Everybody loves transactions. Whether your team is acquiring veteran players at the trade deadline for a postseason run, or whether it’s a rebuilding club gaining a highly touted prospect, there’s something for every team on the spectrum to enjoy.
The Blue Jays are on the outside looking in for a playoff spot, but that doesn’t mean they’ll stand pat in the days and hours leading up into Friday’s trade deadline. It’s a fluid situation for a club like the Jays who are surely monitoring things closely as they sit withing striking distance of a playoff spot.
In a perfect world, the Jays should aim to replicate their thrilling 2015 trade deadline haul, but the team would not only deplete their farm system in a hurry, but fans’ hearts probably couldn’t take that level of excitement year-after-year.
So, let’s play the part of the Blue Jays’ front office and roll out three potential trade deadline scenarios that could go down this week, and some recent historical examples for context.
1. The “All-in” from 2015
Acquired: David Price (starting pitcher), Troy Tulowitzki (shortstop), Ben Revere (outfielder), LaTroy Hawkins (reliever), Mark Lowe, (reliever)
2021 equivalent: Max Scherzer (starting pitcher), Joey Gallo (outfielder), Richard Rodriguez (reliever), Ryan Tepera (reliever)
It was a trade deadline Blue Jays fans won’t soon forget. A whirlwind 72-hour period kicked off when the Jays shocked the world by acquiring Troy Tulowitzki in the wee hours of July 28, 2015.
But the Blue Jays weren’t finished. They landed the biggest starting pitcher on the market, David Price, and they also upgraded their bullpen by getting Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins, and added a left fielder and leadoff hitter in the form of Ben Revere.
The Blue Jays shipped off 14 players to get five big league pieces in return. And they rode that wave to an AL East title and were two wins away from advancing to the World Series.
At the time of those deals, the Blue Jays were a game under .500, but similar to this year, were underperforming their win-loss record. The front office justified the large acquisition cost because the offence was there, they just needed pitching and defensive reinforcements.
While fans would love to see Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins make a bunch of splashes for superstar players on the trade market like Max Scherzer and Joey Gallo, it seems unlikely the Blue Jays swing that big given the team’s position in the standings.
2. The “One foot in, one foot out” from 2012
Acquired: J.A. Happ (starting pitcher), Brad Lincoln (reliever), Steve Delabar (reliever), Brandon Lyon (reliever), David Carpenter (reliever)
2021 equivalent: Merrill Kelly (starting pitcher), Tyler Duffey (reliever)
J.A. Happ made his first of two tours with the Blue Jays as the centrepiece of a 10-player trade which sent the left-hander from the Astros to Toronto. At the time of the deal on July 20, 2012, the Blue Jays were 3.5 games back of a playoff spot.
It seemed like an odd move to make, as Happ wasn’t a marquee pitcher back then, but in essence the Blue Jays front office wanted to get a head start on their offseason heavy lifting by getting a starting pitcher with three-plus years of control.
By adding a serviceable arm in Happ and not subtracting any notable talent from their roster, the Blue Jays made their team better for the rest of the 2012 season, and the 2013 and 2014 seasons as well.
The Blue Jays have at least two potential starting pitchers walking away this winter with Robbie Ray and Steven Matz, so it makes sense to get a head start on that offseason heavy lifting now and attempt to get at least one starting pitcher at this trade deadline.
Merrill Kelly of the Arizona Diamondbacks seems like a prime candidate; a late bloomer at 32 years old, but next year is his first year of arbitration and he’s under team control through the 2024 season.
If Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker worked magic with former Diamondbacks pitcher Robbie Ray, what if he could do the same if given the opportunity to work with Kelly? According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the right-hander is drawing a tonne of interest from contending teams.
3. The “Stand pat” from 2014
Acquired: Danny Valencia (infielder)
2021: Nobody else
As a fan, there’s nothing less exciting than when your favourite team does nothing at the trade deadline. And as a player, it must feel demoralizing when the front office fails to acquire reinforcements for the team.
That’s exactly what happened to the Blue Jays in 2014. They went into the trade deadline as the second Wild Card team and just 1.5 games back of the Orioles for the division lead. GM Alex Anthopoulos made only one transaction: acquiring Danny Valencia from the Kansas City Royals.
Both Jose Bautista and Casey Janssen were vocal about the front office’s lack of activity at the trade deadline.
“Of course it’s a little disappointing that we somehow weren’t able to get anything done, but everybody around us that’s in contention somehow, and even some teams that aren’t in contention, like the Red Sox, somehow figured it out,” Bautista said.
For whatever reason, whether it was the lack of attractive prospects, or the inability to add payroll at the deadline, Anthopoulos came up short. The Blue Jays subsequently tumbled down the standings and missed the playoffs for the 22nd consecutive season.
With a flurry of bullpen trades which took place earlier this year, the 2021 Blue Jays are already miles ahead of the 2014 Blue Jays in terms of trade activity. It’s hard to fault Atkins and company if the Jays are quiet this week, as asking prices can get astronomical, especially when there are so few options on the market.