Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette was the subject of trade speculation last week, when a report suggested the Cubs had shown interest in the two-time All-Star. Any kind of Bichette trade always seemed far-fetched and Toronto general manager Ross Atkins shot down the possibility in a chat with reporters (including Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet and Scott Mitchell of TSN) this afternoon.
Atkins called Bichette a “really good player” and pointed to the scarcity of impact position player talent available this offseason, suggesting that it’s only natural other teams would contact the Jays about his availability. Nevertheless, Atkins made clear it’s not something the Jays are pursuing. “We are very fortunate to have him and he is our shortstop moving forward,” Atkins said. “Rumors, speculation, there’s usually something (to them), but in our case, Bo is our shortstop moving forward.”
The Jays have the star infielder under contract for two more seasons. Bichette signed a three-year deal to buy out his arbitration campaigns on the eve of Spring Training. He is set for an $11MM salary next season and will make $16.5MM in his final year before free agency. That’s a price the Jays will happily pay for a shortstop who hit .306/.339/.475 over 601 plate appearances, numbers right in line with his career marks.
Toronto has openly looked for ways to add more offense alongside Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The Jays are a reported suitor for Shohei Ohtani and have shown interest in a reunion with Matt Chapman. Chapman, Brandon Belt and Whit Merrifield all hitting free agency has subtracted a trio of regulars from the lineup.
As they reload on the heels of an 89-win season that ended in the Wild Card round, the front office is unsurprisingly open to short-term acquisitions. Atkins said the team isn’t averse to trading for a player who is one year from free agency (Nicholson-Smith link). The GM didn’t mention any specific targets. Juan Soto, Corbin Burnes, Shane Bieber, Ha-Seong Kim and Max Kepler are among the rental players who appeared on MLBTR’s list of the Top 25 offseason trade candidates earlier this month.
Right-hander Alek Manoah also appeared on that list. The Jays have signaled some openness to moving the enigmatic hurler on the heels of a disastrous season. However, Nicholson-Smith suggests (on X) the team is more inclined to hold onto Manoah rather than selling low. At the start of the offseason, Atkins implied he was the in-house favorite to occupy the fifth spot in the rotation behind Kevin Gausman, Chris Bassitt, José Berríos and Yusei Kikuchi.
Manoah was a Cy Young finalist as recently as 2022, when he pitched to a 2.24 ERA over 31 starts. Everything went in the wrong direction this year. Manoah allowed 5.87 earned runs per nine over 87 1/3 innings. His walk rate more than doubled while his strikeouts fell to a career-low 19% mark. He didn’t pitch again after being optioned on August 10. Last month, Atkins said the West Virginia product had received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his throwing shoulder.
The GM indicated today that Manoah is throwing as part of his offseason routine. He seems on track to be a full-go for Spring Training. He’d seemingly enter exhibition play as the #5 starter, although the Jays have at least kicked the tires on possible rotation acquisitions. They’ve been tied to Yoshinobu Yamamoto and were reportedly involved in the Aaron Nola market to some extent before he re-signed with the Phillies. If the Jays were to land another starter, it’d reignite speculation about Manoah’s availability.