Are Shapiro And Atkins Playing The Field?
It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and let’s be honest – it’s the greatest time of the year, because for us Blue Jays fans, it means that pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Dunedin and spring training will soon begin.
It’s a time of the year for overpriced roses, chocolate, and stuffed animals, but, for us baseball fans, it’s the time when the sounds of the game we all love return to our ears and the warmth of Dunedin opens our cold winter eyes.
And it’s also the time of the year to wonder what the Toronto FO’s next offseason move might be, as I think that they are not finished just yet, and there might be a surprise big trade still to come.
So I’ve never been a fan of articles written about who the Blue Jays FO should trade for – or sign. Actually, I pretty much don’t read any article with a click-bait title out in the ol’ land of the Internet that falls in the trash territory of let’s-pretend-to-be-the-GM.
You know, the whole the Blue Jays should target this guy, the Blue Jays should trade for this dude, or that bro, or … and blah blah blah goes the thought train to nowhere land.
And, I get it, it’s important to get the clicks, as that shit can help pay for next weekend’s six-pack, but the heavy stream of bullshit being jettisoned into the Jays virtual news feed needs to stop - sort of, as I'm about to type up the same sort of shit. However, the offseason being the offseason (ie. no actual games to discuss,) what else is there to write about?
So I’m not about to type up some piece with suggestions on who the Blue Jays FO should go after, but I am going to ponder the idea that you never know what trick could be up Ross Atkins’ winter sleeve.
And I will look at some crazy bullshit trade scenario that likely will not happen, but which will serve as some sort of example of what crazy type of trade could happen – depending on the needs of the two teams involved. Are you following? Because I’m not even sure I am, at this point, but I think I know where I’m going with this - maybe.
I think that it is fair to assume that the team isn’t going to be able to afford a top-tier pitcher like Yu Darvish, or even Lance Lynn for that matter, which is unfortunate because Lance Lynn is good, but maybe too good for the more than $10 million believed to be remaining this offseason for the good Birds of Summer to spend.
And because of this financial reality, I have a real hard time believing that Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins are comfortable investing most of the cash the club has left in the ol’ bank on someone like, let’s say: Chris Tillman - despite what the rumour wind has been whispering recently.
Now, maybe the organization is comfortable with a starting rotation of Stroman/Sanchez/Estrada/Happ and … Biagini? Maybe, they are, or maybe they’re not, but one damn thing that is certain is that the Blue Jays do already have better pitching options in Buffalo today than they did a year ago.
And with the recent trade that sent relief pitcher Dominic Leone and pitching prospect Conner Greene to the Cards for Randal Grichuck, the team is going to have to add another Major League-ready arm to the pen, and hopefully an arm that could go a couple innings.
Who knows? Maybe an arm like Joe Biagini’s. Maybe they move Joe Biagini back to the pen. Maybe they add a reliever through free agency, or maybe via trade. It really is a lot of maybes and shoulder shrugs.
And with the recent additions of Randal Grichuck and Curtis Granderson, the Blue Jays now have a bit of a logjam in the outfield, and even though it isn’t a spoiled-for-choice logjam of talent, it is a jam nonetheless.
So with that in mind, could the team be setting themselves up for a possible ‘Kevin Pillar’ trade? I dunno, but there definitely seems to be reason to, at the very least, think that might happen.
This idea has been tossed around by a couple good baseball thinkers in Blue Jays land over the past couple of months, so there’s that, but they’re just thoughts, albeit reasonable ones, at least.
And if the organization were looking to move Kevin Pillar, let’s think about what team would value his service, and whether or not the Blue Jays would look to trade him for a starting pitcher? If that were the case, they would definitely have to use him as the centerpiece in some kind of package if they were looking to add a good starting pitcher.
If you look at a team like the Milwaukee Brewers, who, with the recent additions of Yelich and Cain, now have a rock n’ roll (– or Kenny Loggins) kind of logjam in their outfield, so you know they must be looking to make some sort of trade to upgrade their pitching.
And it’s kind of hard not to imagine that they are looking to trade right fielder, Domingo Santana, as, of course, he has been subject to trade rumours all holy-hell-winter-sucks long.
Now, a player like Santana is young, has a good bat, and is pretty damn good, as he put up a slash line of .278/30 HR/85 RBIs and posted a .875 OPS in 2017. The thing is, this big 6 foot 5, 220 pound right-handed bat would come at a pretty steep asking price, as the Brewers are probably looking to add a solid pitching piece – or something like that in return. Santana is cheap ($542,000 in 2017) and he isn’t eligible for free agency until 2022.
An outfielder like Santana would be great in Toronto, but I’m not sure that the organization would be able to give the Brewers what they want in return for him – so that is probably that for the Santana scenario - or, is it?
But there are clearly other MLB teams that are in need of an outfielder. And there is one specific MLB team that is looking to maximize – as far as I’m concerned - the tail-end of their competitive window, and that would be the team that sits on the south side of Lake Eerie, the good ol’ Cleveland franchise.
Cleveland clearly needs help in the outfield this season and they are looking to add an outfielder with a right-handed bat, and a player like Santana fits all the right-handed-outfield-bat needs, and he is cheap, young, under control, and good.
However, like I said earlier in this what-the-hell-am-I-typing-up-piece, a player like Santana would probably come at a higher price than – for the sake of saying - a Danny Salazar, who Cleveland would probably have to include in a larger package sent over to the Brewers.
So you may be wondering where the hell am I going with this, because - to be honest - I’m thinking that right about now, as well.
It’s just that when you look at a team like Cleveland, who, lest we forget, was run by Mark Shapiro and all, and you think of what their needs are heading into the 2018 season, the Blue Jays might be able to offer them some help in the outfield if they were to dangle Kevin Pillar (plus a couple prospects) in return for a starting pitcher like Danny Salazar.
Cleveland is a team that doesn’t have a ton of money left in their budget and Kevin Pillar is a cheap centerfielder who would fill a need, and Cleveland does have depth at pitching, so this just might be the type of move that we could see in the near future.
As good as Danny Salazar is, he comes with risk, so Cleveland wouldn’t be able to land themselves an outfielder with as much upside as Domingo Santana, but they could probably get themselves a Kevin Pillar, who may not be the right-handed bat that they are looking for, but would be a great defensive upgrade in CF.
Now, whether or not Cleveland would want to part with Salazar is a whole other beer-sipping story that I’m not going to type up. The Tribe have been waiting for Salazar to live up to the great expectations they have had for him, and they probably would rather gamble on a healthy 2018 campaign from him than trade him for a Pillar-plus-prospects package, but, then again, who knows if he will ever be that guy that Mark Shapiro believed he could be when Cleveland signed him as an international free agent in 2006.
And, believe me, I know the woes that come with a pitcher like Danny Salazar, as my stepdad is a huge Cleveland fan and has done nothing but bitch and moan about him for the past couple of seasons.
It would be a risky trade for both organizations, and I’m definitely not suggesting that it will happen, but I am suggesting that this could be the kind of ninja-style move that is lurking up Ross Atkins’ sleeve, as he continues to play the field.
So far this offseason, the Toronto Blue Jays have been clever and unpredictable and they are not finished. And when I interviewed Atkins for Blue Jays Nation, he did say that they would like to build around the pitching depth that they already have and they would look to do that via trade and free agency for the remainder of the offseason.
No one, of course, knows what the next move is going to be. They might continue to add a little depth – or they could make some kind of surprise move. It’s just that there are a whole lot of back-and-forth talks that go on between GMs, which not even Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal know about. It’s hard to trust what the media reports during the offseason, even though I’m sure some rumours do have credibility - unless, they’re being spread by Jeff Blair, of course.
And let me make this clear: I’m not saying that the Blue Jays are going to go after Danny Salazar, but I am saying that when a team like Cleveland has a need in their outfield, and they have some pitching depth, who knows where they may look to fill this hole?
The clock is ticking for the Tribe, and the best chance that they had to break the curse of Chief Wahoo might have already passed them by in game 7 at Wrigley Field, but if this team wants to actually make a run for the Golden Flags this year, they will have to improve their ‘meh’ outfield, that’s for hell sure.
And if the Blue Jays actually are going to take a crack at some kind of Wild Card fun this year, adding an arm like Salazar (if healthy) sure would give them that chance, amirite? Of course I am, but will this happen? Probably not.
But it’s fun to think about these sorts of things, as we just never know what the baseball executives might do to shock us all. In the end, Kevin Pillar will probably be a Blue Jay on Opening Day. Danny Salazar will most likely be in Cleveland’s rotation, and I’ll be writing another think piece on how smart it was to transition Biagini into the rotation … but with this Blue Jays front office, you just never know.