Blue Jays agree to deal for top Twins starter José Berríos

The Toronto Blue Jays have agreed to a deal to land starting pitcher José Berríos from the Minnesota Twins.

The Twins reeled in a huge return, with shortstop Austin Martin and RHP Simeon Woods-Richardson headed back to Minnesota. Martin is widely considered one of the top 20 prospects in the sport.

Berríos is a front of the rotation arm under team control through 2022. The two-time All-Star has not been the problem in Minnesota’s shockingly bad season, rattling off another solidly above average ERA with a career-best strikeout rate, and using his devastating breaking ball more than ever.

Still just 27 years old with an impeccable record of durability, he’s a momentous deadline mover. He was widely viewed as the best pitcher on the market not named Max Scherzer.

The asking price to pry him away from a Minnesota team that could easily compete again next season was said to be very high. But after the Dodgers' reported deal for Scherzer was struck Thursday night, focus shifted to Berríos as the leading target for contenders in need of pitching help.

The Blue Jays fit that bill. With a powerful offense — second-best to the Houston Astros by overall production metric wRC+ — led by young superstar Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto is still on the fringes of the playoff race, trailing the Oakland A's by 4.5 games for the second wild card. Their starting pitching has been middling and inconsistent outside of ace Hyun-jin Ryu and strikeout master Robbie Ray.

Berríos figures to slot in behind Ryu as the Jays attempt a charge to the playoffs, but the fact that he is under team control for 2022 also made him an ideal target for Toronto. After signing George Springer this offseason, the Jays are focused on maturing toward contention alongside Guerrero and other young hitters like Bo Bichette.

That extra year of control came with a steep price. Minnesota could have a star in Martin, an elite hitting prospect who has played shortstop and the outfield. He was the No. 2 prospect in a loaded Blue Jays system. Woods-Richardson, a highly ranked arm, came over from the Mets in the 2019 Marcus Stroman trade.

It's the Blue Jays' second move in as many days to bolster the pitching staff. On Thursday they dealt for Nationals closer Brad Hand. In chasing an AL wild-card berth, they are contending not only with the A's who hold the second spot, but with the New York Yankees, who have already made two blockbusters to energize their lineup.

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