The month of June served as a perfect — and explicit — example of why the Toronto Blue Jays desperately need pitching help.
Last month, Toronto led MLB in batting average (.285), OPS (.856), runs scored (170), and offensive wins above replacement (9.1), among many other categories. The Blue Jays were flat-out the best hitting team in all of baseball, yet they finished with a pedestrian 15-13 record. Pitching has let them down.
While the Blue Jays could hunt for a big fish starting pitcher before the Aug. 2 trade deadline, it seems more likely they shoot for some middle-tier help. Here are three trade options to boost Toronto’s starting pitching depth.
LHP José Quintana – Pittsburgh Pirates
There’s a lot to like about the veteran Quintana (3.33 ERA), who’s quietly having his best full season since 2017. The left-hander has suppressed hard contact, recorded decent chase rates, and allowed just seven home runs in 81 innings pitched (0.8 HR/9). Right now, Quintana is the opposite of Jays starter Yusei Kikuchi, who’s allowed blistering contact and plenty of homers.
The 33-year-old also has experience joining a new club at the deadline. In 2017, Quintana was traded from the Chicago White Sox to the Chicago Cubs for a significant prospect package, and performed very well afterwards, registering a 118 ERA+ in 14 starts. That was long ago — and Quintana is a different pitcher now — but the trade illustrated he was comfortable moving to a contender mid-season.
Playing on an expiring contract for a non-contending team, Quintana is almost guaranteed to be traded. It would be exciting to see him get a crack in the Blue Jays’ rotation. If that move doesn’t work, Toronto could slide Quintana to a long-man role out of the bullpen, where he’s made 26 career appearances and put up a 3.26 ERA to go along with a 10.7 K/9. A deal between the Blue Jays and Pirates makes a lot of sense right now, either as a safety net for Kikuchi or adding Quintana to the club as injury insurance.
RHP Zach Davies – Arizona Diamondbacks
Davies isn’t even remotely a flashy option, but he’d offer bulk and consistency to a Jays’ pitching core that has lacked those two elements this season. With a fastball that rarely breaks 90 m.p.h., the right-hander has tossed 80 innings and only allowed 69 hits. Somehow, Davies has managed to mystify hitters this season, ranking in the 91st and 90th percentiles in average exit velocity and hard-hit rate, respectively.
Davies has managed to limit damage (3.94 ERA) in a difficult National League West division and has generated tolerable swing-and-miss (7.0 K/9). The 29-year-old is a low-risk trade candidate in a thin trade market who might just defy the odds in Toronto.
Theoretically, Davies shouldn’t cost too much, given his expiring contract. However, unlike Quintana, Davies has never pitched a major-league inning out of the bullpen. His soft-tossing arsenal would be useless in relief, so the Blue Jays would need to commit to Davies as a starter if they want their money’s worth. It’s not a glorious deal, but with their backs against the wall, it’s at least something for the Jays to consider.
RHP Chad Kuhl – Colorado Rockies
Keeping with the trend of crafty starters, the Jays might want to give the Rockies a call on Kuhl. Like Davies, the right-hander isn’t a swing-and-miss king (6.4 K/9), but he finds ways to record outs.
Kuhl’s slider is fantastic. Hitters are batting just .173 against that pitch, and, according to , his slider’s minus-12 run value is the seventh-best pitch in all of baseball. For perspective, no Blue Jays pitcher has a pitch that generates a run value better than minus 8. Kuhl also offers an effective curveball (.211 BA) and a steady changeup (.261 BA) to go with his elite slider.
— FanSided (@FanSided) June 28, 2022
For a pitcher with an average fastball, the 29-year-old also limits homers quite well, allowing only eight home runs in 82.1 innings. Kuhl’s home-run suppression is quite impressive, considering how the thin altitude helps balls fly out of the yard at Coors Field. Kuhl possesses enough legitimate skill, especially with the slider, to slot right into the starting rotation or even alternate out of the bullpen, where he’s made 16 career appearances.
The addition of a pitcher like Kuhl would give the Blue Jays flexibility to tinker with their pitching staff, a luxury the club needs if current starters such as Kikuchi or José Berríos continue down their wayward path.
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