The Blue Jays continue to look for controllable upgrades all over their roster, and two of the trade deadline’s most-discussed names are on Toronto’s radar. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the Jays are one of the teams who have spoken with the Rangers about slugger Joey Gallo, while the Jays and Phillies are among the clubs looking at Pirates right-hander Richard Rodriguez, according to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The Jays were initially linked to Rodriguez last month, and it isn’t surprising that Toronto continues to have interest considering that the team’s bullpen has continued to struggle. Despite a +85 run differential, the Blue Jays have a modest 49-47 record due in large part to their 6-12 record in one-run games — a by-product of several blown late leads by a bullpen depleted by injuries. The Toronto front office has tried to address the problem by acquiring Adam Cimber and Trevor Richards in trades within the last month, though an argument can certainly be made that more reinforcements are necessary.
That said, Rodriguez has struggled in July after a very strong start to the season, so he isn’t exactly putting on the best showcase in advance of the July 30 trade deadline. What helps his trade value, however, is that Rodriguez is controlled through the 2023 season via two more arbitration years. Even with some saves boosting his arbitration resume, the righty will remain pretty inexpensive at least into 2022 considering that Rodriguez is playing on a $1.7MM salary in 2021.
Entering today’s action, the Blue Jays were 10.5 games behind the Red Sox for first place in the AL East, and nine games back of the Rays for both second place and the first AL wild card slot. Even in chasing the Athletics for the second wild card berth, 4.5. games and two other teams (the Mariners and Yankees) stand between Toronto and the A’s, so the Jays will need to heat up to get more firmly back into the postseason hunt.
While there hasn’t been any indication that the Jays are considering selling, it isn’t surprising that they seem to be prioritizing players who can help beyond 2021, rather than rental players for what might be a longshot of a playoff chase. Cimber and Richards are controlled through 2024, Rodriguez through 2023, and Gallo isn’t a free agent until after the 2022 season.
Acquiring Gallo would also seem to hint at larger-scale roster moves afoot either this winter or before Friday’s deadline, since the Jays’ outfield picture is already pretty crowded. George Springer, Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Randal Grichuk have all been rotating through the three outfield positions and in the DH spot, and Corey Dickerson will also be part of the mix once he is activated from the injured list. Acquiring Gallo would only add to this surplus, though a trade could itself address the issue. One would imagine the Rangers would have interest in Gurriel and his affordable contract, or maybe the much pricier Grichuk (owed $9.333MM in each of the 2022 and 2023 seasons) could be dealt as part of a larger deal, with the Blue Jays perhaps eating some of that money.
Since the Jays are already heavy in right-handed batters, a powerful left-handed bat like Gallo would add balance and make Toronto’s lineup even more dangerous. Also, as good as the Blue Jays’ lineup is at the moment, the team might lose a key piece this winter if Marcus Semien departs in free agency. Gallo is enjoying a nice rebound after a down year in 2020, as the Texas outfielder is hitting .222/.380/.484 with 24 homers and a league-best 74 walks over 384 plate appearances.