Grading the Blue Jays’ trade deadline acquisitions

·5 min read
Anthony Bass has given the Blue Jays some much-needed stability in the bullpen. (AP Photos)
Anthony Bass has given the Blue Jays some much-needed stability in the bullpen. (AP Photos)

At the end of the Toronto Blue Jays’ massively successful road trip, where the club went 8-2, it’s hard to find many complaints about this roster.

But now, just over a month removed from the Aug. 2 trade deadline, we thought might be a good time to revisit Toronto’s four last-minute acquisitions, grade their contributions to the squad, and profile how each player could contribute in a potential playoff scenario.

RHP Anthony Bass (acquired from the Miami Marlins)

Grade: A

Let’s address the hero acquisition first. In his second stint with the Blue Jays, Bass has been phenomenal. Toronto reeled him in as a high-leverage relief arm, and he’s been exactly that. The right-hander has pitched to a 1.56 ERA in 17.1 innings while striking out 19 batters (9.9 K/9) with only four walks.

Bass has maintained his effectiveness using his put-away slider, which has generated a minus-6 run value, per Baseball Savant, second only to Jordan Romano (minus-9). On top of all that, he’s been wickedly efficient, reaching the 20-pitch mark in just one of his 19 appearances.

The Blue Jays suddenly have a dangerous three-headed monster of late-game arms in Romano, Bass, and Yimi García. In medium- and high-leverage situations, that trio has risen to the occasion, with Bass allowing only four hits over 30 batters faced in those intense-pressure spots. The 34-year-old is on fire, and Blue Jays fans should feel comfortable when he’s counted on for big outs in October.

RHP Zach Pop (acquired from the Miami Marlins)

Grade: B

The Blue Jays’ acquisition of Pop, a native of Brampton, Ont., always seemed like a bit of a stability move. The 25-year-old is a big right-handed arm with a bowling-ball sinker in the upper-90s who’s working on his secondary pitches to add some swing-and-miss.

His heavy heater has worked well through his 10 appearances with Toronto, but hitters seem to time up his stuff quite easily. Pop has allowed 12 hits in 9.2 innings and struck out only four batters. Those peripherals are unideal, however the movement and command from his plus-fastball limits the potential blow-up innings other relievers can be prone to.

The Pop deal was always more about future value — he’s under team control through 2026 — but right now he’s a bit capped by his lack of reliable off-speeds. In a playoff scenario, it would be hard to count on Pop and his 3.72 ERA to deliver high-leverage outs. It’s far more likely we see him in early-inning spots (should the Jays need him) or a mop-up role.

INF Whit Merrifield (acquired from the Kansas City Royals)

Grade: C-

Between vaccine controversy and lineup compatibility, Toronto’s acquisition of Merrifield was always a bit of a curious move. Sure, he wasn’t a superb roster fit given his right-handedness and lack of power. On the other hand, it’s hard to argue with the choice to bring in a speedy former All-Star with high-contact potential.

Through 26 games, Merrifield hasn’t delivered on the basepaths (one stolen base, one caught stealing) or at the dish (.182/.239/.227). He’s striking out at his highest rate since 2016 (19.7 per cent) and has one extra-base hit in 71 plate appearances. Merrifield’s subsequently had his playing time cut down, having only received 13 plate appearances in September.

As dreadful as the 33-year-old’s introduction to Toronto has been, he profiles much better for potential playoff games, despite the fact he’s never played in the postseason before. His versatility is big for late-game position swaps, and he factors in as a valuable pinch-runner, too.

We saw Merrifield’s potential base-running impact on Aug. 7, when his 10th-inning dash to home on a sac fly resulted in a collision with Minnesota Twins catcher Gary Sanchez. Merrifield said he saw Sanchez blocking the plate and made the decision to slide into him, resulting in a rule-awarded run.

That type of quick thinking during big moments can decide a playoff series. Merrifield is a smart ball player, even if his physical tools have failed him this season, which makes him useful in John Schneider’s new run-heavy, hit-and-run offense.

The regular-season numbers make this look like a bad trade, but the real value will come from how Merrifield impacts the club in October. For now, though, he gets a C- rating.

RHP Mitch White (acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers)

Grade: D+

The acquisition of White is the hardest to grade because, ultimately, it was never truly about his potential playoff impact. The 27-year-old was brought in as a controllable swingman/fifth starter who would serve as short-term insurance for Yusei Kikuchi.

Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, White and Kikuchi have imploded, leaving Toronto without a viable fifth-starter option. White pitched respectably through his first three outings (3.38 ERA, 2.52 FIP) but came unglued in his last three starts (13.50 ERA, 5.29 FIP). His performance on Sept. 6 versus the Baltimore Orioles was especially painful (five earned runs in 2.1 innings), earning him a demotion to Triple-A Buffalo.

White deserves to be docked a few points for fumbling the opportunity to emerge as an important stopgap piece in the final leg of Toronto’s marathon for a playoff berth. He was likely never going to make the playoff roster, but his struggles have now forced Toronto to use bullpen days in his start spot for the final month of the season. That alone reduces his value to a D+.

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