Apart from the red hot San Diego Padres, the youthful Toronto Blue Jays were the most active team on Monday. With a 18-14 record heading into deadline day, the Blue Jays front office saw an opportunity to push for an unexpected playoff spot and they took it.
The Blue Jays made five acquisitions leading up to the August 31 deadline. While some of the outgoing pieces are yet to be determined, enough information has been released to give the trades an initial grade.
So let’s get started.
Daniel Vogelbach for Cash Considerations
Daniel Vogelbach had a strong 2019 season despite his .208 average. Thirty home runs and a .341 OBP led Vogelbach to his first All-Star appearance in 2019 but he started slow in 2020 and with the shortened season comes a shortened leash. After being DFA’d by the Mariners the Blue Jays jumped on the bench bat and got him for little to no cost.
The most interesting part of the acquisition is the fact that the Blue Jays already had a Vogelbach type bat on the roster in Rowdy Tellez. But if Vogelbach can hit a meaningful home run or two off the bench down the stretch, this trade is a win. If not, it doesn’t hurt the team in the long run.
(Update: The Blue Jays DFA’d Vogelbach on September 1. Cutting his Blue Jays career quite short.)
Taijuan Walker for a PTBNL
Another deal with the Mariners, but this one will have a larger impact than the previous. Walker has been a productive pitcher in the major leagues in the past but has only pitched a combined 14 innings between 2018 and 2019. This year in Seattle, Walker had an ERA of 4.00 in 27 IP with 25 strikeouts and eight walks. Walker made his debut for Toronto against the Baltimore Orioles on August 29 and impressed. Walker threw six shutout innings while allowing four hits and walking three. If the Blue Jays can get that kind of production from Walker consistently this trade will be a massive win. Walker is a pending free agent at season’s end but at the age of 28 it might be worth looking into an extension. Depending on his results for the remainder of the season, of course.
Among AL East starters:
2.92 ERA (1st)
1.11 WHIP (3rd)
.226 BAA (3rd)
3.27 ERA (2nd)
1.09 WHIP (2nd)
.205 BAA (2nd)
— Scott BlueJaysAlways (@BluejaysAlways) August 30, 2020
The prospect heading to Seattle is unclear but according to sources the return will be a top 30 prospect from the Blue Jays’ farm system. Expect the player to be closer to the 30 range than the 15.
(Update: The prospect heading to Seattle is Alberto Rodriguez, a 19 year old outfielder. Rodriguez slashed .301/.364/.422 in 47 games in rookie ball in 2019. He was not a top 30 prospect within the Blue Jays farm system.)
Robbie Ray & Cash for Travis Bergen
Saying Robbie Ray has struggled this season would be an understatement. Ray has pitched 31 innings to the tune of a 7.84 ERA. His biggest issue? His control. Ray has walked 31 batters in those 31 innings and 10 of those walks have come around to score. Aside from this season, Ray’s worst season saw a BB/9 of 5.1. Ray’s stuff is electric which has led to his career K/9 of 11.1 but if he can’t cut down on the walks, the strikeouts won’t matter. An important thing to remember is that 31 innings is a small sample size, but still, the walks is a major concern. If Pete Walker can fix Ray’s control issues he could be a massive help to the Blue Jays pitching staff.
To acquire the struggling lefty, the Blue Jays had to part with 26 year old, left handed reliever Travis Bergen. Bergen was successful in the minor leagues previously, but that success has not translated to the major leagues. Most notably, Bergen had an ERA of 0.50 across 35.2 innings in 2018 for AA New Hampshire. But in his 21.1 major league innings he has an ERA of 5.06.
If Ray can come anywhere close to his form from 2017-2019 the Blue Jays will have found a diamond in the rough. Like Walker, Ray is a free agent at season’s end and will not impact the teams payroll in the long term. It’s a low risk, high reward trade.
Jonathan Villar for Griffin Conine
This trade came out of left field. With the Marlins challenging for a playoff spot…? 2020 is something else.
With the Marlins fighting for a playoff spot they were looking to upgrade and with the supposed return of Isan Diaz, Jonathan Villar became expendable. With Bo Bichette still sidelined the Blue Jays pounced at the opportunity to add a middle infielder on an expiring contract. Villar will take over at shortstop until Bichette’s return and then play in a utility role around the infield. Villar will add something to the Blue Jays that they seem to not have had for years. A genuine base stealing threat. Villar led the National League in stolen bases in 2016 with 62. He had 40 for the Orioles last season. A career .261 hitter, Villar will help fill the utility role that both Joe Panik and Brandon Drury failed to do this year.
Charlie Montoyo on Jonathan Villar
"He can play everywhere, steal bases … that's a great addition for us."
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) August 31, 2020
Going back to Miami is 23 year old outfielder Griffin Conine. Conine was a second round pick by the Blue Jays in 2018 and showed serious pop in Lansing last year hitting 22 home runs and slugging .576. Conine’s biggest issue is his strikeout rate. In 2019 he struck out in over a third of his plate appearances. Conine was ranked as the Blue Jays #13 best prospect entering 2020 so the price is somewhat steep but his strikeout rate is worrying.
This deal is harder to grade as it depends more on how Conine develops than what Villar will do in a Blue Jays uniform but for now I like the trade more than I hate it.
Ross Stripling for 2 PTBNL
When the deadline seemed like it had come and past the Blue Jays came out of nowhere with one more deal. They acquired RHP Ross Stripling from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Like Ray, Stripling has struggled this season to the tune of a 5.61 ERA but has been a solid pitcher for the Dodgers since debuting in 2016. Stripling has a career ERA of 3.68 alongside a career average of 8.6 SO/9 and 2.2 BB/9.
While one of the players has yet to be named the other now has. Kendall Williams, a second round pick in 2019 is heading to the Dodgers. Williams, a right handed pitcher just turned 20 years old last week and has only pitched 16 innings in rookie ball since being drafted out of high school. Williams has a large frame (6’6”) and his fastball sits around 92 MPH. Still very raw like most high school pitchers it’s hard to project Williams’ major league future. Williams’ MLB ETA is 2023.
Ross Stripling can help fill out the Blue Jays staff this year. Unlike everyone else the Blue Jays acquired this week he is not on an expiring deal. Stripling isn’t free agency eligible until 2023 which is why he cost a borderline top 10 prospect in the Jays system to acquire. Expect the other PTBNL to be of less value.
Stripling needs to return to his form of recent years or this trade can go sour for Toronto. I believe he will, but this trade comes with risk.