The MLB trade deadline is the busiest time for general managers around the league. The time for them to re-evaluate their team as buyers or sellers. After last year’s unprecedented trade deadline haul masterminded by Alex Anthopoulos, the Jays turned from pretenders to contenders. This year, luckily for Ross Atkins, he inherited an already talented squad and just had to fill some holes. How’d he do? Pretty darn well for a rookie GM.
The first trade Atkins made a week prior to the deadline was acquiring Melvin Upton Jr. from the Padres. Upton Jr. provides the Jays with outfield depth, speed (20 SB) and a great arm (8 outfield assists). Most importantly, however, he provides Toronto with some much needed insurance next season, with the imminent vacancy left by Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders. The cost? A lower tier pitching prospect Hansel Rodriguez who most Blue Jays fans, including myself, never knew about until the trade. Don’t forget the impact on the payroll – Toronto only has to pay $5 million out of the remaining $22 million left on his deal.
Trade number two by Atkins was trading away the recently DFA’d reliever Drew Storen to Seattle for Joaquin Benoit. Benoit, who was struggling through his season to date, has turned things around quite considerably since joining the Jays. Benoit has been used in high leverage situations and has performed quite well in them. He is a guy manager John Gibbons can turn to in the 7th or 8th innings.
On deadline day, Atkins pulled the trigger on three separate trades. The first, getting right-handed pitcher Scott Feldman from the Astros. Feldman posted a 5-3 record with a 2.90 ERA while splitting time between the pen and rotation, a role previously filled by Jesse Chavez. He can start, be used in long relief, and be trusted in high leverage situations. That being said, Feldman did struggle in his first appearance as a Blue Jay, but that can likely be attested to the nerves after a major trade. Similar to the Upton trade, the Jays only had to part with a lower tier pitching prospect.
Trade number two made on deadline day was getting rid of the aforementioned Jesse Chavez in exchange for Mike Bolsinger. Chavez, who struggled all year with inherited runners (allowed 48.3% of them to score), got sent to the Dodgers. In exchange, Toronto acquired Bolsinger, a young, versatile pitcher under team control until 2021. Bolsinger had 6 starts for the Dodgers this season, not performing well (1-4, 6.83 ERA, 1.518 WHIP), but he can still develop as a starter in Buffalo with the Bisons. That being said, he can also pitch in relief for Toronto, as he has done in the past (2014 with Arizona).
The last deal, made 20 seconds before the deadline (literally), is one many fans, including myself, are still in awe about. Atkins shipped starter Drew Hutchison to Pittsburgh in exchange to fellow starter Francisco Liriano, and two prospects, outfielder Harold Ramirez and catcher Reese McGuire. Liriano, similar to other trade deadline acquisitions, is under contract next season. With the likelihood of R.A. Dickey not pitching in Toronto next season, Liriano can fit in nicely. That being said, his statistics this year aren’t great (6-11, 5.46 ERA, 5.5 BB/9), but if you look at his numbers with Russell Martin from 2 years ago (7-10, 3.38 ERA, 9.7 K/9), you hope he can return to that form. In addition to Liriano, Toronto acquired two prospects. They became the Blue Jays #4 and #5 top prospects as soon as the trade was complete. Harold Ramirez, as of today, is hitting quite well in AA with a slash line of .306/.354/.401. Ramirez is a player we could be seeing in the near future with the club. McGuire, on the other hand, is a defensive catcher whose bat is still developing. Both did great in their AA debut with New Hampshire, Ramirez going 3-4 with a 2B and a RBI while McGuire collected a double and 3 RBI in four at bats. Considering the only piece Toronto had to part with was Drew Hutchison, who spent most of this year in Buffalo, this trade already seems like a victory.
In conclusion, essentially, the front office exchanged Drew Hutchison, Drew Storen, Jess Chavez and two undeveloped prospects for Melvin Upton Jr., Joaquin Benoit, Scott Feldman, Mike Bolsinger, Francisco Liriano and two top five prospects. Not too shabby, Ross. Not shabby at all.