After winning seven of their past 10 games, the Toronto Blue Jays (56-50) have now taken sole possession of the second wild-card spot in the American League. The team is also just three games back of the Baltimore Orioles for the top spot in the AL East.
With the Blue Jays now back in contention, there’s no question that they will be buyers at the MLB trade deadline, which is now just days away.
There are several areas of weakness on the team that Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos could seek to upgrade, such as second base, the starting rotation and the bullpen.
But, while making a major move to improve the big league roster no doubt sounds like a very tempting option, Anthopoulos needs to take care not to give away his best young talent in order to make short-term gains.
Simply put, the Blue Jays have two players they absolutely should not trade in any scenario whatsoever. Let’s take a look at both of them.
2. Aaron Sanchez, Right-Handed Pitcher
Ever since he was drafted in 2010, Aaron Sanchez has been one of the most hyped prospects in Toronto’s farm system.
The right-hander possesses some of the best stuff in the entire organization and has the potential to become a front-line starting pitcher in the major leagues. His fastball touches 99 mph and is complemented by a plus curveball and changeup.
The biggest factor that makes Sanchez untouchable is that he isn’t just a prospect anymore, but rather someone who can help the big league club right now as a reliever.
Making his major league debut a few days ago, Sanchez came out of the bullpen and pitched two perfect innings while striking out two batters. He’s pitched two more innings since then and has an overall ERA of 2.25 in four innings pitched this season.
Heading into play on Monday, the Blue Jays rank 13th in the AL with a 4.40 bullpen ERA. Sanchez has the ability to bolster the team’s struggling relief corps until the end of the season and then compete to make the starting rotation during spring training next year.
This makes him an extremely valuable piece and negates the need for Anthopoulos to go out and trade for another reliever before the trade deadline.
1. Marcus Stroman, Right-Handed Pitcher
Marcus Stroman is easily the Blue Jays’ most untouchable prospect right now. This is because he’s already successfully made the transition to the major leagues and has become one of the best starting pitchers on the team.
It wasn’t always this way. Like they’ve done with Sanchez, the Blue Jays opted to break Stroman into the majors by having him pitch out of the bullpen first. That decision was a disaster, as Stroman had a 12.79 ERA in 6.1 innings pitched as a reliever. Toronto sent the 23-year-old back to the minors soon afterward.
It wasn’t until Stroman was recalled again and inserted into the starting rotation that he began to have success. In 10 games started since then, the right-hander has posted a 5-2 record with an ERA of 2.21 and a WHIP of 0.98.
While it’s tough to judge anything after a mere 10 starts, Stroman definitely has the high-end stuff required to maintain his success. The right-hander features a mid-90s fastball and a hard slider as his two best pitches. His cutter also has the potential to be a plus pitch in the future.
Considering that Stroman has been the top starter on Toronto’s pitching staff ever since he joined the rotation, the Blue Jays need to keep his name out of all trade talks.
*All stats are from MLB.com