It isn’t open season on Toronto Blue Jays veteran players this winter, but once the club severed ties with Troy Tulowitzki, the team made one thing clear; anyone can be moved, even if there’s $38 million left on their contract.
Compared to recent years, the tone has shifted towards the Blue Jays being sellers this offseason rather than buyers. Toronto got a head start on their roster retooling a few weeks ago by trading Aledmys Diaz to the Houston Astros.
After the team released Tulowitzki on Tuesday, they surely aren’t done augmenting their roster by trading away at least one, if not a few more veteran players ahead of the 2019 season. Here are a few names who could be dealt by Opening Day.
1. Marcus Stroman (starting pitcher)
With two years of team control remaining on Marcus Stroman, he’s a very attractive option for a team looking to bolster their starting rotation. Stroman comes with several years of big league experience, some postseason pedigree and displayed flashes of brilliance in Toronto.
Reds interested in a possible deal for the Jays’ Marcus Stroman.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 13, 2018
For the Blue Jays, they’d be selling low on the 27-year-old who’s alternated between good year-mostly injured year-bad year-good year-injury shortened year. A shoulder injury and nagging blisters sidelined Stroman’s 2018 campaign and he finished with a career-high 5.98 ERA and a career-low 19 starts in 2018.
Most would agree that the 2018 season was not an accurate reflection of the true pitcher that Stroman is, which makes him a prime bounce-back candidate in 2019. This is likely why Ross Atkins’ phone is ringing off the hook inquiring about Stroman’s availability.
Buster Olney of ESPN reported the Cincinnati Reds of all teams are interested in the right-hander. It’s easy to see plenty of clubs going after someone like Stroman, but it seems like he’s more valuable to the Blue Jays right now as a 200 inning starter rather than a trade chip.
2. Russell Martin (catcher)
One of the few remaining mainstays from those 2015-2016 postseason Blue Jays squads, Russell Martin enters the final year of his five-year, $82 million contract signed back in November of 2012. Martin saw significantly less playing time behind the plate in 2018, starting 71 games at catcher.
Despite a .194 batting average, Martin managed to walk at a fair clip, with a .338 on-base percentage in 2018. By the way, that was the highest OBP on the team. Even though his peripheral numbers weren’t there, the veteran catcher found a way to contribute.
Unlike Troy Tulowitzki, there’s no doubt that Martin will receive playing time in 2019. The question is whether that will be with the Blue Jays, or a completely different team.
Troy Tulowitzki is working out at Long Beach State and said to be in best health in a long time. This could be first in a line of moves for the Blue Jays, who continue to look to deal Russell Martin, sources tell Yahoo Sports. Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez could move, too.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 11, 2018
That $20 million salary looms large over Martin, which means the Blue Jays would need to pay down a significant portion – at least $10 million – to make a deal palatable with a trade partner.
Of all the remaining trade chips, Martin looks the likeliest to be dealt in the coming weeks. Now that the Blue Jays have Danny Jansen behind the plate, Martin becomes an afterthought on the roster. The Blue Jays may ultimately choose to keep him, but they’d be wise to free up another roster spot.
3. Ken Giles (closer)
Ken Giles arrived unexpectedly on the Blue Jays roster in July of last year. He had fallen out of favour within the Houston Astros organization and got together with the Blue Jays to make a closer-for-closer swap.
At the time, Giles was pitching in the minor leagues after an argument with his manager A.J. Hinch, but once Giles arrived in Toronto, he looked like his old self again. The 28-year-old went 14 for 14 in save situations and rebounded down the stretch, posting a 4.12 ERA in 21 appearances for the Blue Jays.
For contending teams who need a closer and aren’t willing to overpay someone like Craig Kimbrel to pitch the ninth inning, why not go for Giles instead? He has two years of team control remaining, at a reasonable rate for a late-inning fireballer.
One executive told Sportsnet that he is available for a trade.
Relievers and closers are more commonly dealt ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline, which gives the Blue Jays the chance to build up Giles’ trade value before potentially flipping him next July.
4. Aaron Sanchez (starting pitcher)
Has anyone on the Blue Jays roster had more bad luck the last two years than Aaron Sanchez? In 2016, he won the American League ERA title and blossomed into a promising young starting pitcher. Then, injuries sidelined his last two seasons, which raises a lot of questions about his durability moving forward.
#BlueJays are clearly asking a lot for Marcus Stroman & Aaron Sanchez.
Heard today that the price is still uncomfortably high for some interested clubs. From Jays’ perspective, Paxton return might be a useful general comp (2 yrs control). Other teams may not see it that way
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) December 12, 2018
Despite those injuries, the Blue Jays are fielding calls on the Barstow, California native. With his 2016 breakout campaign two years in the rear-view mirror, the most the Blue Jays should be hopeful for with Sanchez is a healthy season … then they can potentially talk about trading him.
Similar to Stroman, Sanchez’ trade value is severely suppressed. Frankly, the Blue Jays would be giving up on Sanchez if they were to trade him this offseason. Between he and Stroman, Sanchez arguably has the higher upside, but also comes with more baggage.
Any front office would be wise to inquire with the Blue Jays about Sanchez’ availability. It’s the exact type of high risk/high reward arm who could have a big impact on a contending roster.
Sanchez is the ultimate wild card for this Blue Jays pitching staff, but he’s a wild card the Jays can ill afford to hand over quite yet.