Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has been vocal about his desire to strengthen both his starting rotation and his bullpen prior to the trade deadline, and in a television appearance on Sportsnet’s Tim & Sid show, he expressed an openness to dealing from his big league roster to do so. Via Sportsnet’s Jeff Simmons, Anthopoulos said that while he’s reluctant to do so, it’s already been discussed with other teams:
“We’re looking to add and it’s hard to take away from the big-league club. I was on the phone with one team (prior to coming on the show) and I mentioned that we may need to be creative. As much as we don’t want to take away from the current 25, we bounced around some ideas and concepts. That’s not the path we want to go down but if we can’t seem to get what we want from a prospect standpoint we’ll need to open it up and be creative, similar to what Oakland and the Red Sox did last year with Jon Lester and (Yoenis) Cespedes. We’re open to doing something like that as well.”
On July 31 last season, the A’s acquired free-agents-to-be Lester and Jonny Gomes from the Red Sox in exchange for Cespedes and a Competitive Balance draft pick. That trade stunned many at the time, given the fact that Cespedes was a significant cog in the contending Athletics’ lineup, but it was certainly not the only trade in which a contending club traded away a notable big leaguer. The Tigers parted with both Austin Jackson and Drew Smyly in a three-team trade with the Mariners and Rays in order to acquire the services of David Price.
Such trades could be more commonplace in 2015, given the parity that exists throughout the game and particularly in the American League. However, when looking at the Blue Jays’ roster, they don’t necessarily have a player with one-and-a-half years of service time remaining (the amount of service that both Cespedes and Jackson had) that fits the exact mold of those two 2014 trades. While both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion have only a 2016 club option remaining on their deals, each also has 10-and-5 rights, meaning that both Bautista and Encarnacion must personally approve a trade to another team.
Dioner Navarro stands out to me as a name that could be moved to a team in need of a catching upgrade. Toronto could either replace him at DH internally or find a DH replacement via trade, as that would be easier to come by than a significant pitching upgrade. Productive part-timers like Danny Valencia, Chris Colabello and Justin Smoak could hold appeal to other clubs as well, though none of the aforementioned names would bring a significant return on his own.
One name that could draw some interest might be Kevin Pillar. The Jays do have an in-house candidate to replace him in center field in the form of Dalton Pompey, who was demoted earlier this year but has slashed .357/.416/.571 in his past 26 Double-A contests. Pillar, though, is controllable through 2020, and he may be changing the perception that he’s a fourth outfielder. His five-plus years of control and elite glove might make him an unlikely candidate to go, but it’s easy to envision teams inquiring.
All of that, of course, is all highly speculative as opposed to anything that Anthopoulos has indicated through his comments. The Blue Jays also have a nice stable of near-MLB-ready talent to deal from in Pompey, Daniel Norris and Miguel Castro, to say nothing of high-upside prospects that are further down the line such as Jeff Hoffman and Max Pentecost.
For the time being, Anthpoulos said that he’s not close on any deals, but he’s “starting to talk a little bit more” with other clubs, calling the All-Star break “the earliest to get something done.” The Toronto GM also expressed a willingness to act quickly, stating: “In season though, timing is huge. Within two or three days or a week, someone’s value can skyrocket so if you have a chance to close (on a deal), you better do it fast.”