The Toronto Blue Jays will reach the fast-approaching non-waiver trade deadline as very obvious sellers. When you’re sitting at 43-52 and find yourself 14 games from the second wild card spot that’s just what you have to do.
As a result, the Blue Jays should be looking to deal each and every one of their players on expiring contracts. These guys have nothing more to offer the franchise other than the young talent they can return in a trade.
Here’s a rundown of the rentals the Blue Jays will be looking to move:
The Crown Jewel: J.A. Happ
2018 Salary: $13 million
2018 Stats: 109 IP, 9.99 K/9, 2.89 BB/9, 1.40 HR/9, 4.29 ERA, 4.02 FIP, 1.7 WAR
Potential role for a contender: Number 2-3 Starter
Quality starting pitching is always in demand come trade deadline time and Happ is as reliable as they come. Despite a few ugly starts earlier in the month, the southpaw presents an upgrade for the rotations of virtually any contender. Not only is he the type of guy who you want for the final stretch, he’s also a starter you’re comfortable trotting out come playoff time — and he’s already proven himself on that stage with the Blue Jays and Phillies.
This season Happ is striking out more hitters than ever, keeping his walk rate down, and continuing to get by with his simple-but-effective fastball-centric approach. The Yankees look like a particularly good fit because they’re always looking for good southpaw starters to help neutralize the damage lefty bats can do at their ballpark.
Happ isn’t going to command a king’s ransom, simply because the rentals don’t go for what they used to. He’s also more solid than spectacular all around. That said, the Blue Jays will get their hands on a couple of promising prospects, probably with one more significant centrepiece. The return could get even better if the Blue Jays are willing to eat the remainder of Happ’s salary, but that’s a big “if.”
The Wild Card: Josh Donaldson
Position: Third Baseman
2018 Salary: $23 million
2018 Stats: .234/.333/.423 with 5 HR, 16 RBI, and 0.6 WAR in 159 plate appearances
Potential role for a contender: Starting third baseman
There are almost too many questions with Donaldson to count. Is he going to be healthy? Do other teams believe this season’s stats are an aberration? Even if he’s OK now, will he hold up down the stretch? Is there a better trade to be had in August? Is the return better than a compensation pick from a qualifying offer at this point? Would Donaldson accept a qualifying offer as a pillow contract?
At this point there aren’t a lot of answers. The best time for the Blue Jays to move Donaldson has come and gone. Now they’re just making the best of a tough situation. Smart money is probably not on a deadline deal at this point with so many variables in play.
The Other Guy: Marco Estrada
2018 Salary: $13 million
2018 Stats: 89.2 IP 7.03 K/9, 2.51 BB/9, 1.51 HR/9, 4.72 ERA, 4.59 FIP, 1.1 WAR
Potential role for a contender: Number 4-5 starter
Estrada is a very interesting case because his overall numbers aren’t particularly impressive, but there are a couple of complicating factors. The first is that he’s been excellent in his more recent starts – since the beginning of June he’s posted a 2.97 ERA with a 3.37 FIP to match in 31 innings.
The other issue is that he’s only made one start in July thanks to a hip issue. He’s scheduled to start the Blue Jays’ fourth game coming out of the break, but potential suitors will need to be convinced he’s 100 percent healthy.
So, worst case scenario for the Blue Jays he’s considered a fifth starter with mediocre year-long numbers who’s something of an injury risk. Alternatively, if teams thinks his recent results are what matter most, he could be positioned as a battle-tested veteran on a hot streak who should be a part of your playoff rotation. Whatever the case may be, it’s hard to imagine a big return for the Blue Jays, though.
Trading Estrada wouldn’t be a salary dump, but he doesn’t offer the same reliability as Happ and as such the return will likely come in the form of a higher-level player who isn’t seen as a big-time prospect and doesn’t fit his current team or a couple of lower-level lottery tickets. To be fair, Teoscar Hernandez fell into that first category for the Blue Jays at last year’s deadline and that turned out just fine for Toronto.
The Veteran Presence: Curtis Granderson
Position: Corner Outfielder
2018 Salary: $5 million
2018 Stats: .233/.342/.426 with 9 HR, 28 RBI, and 0.4 WAR in 261 plate appearances
Potential role for a contender: Platoon outfielder or bench bat
Granderson has been very solid at the plate this season, and although he’s only useful against right-handed pitching, there are plenty of contenders he could be useful to. For National League clubs, he’d be a reliable primary pinch-hitting option and in the American League he can even draw the odd start at DH against righties. He’s also able to lead off for a team that doesn’t have a player ideally suited to that role. At 37 his fielding leaves something to be desired, but he’s far from unplayable in a corner either.
Because of his reputation as being a top-notch clubhouse guy, Granderson is the type of player you’d usually get a little extra for. However, the pendulum might swing the other way this season because teams could be wary of taking him on after watching him collapse down the stretch with the Dodgers in 2017. Ultimately, you won’t get a tonne for him, but everybody wins if there’s a trade to a playoff team to be found.
The Ultimate Journeyman: Tyler Clippard
2018 Salary: $1.5 million
2018 Stats: 45.2 IP 10.64 K/9, 3.15 BB/9, 1.38 HR/9, 3.15 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 0.6 WAR
Potential role for a contender: Sixth or seventh inning guy
It’s safe to say Clippard has been here before. He’s been moved in three consecutive July’s and once in August, and the Blue Jays are the eighth club he’s suited up for since 2015. The right-hander seems to possess the perfect storm of attributes for a deadline acquisition.
Teams aren’t rushing to sign him in free agency, and when they do they opt for one-year deals. On the other hand, he tends to perform well enough that he looks like he could be a middle relief upgrade come deadline time. He also doesn’t cost much in the way of prospects because he’s more of a depth piece for a bullpen rather than an impact arm. His salaries have also been far from exorbitant, and this year’s $1.5 million price tag is downright modest.
So, the Blue Jays should be able to ship Clippard off to greener pastures in exchange for a little-known prospect that is unlikely to amount to anything. The whole affair would be tremendously exciting.
The Unassuming Southpaw: Aaron Loup
2018 Salary: $1.81 million
2018 Stats: 31.2 IP 10.23 K/9, 3.41 BB/9, 0.85 HR/9, 4.83 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 0.3 WAR
Potential role for a contender: Second southpaw reliever
From both a performance and persona standpoint Loup is extremely low-key. He’s effective, but far from dominant, and there probably won’t be a tonne of buzz surrounding him come deadline time. That said, any contender who feels like they could use another lefty in their pen could do a lot worse and he has potential to be a nifty little upgrade for somebody.
There are a couple of things worth noting about Loup’s work this year. The first is that he’s having his best campaign in recent memory with a career-high 10.23 K/9 and his lowest FIP (3.52) since his debut in 2012. That should help his trade value.
Secondly, he hasn’t really shut down lefties allowing them to hit .262/.333/.359 and posting pretty neutral platoon splits. Last season he had a similar pattern allowing left-handers to slash .268/.356/.366 off him. Those numbers will hurt him in the eyes of teams looking for a pure lefty eraser.
The Hard Sell: John Axford
2018 Salary: $1.5 million
2018 Stats: 44.2 IP 8.46 K/9, 3.63 BB/9, 1.01 HR/9, 4.03 ERA, 4.06 FIP, 0.1 WAR
Potential role for a contender: Seventh reliever?
The Blue Jays have nothing to gain from keeping Axford, but moving him might not get them very far either. The big right-hander still throws hard and he’s been far from a disaster this season, but it’s hard to see contenders perceiving him as a bullpen upgrade right now.
Axford is currently rocking a 0.1 WAR and he hasn’t topped 0.6 since 2011. He was moved in August in both 2013 and 2014 in the midst of similar seasons, but there was only a return once and it was a minor one. If the Blue Jays can get anything for the Canadian reliever it’ll be a win. If he finishes the year with his hometown team, that’s not the end of the world.
More Blue Jays coverage from Yahoo Canada Sports