Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)
Aaaannnndddd that's it. 4:00pm EST has come and gone, leading to the end of the non-waiver trade deadline for all teams. When it comes to the Toronto Blue Jays, they were able to move two of the expiring contracts that they had for what appears to be pieces that will strengthen the farm system and solidify the hope of being competitive in years to come. It's hard to not be happy.
Look, if you're disappointed with how the trade deadline turned out for the Jays in terms of the return that they got, or if you were expecting some sort of splash to push them towards the post season this year, I honestly don't know what to tell you. I suppose that the fans that fell in love with this team as a result of the 2015 & '16 seasons aren't used to the Jays not acquiring well-known talent for the sake of October baseball at the deadline. I get it. But the truth is, the writing was on the wall that the Jays probably wouldn't be making a post-season run. At this point (pretty much August), being dead last and 8 games out of the division, 7 games out of a Wild Card spot with 8 teams ahead of them, and with all the moves that division rivals such as the Yankees and Red Sox made to give themselves a more robust opportunity during the post-season, it wasn't in the Jays' best interest to try to match them. With all the talk of attempting to acquire pieces that will enable the Jays to both compete next season and become younger, you have to agree that the Jays didn't stray away or contradict this goal at all. In fact, they accomplished what could be the beginning stages of it.
Starting with the Liriano trade, it's hard to not look at it and be excited. Sure, the Jays had to kick in some cash in order to make the deal a bit more palpable for Houston, but I mean... it's not my money, so it doesn't bother me any. In return for a player that the Blue Jays traded Drew Hutchinson for that is also going to be a rental out of the bullpen for the Astros, the Jays gained Nori Aoki and Teaoscar Hernandez - a high ranking prospects in the Astros' farm system. Hernandez offers the Jays some insurance as he has been performing very well in AAA for the Fresno Grizzlies. As I mentioned in my brief write-up just as the trade was announced, Hernandez may be able to slide into the club quicker than we may anticipate (September call-ups, anyone?), becoming the heir to the throne that Bautista occupies in right-field. With how much Liriano's performance fluctuated every fifth day, it's hard to not be happy with the return that the Jays were able to get for him as an upcoming free agent; even if it meant having to take on Aoki (who we may not even hold on to). I really like this deal.
The Joe Smith trade, on the other hand, is what the majority of people aren't happy with and - for the life of me - I cannot understand why. I have no idea what people were expecting in return for someone like Smith - as solid as he may have been for us. But to expect something like an Andrew Miller return that the Yankees received last season is just asinine. Smith, for all the positives he provided out of the Blue Jays' bullpen, isn't worth top-tier Minor League talent that's ready to break into the big leagues, and I think that's what a lot of people tricked themselves into thinking he was worth. The constant response I've been hearing/reading as a result of this trade is that most people - apparently - would rather have held on to Smith instead of the two lower-tier prospects that the Jays received (LHP Tom Pannone - a guy from my neck of the woods - and SS Samad Taylor). To which I respond, to what end? Honestly, what benefit does holding on to Joe Smith do when the Jays are - pretty much - already out of the playoff race? As a free agent come the end of this season, the chances of Smith cashing in a relatively decent contract from a team not named the Blue Jays are pretty high. That being said, it's smart to try to get something - something - of value in return for a name that most people outside of Blue Jays fandom have to Google rather than seeing him (probably) walk away at the end of the year and get absolutely nothing. That's the thing with farm pieces; we don't know what they may become or how they'll be utilized. Perhaps they'll be used as some sort of currency for future deals that make the Jays better! Maybe they'll become lights-out players that completely blow us away! Who knows? I certainly don't, and I'm willing to bet that you don't either. But to say that this trade is an absolute failure is a prime example of fans overvaluing members of their favorite team at the trade deadline.
Moreover, with the Jays grabbing two prospects from the Indians organization in exchange for Smith, chances are that Shapiro and Atkins had some knowledge as to what the players' respective ceilings may be and how they will be able to contribute in the future. It's unclear whether or not they knew something that the current regime in Cleveland didn't, making this a potential steal. What is clear, though, is that the Jays didn't counter what they claimed they would attempt to do. If any move was to be made, Atkins said, it would be for young controllable players that can strengthen the team's goal of being competitive in the future. I'd say this is a really good start towards that goal.
Let's not forget that there is still an opportunity to trade a player like Marco Estrada or even a J.A. Happ, although the latter is unlikely I'd say. Once teams really start to make a push in August for a playoff spot that need the extra boost in their rotation, Estrada can still be moved should he be placed on waivers. So don't assume that the attempts to acquire young controllable talent is over - it may not be.
All in all, I think today's deadline was a definite win for the Jays and fans should be happy with how Atkins and Shapiro went about it. Being able to get a decent return in Hernandez for someone who is sporting a 5.88 ERA and will more than likely be used as a bullpen piece is a win, in and of itself. Although, don't try telling Aoki that -
That's the breaks, kid!
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