An Early Breakdown of Toronto Blue Jays' Best Trade Bait
We are 26 games into the 2014 season, and the Toronto Blue Jays hold the fourth spot in the American League East with a 12-14 record.
After having a disastrous season last year despite making some huge offseason moves, it’s widely believed the 2014 season will likely be the last chance for the current iteration of the team to perform up to expectations.
While Toronto has definitely had a much better start this year compared to last year—when it went 10-17 in April—it remains to be seen if the team can be a serious competitor this season.
If the Blue Jays stumble badly before the trade deadline, look for general manager Alex Anthopoulos to start making some changes and beginning to rebuild for the future by moving some veterans in exchange for younger prospects.
It’s likely the core veterans who could bring back the most value such as Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion won’t be trade candidates until the offseason, when the market for them will be bigger. So they won’t be mentioned in this article.
Instead, let’s take a look at three of Toronto’s best trade candidates that could potentially be moved by the trade deadline if the team struggles.
All stats are from baseball-reference.com
Mark Buehrle, LHP
Mark Buehrle has emerged as one of the best pitchers on the Blue Jays' starting rotation to start off the season.
In five starts, the 35-year-old is 4-1 with a 2.16 ERA in 33.1 innings pitched.
So what makes Buehrle an attractive trade chip?
Well, for starters, how about the fact he’s a proven veteran who now has a 13-year streak of throwing more than 200 innings and winning at least 10 games per season?
It’s true Buehrle—who has a career 3.84 ERA—isn’t exactly a front-line starter, but he would be a valuable innings-eater on pretty much any contending team.
He also has postseason experience, as he’s thrown 30.2 innings in the playoffs and has even won a World Series in his career.
Buehrle’s contract would also look very attractive to other teams. He isn’t signed to a long-term deal and is owed $37 million over this season and the next before becoming a free agent in 2016.
While the monetary value might be a bit high, at least any team trading for Buehrle won’t be nervous about having to keep him as he nears his forties. Anthopoulos could also send some cash back to balance a possible trade.
If Toronto finds itself out of contention by the trade deadline, the team can take advantage of Buehrle’s hot start and maximize the return for the left-hander.
Melky Cabrera, Outfielder
Melky Cabrera has had an amazing start to the 2014 season and has easily been one of the best players in Toronto’s lineup.
In 26 games played this season, Cabrera has hit .347/.369/.576 with five home runs, three stolen bases and 18 runs scored.
The 29-year-old’s performance this year has been a huge step up from last season, where he hit .279/.322/.360 with just three home runs, two stolen bases and 37 runs scored in 88 games before missing the rest of the season with what turned out be a benign tumor in his spine. He later underwent surgery to have the tumor removed.
Judging from his hot start, it appears the tumor was the main cause for the outfielder’s decline last year.
Cabrera—who’s making $8 million this year—is set to hit free agency at the end of the season and is guaranteed to receive lucrative offers from multiple teams if he keeps this performance up.
This makes him an attractive midseason trade chip should the Blue Jays decide not to re-sign him themselves.
Of course, Toronto would want a significant return on any trade involving Cabrera considering the team would lose out on a potential draft pick it would receive if he decides to sign elsewhere in the offseason.
Sergio Santos, RHP
Following the injury to Casey Janssen in spring training, Sergio Santos took over the closer’s role and has done a decent job.
The right-hander has converted five of seven save opportunities. But, he has struggled with his control at times, which explains his 8.31 ERA during 8.2 innings pitched.
Despite the issues, Santos remains a dominant arm out of the bullpen. He possesses a high-90s fastball and a wipeout slider that he can use to generate a ton of strikeouts.
Santos also has experience closing, as he had a 30-save season in 2011. He dealt with injuries throughout 2012 and parts of 2013 but has remained healthy for nearly a year now dating back to last season.
The 30-year-old Santos also has a very team-friendly contract—he’s making just $3.75 million this season—and has team options until the 2017 season ranging between $6-8 million per season.
Once Janssen—who has done a terrific job as the team’s closer these past two seasons—returns and re-claims the closer role, Toronto could look to move Santos to fill another hole on the team.
It’s important to note Toronto had already tried to trade Santos once this past offseason. But that trade broke down because the player the Blue Jays were set to receive in return failed his physical.