Mail bag: On a Vladdy contract, extending Semien, Joel Payamps, trade candidates, catchers, and more!
Did someone say All-Star break mail bag? Uh… couldn’t be me. *COUGH*
Actually, in more ways than one this mail bag is long overdue! The last time I dipped into one was in late May, if you can believe it. A whole lot has obviously happened between then and now, including the All-Star break. But not yet the trade deadline. And you’d better believe that it’s going to be a big focus today.
As usual, I could barely get all of your questions in before running into Substack’s post length limit, so thank you so much everybody. And thank you especially to those who subscribe, and those have been able to pay to do so.
Speaking of which, before we get going, please indulge me while I attempt to make a living. Because if you’ve been sent here by a friend, or you are an existing subscriber who would like to move to a paid membership so you can comment, ask questions the next time I open up the ol’ mail bag, or just plain old support what I do, click below to upgrade or become a subscriber. I will be eternally grateful if you do!
Now on to the questions! As always, I have not read any of Griff's answers.
Why the heck did they DFA Payamps when there's a bunch of bums stinking up the bullpen still on the roster? By the numbers, he's been one of our best options, the kind of guy who if he was on the waiver wire, you'd hope we'd scoop up. — Angus
I get why it maybe looks weird, seeing as Payamps has a 2.70 ERA in the big leagues this season, and he’s also graded out very well in terms of suppressing hard contact this year — his ranks in expected stats are in the 91st percentile or higher, as is his average exit velocity and HardHit%. The thing is, the sample there is awfully small (30 innings), and if you don’t believe that he’s the kind of guy who can sustain that going forward, there just isn’t much to like.
Even though Payamps generates nearly an average amount of swing-and-miss, it doesn’t translate to putting guys away. His strikeout rate is extremely low for a reliever (6.6 K/9 with the Jays). He’s also never consistently been able to maintain high ground ball rates (or anything like the extremely low line drive rate he’s produced in the majors this year). Then, before his trade here on Wednesday to the Royals, he went down to Triple-A and didn’t exactly impress. Payamps faced 18 batters for the Bisons/Thunder, striking out just one, hitting a batter, and allowing seven hits including a pair of home runs.
So, if the Jays think that he’s not the guy that those quality of contact numbers make him appear to be — and I think it’s perfectly reasonable to believe that — I’m just not sure how useful he is relative to the rest of the options available to him. And that’s the other thing here: exactly which bums are you referring to that are still stinking up the roster?
Right now the bullpen is Jordan Romano, Tim Mayza, Trevor Richards, Rafael Dolis, Adam Cimber, Ryan Borucki, Jacob Barnes, Tayler Saucedo, and Patrick Murphy. I’ll acknowledge that when you sent this question it may have looked a little different, but not by much. And who from that group is Payamps better than?
Before you say Dolis, let me remind you that he's certainly better than he's looked most of the year now that he's no longer pitching through finger issues. He was more than good enough last season to get the chance to work his way back into the high-leverage mix now that he's healthy.
The choice, then, really comes down to either Barnes or Saucedo.
I wrote about Saucedo last week, noting that he's throwing his fastball harder than ever, and that he's generating more than a strikeout per inning in the big leagues, after striking out 21 in 16 1/3 minor league innings this season. I definitely take this best version of Saucedo over Payamps.
Barnes has a weaker case, because he’s struggled to keep the ball in the ballpark this season and hasn’t always been the best at limiting walks, but swing-and-miss is pretty important in a reliever. Barnes has 13 strikeouts in nine innings with the Jays this season, and 31 overall in 27 2/3 innings. He’s also much more experienced, with a few decent MLB seasons on his resume.
If Payamps genuinely turns out to be elite at suppressing quality contact, then keeping Barnes will look like a mistake. But, honestly, with trade reinforcements still to come, and guys like Tyler Chatwood and (theoretically) Nate Pearson and Julian Merryweather eventually going to reclaim their spots, Barnes and Saucedo probably don’t last all that much longer either.
In other words: I don’t view it as anything close to a big deal.
Hey Stoeten, loving the site and the podcasts, keep up the great work. What are your big picture thoughts on the catching situation? All 4 of Jansen, McGuire, Kirk & Moreno have been seen at different times as the potential long term solution, maybe that's a stretch for McGuire but he has had two hot streaks with the bat. How do you see this playing out over the next year or so. Is Reese on his way out? Jansen came up with the an offensive reputation but has been putrid with the bat to this point. That said management say all the right things about him as a catcher, team mate and leader, will they be prepared to wait for the bat to come around? Is Kirk the biggest trade chip they have considering they likely wouldn't part with other elite prospects or alternatively should he be the starter now?. Could Moreno be the best of them all, even though the catcher of the future tag has been over used over the years and has yet to deliver fully? — Jonathan
Those are definitely all the questions that the Jays have to be asking themselves right now — especially with Alejandro Kirk now off the 60-day IL and optioned down to Triple-A. It’s an interesting situation, but I think you’ve got it basically right. Moreno is going to be the guy long-term, I think. It’s my sense that the organization has felt like this for a long time, and that his performance this year in Double-A has finally really alerted the rest of the industry to what the Jays have felt they’ve had in him for years. Jansen is definitely loved by the organization for things he does that go beyond his disappointing offensive output — his ability to handle the staff goes a long way, and I think that, even though I hesitate to put too much stock in personal catcher stuff, his work with Hyun Jin Ryu in particular makes him valuable. I could see his role getting diminished over the next couple of years, but I have a hard time seeing him going anywhere any time soon.
The choice, really, is between McGuire and Kirk. And it’s a choice that the Jays already made once, when they exposed McGuire to waivers at the start of the season. I think Reese played well enough for a while to keep hanging on to that spot, and he’ll dutifully pop up with a hit — or even a double — every so often, but nothing he’s done offensively changes the fact that he still looks entirely like a journeyman glove-first catcher in the body of a 26-year-old. And at 4-for-31 since June 30, with no walks and only one extra base hit, we’re already starting to see him plummet back to earth. Yes, he’s a better defender right now than Kirk is (and probably will ever be), but Kirk can mash and definitely shouldn’t be held back by McGuire’s presence for much longer — even though he may himself end up making way for Moreno down the line (though if I had to guess, I’d say that’s maybe more of a thing for next year’s trade deadline than this one. (Though I do agree that the Jays’ elite prospects aren’t going to be on the table as the trade deadline approaches unless it’s for something incredibly special.))
Honestly, I don’t see much of a difference between McGuire and Juan Graterol, who is currently slashing .299/.347/.364 for Buffalo/Trenton. McGuire’s career line in Triple-A? .239/.314/.350. I know he’s been better in the majors at times, but that’s who he is. And guys like that are a dime a dozen, unfortunately for him. Guys like Kirk, on the other hand, even with some defensive shortcomings, are quite valuable. I think they make the move soon.
Hey Stoeten, loving the new site and podcast! Bit of a multi-part question: If the Jays were to offer Semien an extension, what would that look like (I read somewhere LeMahieu is a comp of sorts) and what decisions do you think it would force on the front office to accommodate his contract wrt roster needs, extensions for the young core, overall budget, etc — DJ
If the Jays could get Semien to sign the D.J. LeMahieu contract (six years, $90 million) they should do it yesterday. Unfortunately, Semien's whole deal this season seems to have been to play at second base for a year with a view to getting paid next winter like a shortstop, and you can't say he hasn't earned the right to view himself exactly that way. I think that puts him in a different income bracket than LeMahieu — especially since he'll be a year younger on day one of his next deal. Semien is a year and two days younger than George Springer, and that's more like the contract I'd be looking for if I was his agent.
If those are our two extremes the Jays could pretty easily find a way to keep him without having to worry too much about future extensions for their core. Teoscar Hernández will be a free agent going into 2024, which is the year when Hyun Jin Ryu’s contract will come off the books. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette are on path to be free agents for the first time in 2026, which will be the final year George Springer’s deal is on the books. Those players will obviously get quite expensive through arbitration before that, if that’s how the Jays let that happen (they shouldn’t!), but there shouldn’t be any sort of problem keeping a core like that together. The question, as you rightly wonder, is whether Semien should be locked in as another aging part of that core, and what you preclude yourself from doing by making him part of that core — opportunity cost you lose, as the folks in the Jays’ front office might put it.
Adding additional years of Semien at something like $20 million won't break the bank for the Jays either in the short or long term, but it will limit what they can do elsewhere. Right now for next year, according to Cot's, they have Springer (whose salary jumps to $29.7 million), Ryu ($20 million), Grichuk ($10.3 million), and Gurriel ($4.9 million) all on guaranteed deals. They'll also have Vlad, Cavan Biggio, Danny Jansen, Rafael Dolis, Trevor Richards, and Ryan Borucki reaching arbitration for the first time, plus arb. raises coming for All-Star Teoscsar Hernández, as well as Ross Stripling and Adam Cimber. Add in their year 1-3 players and they’re already looking at over $100 million in payroll. That doesn’t seem bad until you remember that they’ll have two rotation spots to fill (currently belonging to Robbie Ray and Steven Matz), will want to spend some real money on at least a couple relievers, and ideally find a way to get better at third base and maybe in a corner outfield spot.
That should be doable, especially since some of those improvements can come through trade — potentially including ones we may see before the end of this month. Moving some of their top up-and-coming middle infield prospects for cost-controlled pitching and then locking in a stud like Semien makes some sense! But a lot of valuations would have to align to make that work, especially if we’re talking about getting it done in the next few weeks. Plus, their glut of arbitration-eligible players, and the raises they’ll command, will only get bigger every year, and this is a front office that prizes flexibility. My guess is that they’re probably much more interested in finding the next Marcus Semien and Robbie Ray — likely on the free agent market in the short-term, but from within their own organization in the long-term — than they are in locking themselves for too long into a team that looks a little too much like these imperfect 2021 Jays, and that they’ll be happy to give Semien and Ray qualifying offers at the end of the season, then reshape some aspects of the team pretty dramatically over the winter. Or that, at least, they’ll very much want to preserve the flexibility to do so.
Hi. I don't understand the disparity between the Jays’ breadth of analytics and what has led to their roster construction; Biggio, Teoscar, Grichuk, even Bichette to some degree all with significant flaws both offensively and defensively. That's almost half a roster. Can you help explain? Thanks. — Jayman
Sure! Literally every player has flaws, and the job of analytics isn’t to find flawless players, but to find the best information possible on players. Scouts, which the Jays use extensively as well, do this too. You still have to make compromises all over the place when it comes to roster construction. And this is especially noticeable when you’re talking about up-and-coming teams with inexperienced players.
Biggio is a versatile guy with one incredibly elite offensive tool that he has so far been able to mostly make work for him. His role is too big right now, so he’s exposed a bit defensively, but it’s hard to find players who are better than him — or who have as good a combination of utility, promise, and cost. He’s not delivering on that promise defensively right now, but given what he did in his first two years in the majors, and basically since his Double-A breakout in 2018, the Jays made a completely understandable choice to give him the chance to fail this year. I suspect his role will be a bit diminished next year if he’s still around.
You could say a few of the same things about Bichette, though I’m considerably more bullish on him both defensively and offensively. He’s also, uh, pretty great? His 2.7 fWAR makes this already the 12th best season ever by a Blue Jays shortstop, and there’s more than two months still left in it. He’s produced 5.3 fWAR over 166 career games! He may ultimately need to move to second base, but the Jays are being smart by giving him the experience to grow into the role, and he’s making strides. No analytics problem here!
Also making strides defensively is Teoscar Hernández. And, similar to José Bautista before him, you can get away with taking a little less defence in a corner outfield spot to get a very good bat like his into the lineup.
Grichuk a bit of a different story, as at the time they extended him he was a guy that the Jays really liked and thought would lower the floor among their outfielders. He’s still only ever shown flashes of becoming the hitter the Jays seemingly thought they could see in him, but they were right that he’s still proven quite useful, despite having a contract that’s now under water. He was really important in helping keep this team afloat early in the season when George Springer was out. I think he’s a fourth outfielder at best on a good team, which is probably the worst case scenario that the Jays would have envisioned, but they weren’t wrong that he raised the floor — and I think they appreciated his work habits and overall attitude, too, which is an asset on a young and rebuilding team as well.
Hey Andrew! Got another one for you. What do you think extensions for Guerrero and Bichette look like? Would 8/$250M for Vlad and 8/$200M for Bo make sense if they promised to continue to build the team around them? I know Vlad is in the Tatis stratosphere, but do you see a path where maybe the players take a little less to stay on a contending team with increased payroll flexibility? They’d also be buying out 3/4 years of arbitration in this scenario, so the players would appreciate that. — Dre
I definitely don’t see a path to getting discounts from those guys, though I’m not sure those numbers you’re suggesting are necessarily discounts.
Jeez. OK. Let me try to think this through:
Vlad is clearly special, so I’d be fine — ecstatic, actually — if they broke the bank for him, but he’s put himself in line for superstar money already anyway, so maybe it doesn’t hurt to wait and see how the rest of this season plays out, how his offseason goes, etc. I also think that while there’s all the reason in the world to believe he’s the real deal, it’s going to be hard to make any $300 million math work with him, because I don’t think a 14-year deal like Tatis got is on the cards.
The Padres paid Tatis $1 million this year (plus a $10 million signing bonus) and bought out all four of his arbitration years at somewhat less than what he’d have otherwise been expected to receive (Tatis gets $5 million next year, $7 million in 2023, $11 million in 2024, and $20 million in 2025 — the record for a fourth arbitration year award is $27 million, set by Mookie Betts in 2020), but then made up the difference buying out free agent years on the back end.
**UPDATE: I’m an idiot and Tatis was, of course, called up on opening day — quite famously, actually! — as @JoshuaHowsam rightly points out. So he only would have had three arbitration years. Rather than me redoing a bunch of math here, let’s just keep that in mind as we read on. The ballpark figures still apply!**
If the Jays did something similar with Vlad they’d have to give him $50 million per season for the following four years and still would fall $7 million short of your eight-year, $250 million suggestion. I don’t think they’re going to be buying out free agent years at $50 million a piece, so that means either lengthening the contract or pushing some of that money up front, and I’m not sure either of those ideas is a great one for the team (financially speaking at least). Let’s say we stick with $250 million and go to ten years. Let’s say the $7 million is a signing bonus, and like Tatis he gets $43 million though his arb years. That would give Vlad $33.3 million each for six free agent years. That’s definitely reasonable — Tatis will make $36 million over the final eight seasons of his $340 million deal — but is it good enough for him? You could push it to $300 million by giving him $40 million per season and bumping his signing bonus to $17 million. Maybe that free agent AAV would mean more to him than reaching Tatis’s $340 million figure, but I don’t know. And I don’t know how much farther the Jays would be willing to go — if they were even willing to go that far, because we’re now talking about going beyond a 10-year deal that runs through Vlad’s age-32 season. The concerns on him, physically, are certainly louder than the concerns about Tatis. Yet, in part because of that, if the Jays aren’t getting a discount on his arbitration years, why wouldn’t they just take it year by year with him and get as much information as they can before committing huge dollars?
The answer: to make sure they keep him in Toronto for as long as possible. That is, of course, what everyone here wants. Personally, I’d be fine with half a decade’s worth of dead money on the Jays’ books if it meant Vlad never played for another organization, but surely the Jays have their limits. And Vlad, who is on course to reach free agency at the conclusion of his age-26 season, doesn’t have a whole lot of incentive to budge from his number at the moment. It will be interesting to watch how this all plays out — and hopefully it does!
Bo’s case, on the other hand, is quite a bit simpler. Is he a shortstop? Because you can’t pay him Franchise Shortstop money if he’s going to be a second baseman (franchise or not). So I don’t think you can really move forward with him — or at least not on any kind of nine-figure deal — until you’re ready to believe he’s you’re shortstop long-term, and I don’t think the Jays are there at the moment, nor should they be.
Hey Andrew! As always, I hope you are well! If like me you see Guerrero, Bichette, Springer, Semien, Ryu, Ray, Manoah, and to a lesser but still important extent Romano, Cimber and Richards as kind of the core of this team right now, which of the players on the 40 man roster do you see as having the most value for trades? I purposely did not include Hernandez, Gurriel, Grichuk, Jansen and Biggio because, other than Hernandez DHing, I think they all have serious flaws that contending teams usually don’t play everyday. — Dre
I am indeed well, thanks! And thanks for the question. First of all, I’ve gotta say I think that’s untrue about Hernández, who has made strides defensively, and this year has been at 0 DRS and -0.3 UZR in right field — far from elite numbers (and Statcast’s Outs Above Average has him at -3), but also far from the disaster Jays fans seem to think he is. I also think Grichuk could easily be useful to a contending team as a fourth outfielder, and that Biggio and Gurriel both definitely have utility too, just not as everyday players. I’d say the same for Jansen, but I don’t think he’s going anywhere.
And, honestly, I don’t think the Jays are really going to be looking to move guys off of their active roster — which, of course, comprises the bulk of the 40-man.
Among current big leaguers I could see Jacob Barnes go as an extra piece in a deal to clear some room, maybe Thomas Hatch if the deal was right, possibly Tayler Saucedo for simlar reasons. Reese McGuire won't fetch much but could be useful for someone and likely won't be able to hold his spot much longer. Santiago Espinal could maybe go if there was a proper third baseman coming back (though he's made himself awfully useful), Brevic Valera theoretically, and Jonathan Davis could maybe help someone as well (but might be a good guy to hold as a pinch runner type for a potential playoff run).
I think the more likely candidates to move are the guys who seem to be getting squeezed out of the Jays' plans.
In Eric Pardinho, Miguel Hiraldo, and Leo Jimenez they have three young top prospects in the low minors who will be Rule 5 eligible this winter if they're not added to the 40-man. Good prospects all, but as the Jays get better those 40-man spots become more precious, and with more heralded guys ahead of them, I'd think they'll be some of the bigger targets for other teams who could maybe be pried loose. The same goes for the Rule 5 eligible guys in Buffalo and New Hampshire who were passed over last year but have put themselves back in the conversation as potential big leaguers — namely Kevin Smith and Samad Taylor.
There are some reliever types and some lesser lights that fall into those categories too. Otherwise, I think we're talking about about guys in the minors who are currently on the 40-man. Elvis Luciano still walks too many guys and probably can't hold his spot much longer. Trent Thornton still has some pedigree too, and could probably use a fresh start. Riley Adams is, like, the number five catcher in the system, but could definitely be useful to someone else. Otto Lopez is having another nice year at the plate, but the Jays have higher profile options coming to their middle infield depth chart.
To get anyone else I think it would have to take a serious blockbuster. Even then, the Jays may not budge. And honestly, I’m not sure they should have to. They can do a lot to help themselves by sticking to moving these types.
How useful is 2015 as a comparison? It’s easy to see a stacked offensive team that’s significantly underperforming its run differential, just waiting to be unlocked by a few aggressive roster upgrades. But it’s also easy to want every year to be 2015.
Also, in retrospect, who won the argument (such as it was) between AA and Shapiro about Alex cleaning out the farm system at the deadline in 2015? I realize process and outcome are to some extent separate issues, but looking at the 2015 Blue Jays Transactions page on BBRef, I think the only guys they gave up who accumulated more than one WAR in the intervening half-decade are Matt Boyd (8.2), Daniel Norris (5.2), and Miguel Castro (3.1). Besides those guys, it seems like everyone else who got shipped out has been a bit of a bust: Jeff Hoffman (-1.4), Dawel Lugo (-1.1), Jairo Labourt (0.1), Nick Wells and Alberto Tirado (neither made the majors), Jimmy Cordero (0.2, and he apparently pitched 1.1 innings for the Jays in 2019), Jesus Tinoco (0.4), Rob Rasmussen (-1.1), etc. Jake Brentz finally made the majors this season and has been worth 0.9 WAR already, so I’m not sure how to count him. It also may bear noting that for everything that went out of the farm system, that was the year they signed Vladdy, which certainly goes some way towards evening out the ledger. — Simon
To start with your initial question, I definitely understand why people want to point to it as a comparison, but we’re talking about teams in very different positions in their championship window, and front offices in very different situations. The 2015 Jays were not only built around older stars, they had Paul Beeston already on his way out, and Alex Anthopoulos likely to go with him — unless he was able to pull a rabbit out of his hat. The pain of a rebuild was maybe not on the horizon, but it wasn’t too far over the horizon. So Anthopoulos and Beeston said “fuck it” and went all-in based on the (correct) belief in the team they had, the state of the AL East, and their run differential.
Right now Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins are in, like, year zero of their championship window, so have very different incentives here.
As for the second part of your question, as you point out, I don’t know that Shapiro’s (reported) anger was necessarily about specific prospects as much as it was the principle of dealing so many young assets away. I also think there are cascading effects of those trades that get lost when we simply look at the WAR totals of the guys given up — for example, not having Norris and Hoffman lined up for the 2016 rotation probably led to signing J.A. Happ, which meant they couldn’t use that money to spend elsewhere, or to trading Liam Hendriks for Jesse Chavez to add a rotation option, etc.. But it’s pretty impossible to look at the careers of the guys he gave up and not think Alex Anthopoulos was ultimately validated in that one.
The infield D needs to improve, and ideally with some offence too. Are the Jays interested in a FA shortstop next year with Semien departing? Should they trade for one this year as a preview and play them at third? Story, Báez, Correa, Seager? Is Groshans in demand and the would the Jays give him up? Is Bryant good enough defensively to improve the infield this year? Should be an interesting trade deadline. Correa for Biggio would hurt but... — Jay
I mean, I’d definitely do Correa for Biggio, but Houston is first place in their division so they’re absolutely not going to give up one of their best players. I wouldn’t trade Groshans for a rental, however, and I doubt the Jays would either. I think Bichette is probably their shortstop next year, and I also think that’s fine.
But you’re not wrong that the Jays’ third base defence needs improvement. That may be as simple as using Santiago Espinal there more often, or giving someone like Kevin Smith a chance if he remains on the roster after the trade deadline. Ideally there would be someone left-handed who could take some reps there away from Biggio, which I suspect had something to do with the promotion of the switch-hitting Breyvic Valera last week. Though, obviously, these solutions aren’t quite as sexy as I’m sure you’re hoping.
As for the guys you did mention, Story and Báez aren’t hitting enough to really be in the conversation. Seager grades out similarly to Bichette by the metrics at shortstop and also plays for the Dodgers, so… not happening. His brother Kyle, of the Mariners, is indeed a lefty hitter who can play a capable third, but he’s not hitting well this year and Seattle keeps hanging around the AL West race despite their awful run differential.
I think Bryant is probably the most realistic target out of the names you’ve mentioned, but he’s really only just average at third defensively. That’s an improvement on Biggio, for sure, and if you are talking about getting both Bryant and Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel, that would be a pretty spectacular addition for the Jays — especially since Kimbrel isn’t a rental. However, my guess would be that other teams, with better playoff odds, will be more likely to pay the Cubs’ price for that pair, and that the Jays will more likely do something on the order of last year’s sneaky-good-but-unspectacular upgrades at the deadline, rather than any sort of a huge blockbuster.
Thanks for your ongoing excellent coverage - you are my favourite insight on the Jays.
Question: any idea why Sportsnet has done away with showing pitch velocity on each pitch? I recall they did this in some past years, and it's a staple of most other broadcasts I watch. There would easily be room to add it into the info box and I often wonder what speed a given pitch was. It is sometimes mentioned by the broadcasters, so seems they do have this info, just choose not to share it with viewers consistently. — Jeff O
Thanks so much for the kind words, man! They show velocity on their strike zone graphic, under the dot that marks the location of each pitch.
Hi Andrew, I've thoroughly enjoyed your analysis dating back to DJF. I may have read all words of all posts since! Thanks for taking a Q&A.
The Blue Jays (and Mariners) were recently featured on the YouTube Game of the Week. The broadcast (team) was derided by many but I thoroughly enjoyed the different takes, rambling conversations and new perspectives to the games we all watch and follow so closely. Their commentary made me wonder to what extent our (collective?) assessment and analysis of the Blue Jays (or any team) depends on the extent to which we are watching and listening through the same commentary and analysts. Between MLB's blackout policy and with Rogers, we Jays fans really only have one announcer set to listen/watch the game with. Might we have a shared sense through these eyes and voices and to what extent might that be different if we had a different crew for colour and play-by-play? — Jonathan
Thanks so much for the kind words man! That’s a great question — and I think it’s important to note that this has been especially true for the Blue Jays this year because of their lack of a dedicated radio broadcast.
It’s also worth mentioning here that it doesn’t yet appear as though Rogers has plans to bring a dedicated radio call back, despite the fact that they claimed initially to be getting rid of it “in an effort to minimize travel and closely adhere to team, league, and government protocols related to the pandemic.”
It would be a shame if they didn’t. And shameful. And I think it gets to your question, Jonathan, at least a little bit. There was definitely a time that I experienced when a certain kind of Jays fan gravitated to the radio call over the TV broadcast, and to Mike Wilner’s Jays Talk, which was way ahead of the curve when it came to understanding and being open to all the sorts of newfangled stats that are now much more commonplace. But that certainly wasn’t the only type of person listening, and I tend to not think the one TV voice creates a monoculture either. There are all kinds of places to consume Blue Jays and baseball content, and while Buck and Pat and Dan certainly have very noticeable voices, especially among the sorts of casual fans who maybe just turn the game on as background noise. But there’s still a weird wonderful world out there, I think — and I think all the folks coming here and reading and supporting what I do are a testament to that.
Hi Andrew - thanks for doing these. So as we limp into the All Star Break, what are we to do? I think there are too many flaws with the team to address at the trade deadline and if the starting pitching starts to swoon a bit, we'll be in even more trouble. Seems to me they have to plan for 2022 now. Do you think they'll make any impact trades with this in mind, or will they wait until the off-season. — OzRob
I understand that I’ve let these questions get a bit stale and I hope that the sweep of the Rangers, which happened after this was submitted, has lightened the mood a bit. But even before then they were never going to be sellers.
Stoets, I've always valued your insight and appreciate this opportunity to ask for it. I'm guessing my email is not the only one talking trades. Cavan Biggio is a lovely piece for the team and his value and tools as a utility player/bench guy are unquestionable. But an everyday 3rd baseman? He is not. Not on a team with playoff aspirations. I'm not suggesting trading him, I want the sons to stay together forever. But I'm wondering if you think the front office thinks getting an upgrade for third is as important as I do and the only position player deal they need to make? — TV Bob
I think they’re telling us with some of the additional usage of Santiago Espinal, and the call-up of Breyvic Valera, that they see things the same way. I’ve inferred as much just from the tone of some of the things Ross Atkins has said over the course of the year, too — always making his belief that Bichette is a shortstop ring a little bit louder than his belief that Biggio is an everyday third baseman.
That said, I’m not sure Atkins thinks third base is a necessary upgrade. He said this week that if they can’t improve their run prevention they could always find a way to upgrade their run creation instead. I don’t think he’s going to get locked in on one specific way to improve. But you’re not wrong that it’s a problem.
I hope and believe that the Jays will continue to be buyers, but just for fun and maybe help calibrate what we should expect to pay as buyers, what do you think would be a reasonable return if the Jays were to sell Ray and Semien? — Will
Oh boy, I don’t really even want to entertain this one, to be honest! Basically I’d hope to get something like one of the better guys I listed above that I thought are most likely to get moved by the Jays. Thomas Hatch, Eric Pardinho, and Miguel Hiraldo for the pair? Sure. It’s a deal. But I’m not going to pretend I’ve put a lot of thought into this!
If 2022 is a significantly shorter season due to strike or lockout (which seems likely) how much does that throw a monkey-wrench into things like injuries, development, drafting, etc. so soon after a disruptively short 2020? And how does that factor into potential trade costs and service time? — Mister MEH
Trade costs and service time? I don’t see that being affected at all by a potential labour stoppage, to be honest. Drafting shouldn’t be affected either, because amateurs will still be playing, and scouting departments will still be able to do their thing. Injuries and development, though? A prolonged work stoppage would definitely cause major disruption there. Not that I think the owners will care!
My favourite days are the days when one of your articles ends up in my inbox. Pound for pound, best baseball writer around. Ok, trade deadline is coming up and I’m hearing a few names being bandied about - with Nelson Cruz’s name recently entering the mix. How about, and I know this is nuts, but another Twin - Josh Donaldson. Hear me out, the Jays need an upgrade at third (need may be too strong of a word, but it wouldn’t hurt) and Josh is having a decent year. I understand the issues with the locker room, but he’s been pretty far removed from most players on the team that I’m not too sure his past behaviour would matter much. If the Twins eat some of his contract, it might not take much to get him. Am I high, or could he be a target? Steve D. — Steve D.
Thanks so much for the kind words man, and I’m definitely aiming to make these days happen a bit more frequently as we head toward the trade deadline and the home stretch!
I think you’re definitely right that there’s probably enough of a Blue Jays culture that’s developed by now that brining a guy like Donaldson back into the clubhouse today probably wouldn’t be viewed as quite the poison pill it was when the Jays moved on from him in late-2018. It would also be fun as hell — from the outside at least — and the contract isn’t even that bad if the Twins eat some of it (he’s owed $50 million over the two years after this one, which includes an $8 million buyout on a club option for 2024). But he’s 35, durability is a concern, we know what he thinks of the training staff here, and honestly I just think that bridge has probably been burned.
Plus, according to Cot’s, he’s got limited no-trade protection and can block a trade to five clubs. There aren’t too many no-trade lists the Jays aren’t on, so… probably a no-go there anyway.
Hello Andrew, I hope all is well. If you had to rank possible trade deadline acquisitions (Starting Pitcher, Reliever, 3B, lefty bat etc...) in terms of importance, how would it go? How would you react if the Jays acquired an above average starter (Castillo, Marquez or Berrios) who could be around this year and perhaps a few years beyond, but made no more additions to the bullpen? — Noah
Things are great, and I hope they are for you as well man! As to your first question, I might have to go the Ross Atkins route on this one and say that those are all spots where the team could upgrade and that which is most important really depends on the prices. If they didn’t get a starter but got another really good reliever and a third base upgrade, I’d be completely fine with that. If they got someone like Berrios but then didn’t do much else, I’d be comfortable with that, too. I think they definitely could use a bullpen upgrade, but it’s not as worrying as it was a month ago, and if they were to add a starter they would also be able to move one of their current ones into a relief role. Starting to get some depth back there again.
Hey Andrew! Hope you’re doing well! The way I see the Jays roster, they’re 1 quality starter, two quality relievers, a third baseman and a left handed power bat (the latter two ideally would be combined in one player) away from World Series contention. Do you see these as similar roster holes? It’s actually quite exciting to think how few holes that really is when compared to just the 2019 season. — Dre
I think you’re totally right. But also… I think that’s a big ask for a trade deadline! Especially for a team that isn’t leading it’s division.
Is there a trade out there where the Jays should consider dealing Nate Pearson? I recognize that there is a risk that he eventually becomes Chris Carpenter (or, to give an even more extreme example), Roy Halladay? On the other hand, he could end up being another version of Aaron Sanchez (in which case Pearson might be at peak trade value right now; imagine if Sanchez had been traded in 2016? I guarantee he would have secured more than Derek Frigging Fisher!).
Is there a situation where you look at someone like a Kyle Kendrick and/or Craig Kimbrel given that the Cubbies are likely to be sellers now (at least according to Ken Rosenthal)? Or some other high end pitcher with years of control who might become available?
Prospect capital is great, but the Jays have a very erratic rotation, but an offense that probably is World Series worthy. I'm not suggesting an Alex Anthopoulos clearout of the excellent farm system, but at some point, you've got to recognize the limited opportunities to win it all and take a chance.
Love the column and have recommended to all and sundry!
Cheers, Marshall Auerback — Marshall
Thanks so much, man! I do definitely hear where you’re coming from on this, but I certainly wouldn’t be considering it very hard. I don’t think you have to believe Pearson is going to turn into a Chris Carpenter to believe that he can hold a whole lot more value than he has currently. He’s been hurt all season. His value is low, not high. The second he shows he’s healthy, it goes way back up. So I think if you’re getting out of the Nate Pearson business now it’s only because you’re afraid he’ll never be healthy enough to even look again like he’ll be a starter, and I don’t think that’s a good bet to make.
(And though this wasn’t known at the time you submitted your question, I think the fact that Ross Atkins said this week that the club learned Pearson is dealing with a sports hernia — something he called a “huge relief” after they’d searched all season for the cause of his recurring groin problem — makes it even more imperative that the Jays continue to hold and work with one of the best pitching prospects in the game.)