers on the 40-man — your Anthony Castros, Bryan Bakers, Tayler Saucedos, etc. It’s entirely possible that you see one of those types go in some sort of a small deal, particularly if the Jays would prefer to give their 40-man spot to someone else in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, but I think the general point stands.

Ross Stripling: I don’t think you dismiss it outright if some organization comes sniffing around Stripling, but that seems unlikely at this stage and he’s going to be a somewhat important depth piece for the Jays in 2021 — a last line of rotation defence before having to give spot starts to the likes of Hatch, Anthony Kay, Trent Thornton, or maybe even Zach Logue. Stripling lost it a bit at the end of the year but had a really nice run for a while there. He is relatively cheap — he’ll likely get a small raise on the $3 million he made this season through arbitration, but probably not enough to make him a non-tender candidate — and doesn’t seem to be troubled by getting shuffled to the bullpen whenever he’s not in the rotation. Certainly not the flashiest, or a guy you want to try to get 150 innings out of, but he’s useful, and not an easy sort of piece to try to get back if you move on from him. I’d figure the Jays are probably best off just keeping him around and hoping one of the younger guys pitches well enough to take his job.

Gunnar Hoglund: The Jays rolled the dice on a top 10 talent with the 19th overall pick in the draft this summer, selecting right-hander Gunnar Hoglund out of Ole Miss. It used to be that drafted players could only be included in trades as "players to be named later" until a year after their signing date, but that rule is no longer in effect and those players can now be dealt once the World Series is complete. However, Hoglund’s stock dropped because he blew out his elbow in May and required Tommy John surgery. He won't be back into game action until sometime in the middle of next season. And while I suppose the fact that the Jays drafted him means that it's not completely out of the question that teams would still value prying him away from them, a trade before he can get back on the mound again seems highly, highly unlikely.

The “Sure, why not?” tier

Anthony Kay, Trent Thornton: Do you really need to keep these guys? The way Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have insisted on the importance of pitching depth over the years, they might say yes. It’s also important to have decent, optionable players at any position who aren’t yet into their arbitration years. And these two, in particular, could become somewhat important if the Jays do move Hatch (as discussed above). But Kay and Thornton have full-on entered that in between area where they're not really prospects anymore — both will be 27 on opening day — but haven't established themselves as big leaguers the way it once seemed they would. And after this season, I feel less confident that they’ll ever get there than I do Hatch. Walks have become a problem for Kay over the last two seasons, home runs were an issue this year, and you now have to go back to his 2019 run at Buffalo to find a stint in either the majors or minors in which he produced an ERA under 5.00. Thornton has had a better couple years, but still hasn't looked like a big leaguer very much outside of a handful of starts back in '19. Are they so far removed from prospect shine that teams wouldn't have a little interest though? I'm not so sure. They still have stuff that looks like it should be able to get big leaguers out, even if in 2021 it did not. We’re not exactly talking about Thomas Pannone out there throwing 89. If there’s interest there, it's definitely not out of the realm of possibility that they see an opportunity to do something with these roster spots that they like better than one of these two — or both.

Kevin Smith, Otto López: López and Smith had very good seasons at the plate in Double- and Triple-A respectively this year, but these aren’t quite star prospects. Baseball America ranks them seventh (López) and 18th (Smith) within the Jays’ organization on their most recent (mid-season) last. MLB Pipeline has them at five and nine. You don’t just give guys like that away, but you don’t hold on to them especially tightly either. At least not at this stage of the team’s development. On the infield the Jays are set at first and short. They’ll have to find a veteran to play at least one of either third or second this winter, which means that it’s theoretically possible that Smith or López could get a real chance at whichever position remains open some time in 2022. But they’ll be behind guys like Biggio and Espinal for that chance, and will have guys like Groshans and Martinez soon breathing down their necks. Having future Espinals around can’t hurt, and maybe with the dearth of MLB-ready outfielders in the system there’s value in keeping guys who have seen a little time there as well, but if there’s a team that really believes in Smith’s second breakout season, or that rates López as highly as Pipeline does, surely that depth can be found elsewhere.

Josh Palacios: Palacios is an even lesser prospect than Smith and López, but he’s a young outfielder with some big league experience, and that’s more than just about any other Jays farmhand can say. Thing is, I don’t think that’s necessarily the most difficult depth to acquire. The Jays have got a decent enough situation here to likely entice a minor league free agent to help them in this regard — potentially someone like Mallex Smith, who had a smashing seven game cameo for Buffalo at the end of the season. And with four big league outfielders and a handful of infielders who can play out there in a pinch, Palacios may no longer be as (minimally) useful here as he appears. He may not even keep is 40-man spot, depending on what the Jays do with regard to protecting guys from being taken in the Rule 5 draft. But he’s got some decent seasons on his track record — his .266/.371/.416 at New Hampshire in 2019 stands out — and is coming off an injury-plagued year that makes it hard to know what to really think of him. Maybe there’s a team that still believes. I mean, the Jays liked him enough to give him a chance to play centre field in Detroit, which led directly to a brutal 2-1 loss on an eighth inning “inside the park home run” back in August! *COUGH*

Any other prospect: I’m not saying the Jays ought to empty out their farm system, but the guys who haven’t been mentioned in this piece yet? Just trade ‘em! Not all of them, obviously. But C.J. Van Eyk? See-ya! Adam Kloffenstein? Cancel your order of a Kloff jersey! Sem Robberse? Let’s heist some other team! There are some great talents in the farm system, but other than the top, top guys, everybody should be on the table this winter — and even some of them need to be listened on. This is a win-now team and prospects are for poor people.

The Rule 5 guys: Speaking of the Rule 5 draft, the Jays have several names that they'll have to think about adding to the 40-man in order to protect, which has the potential to lead to some activity — trade or otherwise.

Eric Pardinho is a name that has been around in Jays prospect circles for a long time, which I suppose is obvious because of the fact that he will be Rule 5 eligible this winter. He's been consistently hurt and is still a long way from being a big league contributor, so maybe the Jays simply choose to do nothing here. I suppose it’s possible someone tries to pull an Elvis Luciano with him, though, sadly, at this point there are probably better guys out there to try that with — including within the Jays’ organization.

• One guy who could fit that bill is Leo Jimenez, who is the second most notable (after Gabriel Moreno) of the Jays prospects playing in the Arizona Fall League over the next month. He's just 20 years old and when healthy played mostly in A-ball for Dunedin this year, putting up a ridiculous .315/.517/.381 line over 242 plate appearances. The lack of power there is a concern, but the plate discipline (51 walks to 35 strikeouts) is at least something to work with! Especially since he's viewed as a competent defender. Is he too far away to have on a 40-man that already has Espinal, Biggio, Smith, and López on it? Maybe there’s a move in there somewhere.

• An even more notable prospect is, or was, Miguel Hiraldo. It was a bit of a down year for him in his first full crack at A-ball in Dunedin, as he slashed just .249/.338/.390. Low-A Southeast was not a great league for power hitting (as a whole batters there had a slugging percentage of just .370), but Hiraldo's seven home runs were the same number he hit as an 18-year-old in the Appalachian League back in 2019 in just over half as many plate appearances — and they pale in comparison to the 19 hit by his (younger) teammate Orelvis Martinez before he was moved up. That doesn’t make Hiraldo a non-prospect, but maybe doesn’t make adding him the slam dunk it once seemed like it would be.

Hagen Danner was a second-round pick as a catcher in 2017, but is now a full-time pitcher. As explained by a FanGraphs piece from back in May, he was originally a pitching prospect who would play behind the plate on days he wasn’t pitching, but his stuff never ticked up and he was eventually viewed more as a catcher. That didn’t go so well, and now he’s added a bunch of velocity apparently. Danner struck out 42 in 35 2/3 innings this summer for Vancourver while picking up some high leverage work and pitching to a 2.02 ERA. If the Jays see him as having real bullpen potential next year, he's someone they could consider adding to their 40-man this winter. They could also leave him exposed and hope for the best, or find a team to make a deal with.

Sebastian Espino was taken from the Mets in the minor league portion of last year's Rule 5 draft, and now this year will be eligible for the big league Rule 5. In between he slashed .295/.358/.511 as a 21-year-old for High-A Vancouver. That's noticeable pop despite the fact that an August FanGraphs piece suggested "he has no approach to speak of," saying he has "all the makings of a divisive prospect." Maybe that means someone will try to nab him and keep him in the majors all year, or maybe it just means the Jays can find a team that's high enough on him to make him part of a package for some win-now help.

Cre Frinfrock has shown he can strike a ton of minor leaguers out, but has otherwise not ever looked ready for the big leagues. He was hurt for most of this year and will pitch in the AFL, where a star turn could change his trade value considerably, though I wouldn't bank on that. He walked six and allowed seven earned runs over just 3 2/3 innings in stops with Dunedin and New Hampshire this year.

Chavez Young is a switch-hitting outfielder who as primarily played in centre and had a nice little year at Double-A New Hampshire in 2021. He slashed .265/.350/.409 and stole 20 bases in 78 games while only being caught three times. Not bad for a 39th round pick back in 2016. His offensive numbers have always been solid, but he certainly looks more like a fourth outfield type — though maybe not a bad one, which could see him get onto the 40-man this winter, with a job in Buffalo presumably in his future.

Samad Taylor was Rule 5-eligible last year, wasn't taken, and then came back and had a breakout season for New Hampshire. The second baseman slashed .294/.385/.503 with 16 home runs over 374 plate appearances (87 games) while stealing 30 bases (albeit while being caught eight times). The power was especially surprising, as his career high for home runs previously was nine (in 530 PA), though he seems to have traded a bunch of additional strikeouts in order to achieve the new career best. His 29.4% strikeout rate in 2021 is not what you want to see, but there could be something there. Another infielder to potentially add to the collection — or deal from.

Hobie Harris is a late-blooming hard-throwing reliever who the Jays took from the Yankees in the minor league phase of the 2019 Rule 5 draft. He allowed six runs over his final five outings for Buffalo this season, which blew up his numbers a little bit, but through September 10th had pitched to a 3.03 ERA with 47 strikeouts and 16 walks over 38 2/3 innings. It wasn't enough to see him get a spot on the Jays' roster, but maybe the fact that he'll eligible for the Rule 5 this year will do the trick — provided they don't look to move him elsewhere first.

Zach Logue was noted by Ross Atkins for having been a good story for the Jays this season, striking out 93 in 89 1/3 innings for Buffalo while walking just 20 and pitching to a 3.32 ERA after a early-season promotion from New Hampshire. His ERA over his final 11 outings of the year was 2.72, making him look like a legitimate depth option for the Jays' rotation going forward, provided they keep him around.

Joey Murray managed to pitch just two-thirds of an inning in a complex league game, as he spent the entire rest of the season injured (though is on the Jays' roster for this fall's Instructional League team according to Baseball America). However, he's still going to get consideration for a roster spot, I'd think, as he had a fantastic 2019 across three levels as a starter striking out 11 batters per nine with his high spin rate "invisiball," and generated a lot of buzz last summer at the Jays' alt-site. Yes, he could be a trade chip too, but I'm sure other teams will want to see whether he's healthy first.

The “I mean, if anybody wants ‘em” tier

Breyvic Valera: Clearly the Jays like Valera more than the fans do, which means that maybe there's a chance the industry does as well. Switch hitters with positional versatility don't grow on trees, I suppose, but Valera is one of those who doesn't seem to do anything particularly well — at least when in the majors. He had a nice 41 games in Buffalo, looking like a guy who can be pretty decent at Triple-A (much he did in the Yankees' system in 2019). But obviously that's not enough. I doubt he has much trade value, but it's worth exploring before the team decides whether or not to even keep him on the roster going forward.

Reese McGuire: McGuire held his own somewhat in the big leagues this year, showing that he can likely be the long-time backup catcher that people have expected him to become for ages. How much value is there in that, though? How much more value does McGuire really have than, say, Juan Graterol, who the Jays acquired for “cash considerations” back in March so that he could play for Buffalo? If the answer to that question is “some, actually” then you probably need to think about “cashing in” on it with McGuire, because he’s very soon going to be the Blue Jays’ fourth best catching option (if he isn’t there already). However, with Riley Adams dealt to Washington for a Bad Hand back at the trade deadline, the Jays only have four catchers on the 40-man, so it’s conceivable that they simply keep McGuire around as an insurance policy for next spring before deciding what to do with him then. Either way, his grip on a roster spot is tenuous.

The “Randal Grichuk” tier

Randal Grichuk: Grichuk had the worst year of his career at the plate in 2021, and while he can bring a little defensive value — which could still prove useful because of the organization’s lack of internal centre field options beyond George Springer — we’ve basically reached the point where it would be very nice if he was no longer on the Blue Jays’ roster. Unfortunately, his contract has only reached the point where it says he’s owed $18.7 million over the next two seasons. Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet wondered out lout about a Grichuk for Didi Gregorius trade in a piece this week, noting that the Phillies need an outfielder and the left-handed hitting Gregorius also had an awful year at the plate and is owed a bunch of money as well ($14.5 million in 2022 salary plus another $9.5 million of deferred money per Cot’s). Sounds like a disaster waiting to happen for both sides, but maybe it could work? I suspect, though, that the Jays will probably just take the loss and have Grichuk come back for at least one more year. Their other fourth outfielder options aren’t exactly great, and unless they’re eating the vast majority of the money or taking somebody else’s problem back, they’re not getting out from under this deal. Not great!