5 pitchers Blue Jays should target on the trade market

Dec 6 2022, 7:22 pm

This MLB offseason isn’t as hyperactive as it was last year heading into the lockout, but signs of life have finally emerged. MLB’s Winter Meetings have unearthed a few signings already as teams are sauntering out of hibernation.

Ever since trading Teoscar Hernandez a few weeks ago, activity surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays has been eerily quiet. Most expected a second domino to fall from that trade, but something else has yet to transpire.

Anything can happen at the Winter Meetings, whether it’s a big-name signing or a blockbuster trade. And while Blue Jays fans would love to see the team spend big coin on a free agent pitcher, why not go the trade route instead?

These are some trade targets that make sense for the Blue Jays this offseason, both on the starting pitcher side and in the bullpen.

1. Brandon Woodruff (Milwaukee Brewers – starting pitcher)

  • Age: 29
  • 2022 stats: 3.05 ERA, 129 ERA+, 153.1 IP, 190 SO
  • Salary remaining: 2 years arbitration eligible

Judging by how the Milwaukee Brewers behaved at the 2022 trade deadline, it seems like they’re going through a bit of an identity crisis. They weren’t quite good enough last year, but not bad enough to trade away everything not bolted down.

They have the talent and the resources to act like a big market team, yet judging by their recent transactions, they behave like a small market team. And what do small market teams always do? They trade away players before they get too expensive.

Enter Brandon Woodruff, arguably the Brewers’ best starting pitcher dating back to the 2018 season. He’s about to hit arbitration for the second time, and his salary will eclipse the $10 million mark.

With another two trips through salary arbitration to come, the time might be right for the Brew Crew to cash in their chips to see what Woodruff could bring back. The Blue Jays  need pitching, and aside from spending a boatload on Carlos Rodon, trading for an arm like Woodruff might be their next-best bet.

2. Scott Barlow (Kansas City Royals – reliever)

  • Age: 29
  • 2022 stats: 2.18 ERA, 188 ERA+, 74.1 IP, 77 SO
  • Salary remaining: 2 years arbitration eligible

The Blue Jays already added some swing-and-miss to their bullpen by acquiring Erik Hanson from the Seattle Mariners. Why not supplement him with some more firepower with Scott Barlow from the Royals?

The second-year closer had a career year out of the bullpen with Kansas City, matching career highs in innings pitched and setting a new career low in ERA at 2.18. He also finished 47 games in relief.

Barlow made his living in 2022 by limiting hard contact and inducing wild swings outside the strike zone. His slider and curveball were practically unhittable this season, which complements his fastball, which sits around 94 miles per hour.

The Royals wouldn’t give up Barlow lightly, which means the Jays would need to send a prospect-rich package in order to fetch him. Perhaps another position player would need to come off the roster, or a high-end prospect like Gabriel Moreno would need to be included to balance things out.

But it all depends on how badly the Blue Jays covet relief arms. If they gave up Hernandez in a trade for a reliever, perhaps they’d do it again for another top-shelf reliever like Barlow.

3. Pablo Lopez (Miami Marlins – starting pitcher)

  • Age: 26
  • 2022 stats: 3.75 ERA, 108 ERA+, 180 IP, 174 SO
  • Salary remaining: 2 years arbitration eligible

According to reports, the only pitcher on the Marlins untouchable list is Sandy Alcantara, so Pablo Lopez, come on down… you’re the next contestant on: “The most likely Marlins pitcher to the traded!”

Shi Davidi of Sportsnet wrote that the Jays reportedly discussed a Lopez deal with the Marlins at the 2022 trade deadline, which makes complete sense. But since they may have done some of the legwork on a trade already, maybe this one comes to fruition this offseason?

Since his big league debut in 2018, Lopez’s numbers have been solid across the board. He set career highs in strikeouts and induced way more swing-and-miss compared to previous seasons in 2022.

Lopez comes with two years of team control and would be a solid middle-of-the-rotation arm for the Blue Jays to supplement their top-end pitching like Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman. Bringing in Lopez as a number three suddenly raises the floor of Toronto’s starting rotation that much higher.

4. Merrill Kelly (Arizona Diamondbacks – starting pitcher)

  • Age: 34
  • 2022 stats: 3.37 ERA, 119 ERA+, 200.1 IP, 177 SO
  • Salary remaining: 2 years $16 million total, plus a 2025 club option

On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re looking for a veteran pitcher on the trade market, there might not be a better option out there than Merrill Kelly of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

While Lopez is only 26 years old, the veteran Kelly is 34 with two years left on his current deal with the D-Backs (and a club option for a third). It might seem frivolous to trade talent for a starting pitcher in their mid-30s, but a team like the Blue Jays can afford to take that risk (so long as they aren’t trading away top tier prospect talent).

Merrill was a workhorse for the Diamondbacks in 2022, leading all MLB starters with 33 starts and he logged 200.1 innings and posted a career-best 3.37 ERA with an ERA+ of 119, combined with 177 strikeouts.

Not only was he better at limiting hard contact in 2022, Kelly induced more chases outside the strike zone, which paid dividends towards his renewed success during the 2022 campaign. He’s a smart under-the-radar trade target for the Blue Jays this winter.

5. Joe Jimenez (Detroit Tigers – reliever)

  • Age: 27
  • 2022 stats: 3.49 ERA, 109 ERA+, 56.2 IP, 77 SO
  • Salary remaining: Final year arbitration eligible

The Detroit Tigers had a whole stable of arms they could’ve traded at the 2022 trade deadline, but for whatever reason, they only shipped veteran Michael Fulmer to the Minnesota Twins.

Either they’re keeping those arms to re-load for a 2023 run, or they were waiting for the offseason to get a better haul for some of their prized relievers. Joe Jimenez is among those names, and he is likely drawing the attention of many contenders, including the Blue Jays.

Among relievers with at least 55 innings pitched this past season, he posted the ninth-highest strikeout rate. He’d add some serious firepower to a Blue Jays bullpen that still needs relievers who can get big strikeouts in high leverage situations.

Ian HunterIan Hunter

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