Today in MLBTR: Wednesday, July 28

The trade deadline is just two days away, and though the Blue Jays are maybe stuck in the mushy middle a little too much to really pull off a blockbuster, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to make moves — or that they aren’t being mentioned in all kinds of speculation.

Which speculation? Which deals that don’t directly involve the Jays are still going to affect them? Let’s take a look through some of the latest rumours and rumblings from the always invaluable MLB Trade Rumors and find out!

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Max Scherzer

The Nationals’ three-time Cy Young winner could be the prize of the deadline, and somewhat unbelievably the Jays are reportedly in the mix to land him.

Scherzer would make any team better. His resume speaks for itself, and he’s pitching as well as ever, with a 2.83 ERA this season and 142 strikeouts in 105 innings despite turning 37 years old this week. In a vacuum the Jays should absolutely be interested in adding a player like that, but this still seems odd. Scherzer won’t play for the Yankees but would for the Jays? That’s unusual, to say the least. We had also heard earlier in the week that he strongly prefers the west coast — and as a player with 10 years of service time in MLB, the last five with the same club, he’s can block any deal he wants to. There is also the contract factor, which is complicated. Scherzer is a pending free agent, but there was talk earlier in the week that he’ll need an incentive (such as a contract extension) in order to waive his 10-and-5 rights.

It’s unclear how this process is going to play out, but the chatter at the moment is that the Nationals would like to get a deal worked out soon enough to give Scherzer and his agent, Scott Boras, a chance to get the contract details ironed out. That could mean as early as tonight, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network.

With their farm system and financial flexibility, the Jays — if they really wanted to — could conceivably find a way to offer the best package to Washington and the best contract to Scherzer. I honestly have a very difficult time believing that’s how this is all going to play out though. I have a much, much easier time believing that they’re simply being used to bid up the prices.

I could be wrong there. The Jays have money to spend on the free agent market this winter and a need for pitching, so if Scherzer was going to be their main target and this is the only way to ensure that happens, exploring it is completely understandable. And if I’m right? Then they should bid up the prices anyway. Make the Dodgers or the Giants hurt as much as possible to get this deal done.

Joey Gallo

The Jays had Corey Dickerson start a rehab assignment with Buffalo here on Wednesday (he went 2-for-4 with a double), which means they are on track to very soon have five outfielders on their MLB roster (Dickerson, Randal Grichuk, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Teoscar Hernández, George Springer). So why should they be thinking about adding another one?

The simple answer: because he’s very good.

The Jays are reportedly interested in Gallo, according to not just Tuesday’s tweet from Levi that I was responding to above, but one from Morosi as well.

How would the Blue Jays line up if they were to add Gallo? I think you’d be looking primarily at Dickerson in left, Springer in centre, and Gallo in right, with Teoscar moving primarily to DH, Grichuk to the bench (where, based on his performance over the last two months (today’s home run at Fenway not withstanding), he belongs), and Gurriel most likely in Texas.

It’s not pitching help, no. But it would be a pretty big defensive upgrade in right, an upgrade in left, and a couple of legitimate lefty bats added to the lineup. Plus, you have Gallo for an extra year, and the chance to re-sign him before he hits the open market (though his agent is also Boras, who generally tends to marshal his clients toward free agency).

Gurriel has a team-friendly contract and won’t reach free agency until the end of the 2024 season. He also is a little bit penned into left field by the shape of the Jays’ roster and the club’s recent pivot to “win now” mode. A move to a rebuilding team like the Rangers could give him the chance to explore a transition to third base — as Nick and I discussed on last week’s Blue Jays Happy Hour — so definitely would make sense on that end as well. Unfortunately, Gurriel would only be at most a secondary piece in a trade for a player of Gallo’s calibre. The price the Jays would have to pay to land him would certainly hurt a lot. But the extra year of control and the Jays’ lack of left-handed power makes this kind of a no-brainer for me. Do it.

Richard Rodríguez

Here’s a name we’ve heard linked to the Jays already this month, and one that just isn’t getting any sexier.

Rodríguez lost a ton of spin on his pitches after the "sticky stuff" crackdown in mid-June, and it's showing in his results. In July so far he's allowed six runs (all earned) over eight innings, striking out just six. Strikeouts haven't been his calling card this season (he's struck out just 22.8% of the batters he's faced this year, well down from the 36.6% rate he had last year), but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t reason for concern. His “stuff+” (explanation here) has clearly trended downward in unison with his spin rate.

I don’t think this should necessarily make Rodríguez a total no-go for the Jays, but I think it absolutely has to cut the price dramatically.

Starling Marte

In a bit of a stunner here on Wednesday afternoon, the Miami Marlins have traded pending free agent outfielder Starling Marte and “significant” money in order to cover the remaining cash on Marte’s deal to the Oakland A’s for left-hander Jesús Luzardo.

Essentially, Miami is buying a pitcher with a lot of upside while Oakland is getting a serious upgrade in the near-term. This affects the Blue Jays in a couple of ways. For one, Oakland is a team that they’re chasing. The A’s currently hold the second wild card spot, with the Jays trailing them by 4.0 games (and the Yankees and Mariners in between). Obviously this hurts the Jays’ chances unless they upgrade in kind. But it also makes you think about what the Jays could potentially land for rentals Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien — particularly if they were willing to send money along with them.

Now, let’s not lose our minds here. Luzardo has upside and was very recently a top 10 prospect in all of baseball for both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, but Luzardo didn’t have a great 2020 and has been quite awful this season. His eye-popping strikeout numbers don’t pop the way they used to, his walk rate has crept up, and he’s been very homer-prone.

Whatever you think the Jays might be able to land for Ray or Semien, the reality is probably less. Still, is there maybe a way for the front office to capitalize on the opportunities there while making other moves to help the team overall? That would be a hell of a needle to thread given just how important Ray and Semien have been this year, and probably a little too Mariners-y to be worth trying, but if you’re the front office the price for Marte has to give you pause.

This kind of an idea might be especially appealing in the case of Semien, provided you think you already have a guy who can step in and hold his own.

For the record, I still think the front office folks need to put on their big boy pants and keep playing for 2021, rather than packing up with one third of the season still remaining and a run differential that plainly suggests a couple tweaks could be all they need. I’m now not quite as ready to trade Smith though!

Odds and ends

• The Reds have acquired former Orioles reliever Mychal Givens from Colorado for a pair of prospects, which probably would have been more notable from a Jays perspective a month ago. The players Cincinnati gave up were not impressive prospects (the best, Noah Davis, ranked number 32 in their system heading into the season according to FanGraphs, with a Future Value of just 35+), but Givens isn’t exactly the most impressive guy either (good strikeout numbers, but too many walks, hits, and home runs). Bad as the Jays’ bullpen has been, I don’t think anyone needs to worry about missing out here.

Elsewhere with the Rockies, apparently the team is dead set against trading 26-year-old right-hander Germán Márquez, and has even gone so far as to tell several of their players that they won’t be moved — “a puzzling stance to take for a club in Colorado’s position,” writes MLBTR’s Steve Adams. Of course, the Rockies can’t always be taken at their word on this stuff, something our old friend Troy Tulowitzki learned all too well. If they waver, there is a lot to like about Márquez, who has posted a sub-4.00 ERA in three of the last four seasons, despite pitching his entire career at altitude. He's been durable, keeps the ball in the ballpark, and generates a decent number of strikeouts, too. He's also owed just $15 million in 2022 and '23, with a $16 million club option ($2.5 million buyout) for 2024.

Back on Saturday it was reported that the Jays were among a handful of teams to have scouts watching the Cubs and Diamondbacks. Both teams figure to be sellers, and Chicago, in particular, has some names that Jays fans have been thinking about as possible acquisitions — notably, third baseman Kris Bryant and closer Craig Kimbrel. More recently it has been reported that the Cubs and Giants were discussing a deal involving Bryant, but that San Francisco backed off proposals that centred around catching prospect Joey Bart. That’s understandable on San Francisco’s part. Bart has not yet made an impact as a big leaguer, posting a 70 wRC+ over his first 117 plate appearances, but still is a very well regarded prospect. For example, he ranks just one spot behind the Blue Jays’ Austin Martin at number 22 on the recent mid-season update to the top 100 list at Baseball America. As much as I think the Jays need to make improvements, and have used terms like “big boy pants” in this very post, that’s way too steep a price for the Blue Jays to be paying for a rental.

• Re: my use of the term “Mariners-y” earlier. Seattle remains in the wild card hunt in the American League, despite having an ugly run differential and a roster that doesn’t seem like they should be talented enough to still be hanging around. For that reason, they seem to be playing both sides of the market. On Tuesday they traded closer Kendall Graveman to their division rivals in Houston. Reliever Rafael Montero went with him, while the Astros sent former Blue Jays reliever Joe Smith the other way, along with Canadian infielder Abraham Toro. Mariners fans were understandably upset by the deal, and, frankly, probably weren’t terribly thrilled with GM Jerry Dipoto went the other way in a deal that broke late on Tuesday, picking up bog average starter Tyler Anderson from Pittsburgh for a pair of prospects. Tempting as it may be, I’d rather see the Jays not do this kind of shit!

• A similar looking sort of deal was made late on Tuesday by the Yankees, who sent a couple of relievers — Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson — to the Reds for a player to be named later. Sadly, this one isn’t about the Yankees playing both sides of the fence. They’re shedding salary so that they have a little bit of extra room to operate under the luxury tax threshold (and to get out from under a player option in Wilson’s contract for next year). Don’t expect them to be quiet.

• Houston, another team that is close to the luxury tax threshold and concerned about going over, have reportedly acquired reliever Yimi García from the Marlins. Not a great arm, but cheap and reasonably effective, so he fits Houston’s plans. Going the other way is Triple-A outfielder Bryan De La Cruz, a 24-year-old who has produced a 112 wRC+ this season but generally isn’t all that well regarded. Doesn’t seem like the Jays have missed out here. They ought to be looking for a better options than this.

• Lastly, while this is not trade deadline-related, I still feel the need here to pass along some great news: Rogers is bringing back a dedicated Blue Jays radio broadcast starting on Friday. First reported by Rob Longley of the Sun, Sportsnet’s Ben Wagner made the move official shortly thereafter.

This is, of course, great news that shouldn’t have to be great news. Sportsnet should have never tried to get rid of the club’s dedicated radio broadcast in the first place, so it’s a little difficult to have a warm fuzzy over this. No word as yet who the second person in the booth along side Wagner will be.