Toronto Blue Jays' 2014 Trade Deadline Shopping List
The Toronto Blue Jays took the baseball world by storm in May, going 21-9 during the month and seizing the top spot in the American League East. But recent struggles in June—Toronto has lost nine of its last 15 games—have exposed weaknesses on the team that need to be addressed before the July 31 trade deadline.
In this previous article, I identified starting pitching and second base as the two most important areas on the roster that the Blue Jays need to upgrade in order to be considered as serious contenders.
Let’s take a look at three high-profile trade targets for Toronto. Each of these players will likely be made available by his club as the trade deadline approaches.
Jeff Samardzija, Right-Handed Pitcher, Chicago Cubs
The Blue Jays have been repeatedly linked to Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija for the past few months. But the two teams have been unable to come to terms on a deal.
Samardzija’s performance in 2014 shows why Toronto is so enamored with him. The hard-throwing right-hander has posted a 2.53 ERA in 16 starts and has struck out 97 batters in 103 innings pitched. He’s also given up just five home runs during that span.
It’s worth noting, though, that the 29-year-old Samardzija doesn’t have much of a history as a starting pitcher. He pitched out of the bullpen during the first four years of his career and was only inserted into the Cubs rotation in 2012. Since then, his combined ERA as a starting pitcher is 3.56, while his FIP is 3.40. Those are good numbers, but they’re not elite.
Samardzija’s contract status also makes him a risky trade target. He’s already reportedly turned down a five-year, $85 million extension with the Cubs, per Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi (h/t HardballTalk’s Drew Silva), and seems intent on pursuing free agency after the 2015 season. If the Blue Jays do trade for him, they’re only potentially getting him for 1.5 seasons.
Keeping that in mind, let’s talk about what it would take for Toronto to actually acquire Samardzija from Chicago.
According to Morosi, the Cubs want Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris and Dalton Pompey from the Blue Jays in exchange for their ace. Considering Samardzija’s history and uncertain contract status, that seems like an excessive demand.
It will be interesting to see what happens here as the trade deadline draws closer and the negotiations between the two teams continue.
David Price, Left-Handed Pitcher, Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays have fallen into last place in the AL East and currently find themselves 12.5 games behind the division-leading Blue Jays. These unexpected turn of events mean that Tampa Bay will likely be a seller at the trade deadline. This makes Price—a free agent in 2016—its best trade chip.
While the Rays have struggled, Price is in the midst of another great season. While his 3.63 ERA this season is a bit higher than his career mark of 3.19, the rest of his numbers are spectacular. The left-hander also has a whopping 144 strikeouts in 124 innings pitched and has only surrendered 14 walks during that span.
Getting Price would completely change the outlook of Toronto’s rotation. It would give the Blue Jays that bona fide ace they’ve lacked since Roy Halladay left town. A pitching staff led by Price, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey would give the team a great chance to compete down the stretch.
Acquiring Price could be tricky, though. While the Rays will surely make him available, they would likely prefer to trade him outside the division if possible. Considering that there will be no shortage of suitors, Toronto would have to outbid all of the other teams and offer Tampa Bay the best possible deal in order to get something done here.
Ben Zobrist, Infielder/Outfielder, Tampa Bay Rays
Second base has been a huge area of weakness for Toronto, and the team has had a revolving door at the position in 2014. Ryan Goins, Chris Getz, Jonathan Diaz, Steve Tolleson and Munenori Kawasaki have all seen time at second base this season and haven’t been very effective.
Acquiring a player such as Ben Zobrist would provide the Blue Jays with some stability at a position that they’ve gotten very little production from up to this point.
The 33-year-old Zobrist is a switch-hitter and has the reputation of being a tough out. After a slow start to the season, he has picked it up as of late and is hitting .247/.332/.375 in 66 games. Over the last three seasons, he’s averaged 40 doubles, 17 home runs, 15 stolen bases and 88 runs scored.
Offensive numbers aside, Zobrist’s versatility in the field also makes him an extremely valuable commodity. Aside from second base, he’s already played shortstop, left field and right field this season. Over his career, he has made an appearance at every position except catcher and pitcher. That type of versatility could really serve the Blue Jays well.
Zobrist’s contract is also very reasonable. He’ll make $7 million this season and has a $7.5 million team option for 2015, becoming a free agent in 2016.
*All stats are from Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.