Trade deadline season might not be a blast for players, but fans and pundits get to run wild with mock trades and potential roster concoctions that make their favourite team better.
The Toronto Blue Jays aren’t immune to such fantasies and have already added hard-throwing reliever Jordan Hicks. Shohei Ohtani is reportedly off the table, but will Toronto ante up for a big bat? The hypotheticals are endless.
But all these speculative swaps neglect one obstacle: if the Blue Jays improve their major-league roster, they’ll also have to subtract from it.
“We believe in this group so much that making it better … [is] hard to do without some level of subtraction,” general manager Ross Atkins said during the Jays’ most recent homestand. “But we do think there's a way to add a little bit of offence to the team without having to subtract anyone.”
The Blue Jays are confident in their current crew, but as Atkins said, the club must perform some transactional gymnastics to keep the 26-man roster intact. Offence is easier to manage — an additional hitter would bump Jordan Luplow back to the minors — but with Hyun Jin Ryu and Chad Green returning, Toronto is overflowing with pitchers.
Bottom line: to facilitate a trade, a significant piece from the 26-man roster must go. With that in mind, let’s look at which fringe Blue Jays players hold the most value ahead of the Aug. 1 deadline.
Cavan Biggio: UTIL
Biggio has his limitations. He’s disciplined but whiffs often and doesn’t hit for a very high average. That said, he’s a high-upside platoon bat with plenty of remaining team control, which could make him very attractive to a rebuilding club.
The Blue Jays could trade Biggio if a more practical fit arises but it would have to be for a veteran, right-handed hitter with more to offer than the 28-year-old. This year, Biggio’s been unusable against left-handed pitchers (.347 OPS, zero homers, 10 strikeouts in 18 plate appearances). Because of those shortcomings, he’s now expendable with some mixture of Daulton Varsho or Kevin Kiermaier clogging the bottom of the order against southpaws.
On the flip side, the Houston native carries more trade value than most available bench bats. Biggio can play multiple positions, and his pre-2021 career suggests a crack at everyday playing time could help him rediscover his swing. Toronto would be wise to entertain a non-contending club’s offer for Biggio, especially if the Jays nab an impactful rental in return.
Santiago Espinal: INF
Unlike Biggio, Espinal’s ceiling isn’t super high — in fact, he might’ve hit it already — but he’s a reliable plug-and-play defender with a career .272 batting average and a low 13.9% strikeout rate. That stability could be very attractive to a club toeing the line between a full teardown and a “we’re still in this” mentality. Espinal plays a mean shortstop, too, and the Mets, Cardinals, and White Sox could all use a player of his ilk.
On a different club, Espinal might be an everyday infielder. But on this Jays squad, Whit Merrifield has emerged as the most valuable second baseman. Sure, Merrifield and Espinal are often both in the lineup against southpaws, but a trade for a right-handed-hitting outfielder could push the Dominican Republic native to the bench.
In the end, the Blue Jays might have some reservations about dealing Espinal. He’s a close friend of Bo Bichette’s, and if the Jays' star shortstop were to miss time with his knee injury, Espinal is next in line.
The 28-year-old has value as a defensive safety net, but Toronto might accept a trade that included Espinal and a prospect in exchange for an impact hitter or reliever.
Nate Pearson: RP
After a brief stint in the minors, Pearson is back on the 26-man roster due to Joran Romano's injury. The 26-year-old has long been fodder for armchair general managers, and he could once again be on the block, but any trade involving Pearson must pass a simple test: Does this move make the bullpen better?
Pearson’s trade value needs little explanation. He’s a young righty with a 100-mph fastball and a projectable breaking ball. If opposing GMs squint enough, they might even be able to sell themselves on Pearson’s future as a back-end starter.
For Toronto, though, Pearson’s exit must correspond with an upgrade to the relief corps or an improvement to the batting order. There’s an avenue where Toronto ships the former first-round pick and multiple prospects to the Nationals for Lane Thomas, let’s say. That addresses a need. At the same time, though, the Jays would need to recoup Pearson’s velocity upside with a subsequent deal for a reliever.
The entire calculus comes down to what the Jays want to do with the bullpen. If the club plans to target another legitimate late-inning leverage arm, then Pearson would probably get bumped to the back of the ‘pen or down to Triple-A. In that scenario, he’s best used as a trade chip.