Valuing the trade chips: Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are in the midst of a rebuild that should start to pay dividends in 2-3 years, as they build around top prospects Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Bo Bichette, Danny Jansen and others. With that as their timeframe, any current veteran who has less than two years of control (and possibly three) stands to be traded.
We know they will be sellers in the summer of 2019, so let’s take a closer look at the values of their most likely trade chips. We’ve sorted them by median trade value, highest to lowest, as of June 2019 (values in $Ms):
- Stroman: 23.1
- Giles: 6.0
- Sanchez: 3.4
- Smoak: 3.3
- Hudson: 1.5
- Galvis: 1.2
- Richard: -0.3
- Phelps: -0.4
- Buchholz: -2.0
- Jackson: -2.3
The big chip here is Marcus Stroman, who is extremely talented, but also has been maddeningly inconsistent over the course of his career. So far in 2019, he’s having a good enough year to be attractive to contending teams that need another quality starter, and his previous playoff experience adds to his appeal. Assuming he’s available, he’ll be one of the top starters on the market, which means there will be multiple bidders and his price will be at or near the top of his range. As such, expect him to bring back a quality prospect, and perhaps a moderate second one.
And even though Stroman’s remaining salary is not egregious, the Jays could add cash to increase the return — they’ve shown an admirable willingness to do so in previous transactions where they’ve eaten most of the salaries of Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin and Kendrys Morales.
Here’s one example trade:
In this one, the Astros get a proven starter for their playoff run. The Jays get a quality starting pitching prospect to replace Stroman and a young speedy outfielder to add to their future core.
The Jays’ other starter of interest is Aaron Sanchez, and he’s worth… what?! Yes, we think his value is surprisingly low — not for lack of quality (because when he’s healthy and on, he’s a dynamite arm), but because he’s rarely healthy. There’s clearly an abnormally high injury risk here, such that any team trading for him has to discount his value substantially for a margin of safety. Couple that with a diminishing timeframe of control, and his value is low. That said, we have no doubt some teams will see a favorable risk/reward deal at that price, and for that reason we think he’ll go at the top of that modest range, to return a moderate prospect.
Unfortunately for the Jays, they won’t get much back for Justin Smoak. Sure, there will be interest, but at a low price point. The market has clearly devalued his particular skill set — corner power — and he’s in his last year of control. He’ll bring back a lottery ticket. As will Freddy Galvis, who has little surplus, and most contenders are set at SS.
The last significant chip is reliever Ken Giles, whose value has rebounded a bit since his tumultuous 2018 season with the Astros. But with his spotty history, contending teams will likely view him as a setup man rather than a closer (similar to the role Jeurys Familia is now playing in his career), so we don’t expect much of a premium over fair value with him. Still, there’s always a market at the deadline for quality relief help, so he should bring back a moderate prospect.
So by moving those pieces, Jays fans can look forward to acquiring a basket of at least one high-quality prospect, a couple of moderate ones, and a lottery ticket or two.