Identifying the teams most likely to pursue Blue Jays catchers via trade – Sportsnet.ca

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LAS VEGAS. Perhaps the biggest question facing the Blue Jays this offseason is whether they will trade their enviable depth at receiver to address other needs.

Thanks to Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk and Gabriel Moreno, the Blue Jays’ catchers generated an MLB-best 7.3 WAR in 2022. They combined to lead the MLB in batting average (.273) and on-base percentage (.273). .351) while hitting 34 home runs. – remarkable production when you consider that the league average at the position was a .226 batting average and a .295 on-base percentage.

Clearly, the Blue Jays could just run him in 2023. While it’s not the most efficient way to use those three players, catcher is a high-attrition position and Moreno worked out in the infield and outfield late last season to Develop your versatility. . There are real scenarios where all three contribute to the Blue Jays in 2023 and beyond.

At the same time, exchanges are also clearly possible. Rebuilding teams could covet the advantage and control of Moreno’s team. Teams that win now could target Jansen, now two years from free agency, for his bat power and catching acumen. And who wouldn’t want Kirk, who walks more than he strikes out while he delivers impressive power?

While the Blue Jays aren’t willing to force a trade, it’s a possibility the club is openly exploring. Some at GM Meetings see real-world scenarios in which no team hits the Blue Jays’ price for any of the three, while others believe an offseason deal is likely.

“We’re in a position where we don’t have to do that to improve our team,” general manager Ross Atkins said. “His potential versatility, more on Moreno’s side than the other two, is a positive for us.”

Starting with the least likely trades and moving toward legitimate adjustments, here’s a speculative look at the likelihood of the Blue Jays’ 29 opponents agreeing on a catcher trade …

there is no chance

The Orioles are not only a division rival, but they already have a franchise catcher in Adley Rutschman.

Established receivers already in place

Other teams that appear behind the plate are the New York Yankees (José Treviño and Kyle Higashioka), Kansas City (Sal Pérez), Chicago White Sox (Yasmani Grandal and Seby Zavala), Houston (Martin Maldonado), Philadelphia (JT Realmuto), Atlanta (William Contreras and Travis d’Arnaud), the Los Angeles Dodgers (Will Smith), and Oakland (Sean Murphy).

It would be a stretch to say the Mariners’ Cal Raleigh and the Rangers’ Jonah Heim are established, but both were productive in 2022, generating 4.2 and 2.8 WAR, respectively. As such, both teams can feel good about his catch going into the offseason.

Unlikely matchups from the American League East

While the Red Sox and Rays might be looking for upgrades behind the plate, an intra-division trade of this scale would be challenging.

Promising receivers already in place

While the Marlins could improve with the combination of Nick Fortes and Jacob Stallings, Fortes probably showed enough as a rookie to earn more opportunities. Similarly, the Mets have a young catcher prospect in Francisco Alvarez and the Nationals graduated Keibert Ruiz to the majors with some success last season. On that note, the Reds’ Tyler Stephenson appears to have earned a longer look in Cincinnati and Logan O’Hoppe appears poised for an extended opportunity alongside Max Stassi in Anaheim.

Joey Bart’s first 408 career major league plate appearances have been underwhelming, with an OPS+ of just 81. At the same time, the Giants may prefer to give the 25-year-old former top prospect more opportunities.

The fit works, but maybe only in one direction

puppies

With Willson Contreras in free agency, the Cubs could look to bolster a wide receiver tandem that now includes Yan Gomes and PJ Higgins. Only, what would return? Ian Happ is attractive, but he’s only a year away from free agency, so he probably has less market value than the Blue Jays’ three receivers. A third computer may be required for this to work.

Rocky Mountains

The Rockies are always hard to predict, but they could top the duo of Elias Diaz and Brian Serven, who combined for an MLB-worst -1.4 WAR at the position last season. However, as with the Cubs, it’s less clear what the Blue Jays’ path to evening the score would be.

diamonds

With Daulton Varsho moving to the outfield, the Diamondbacks could use a catcher to match up with Carson Kelly and have more than their share of lefty outfielders and young pitchers. But will Alek Thomas or Jake McCarthy be enough to get the Blue Jays’ attention?

tigers

Since the versatile Eric Haase can move around the diamond, adding a second receiver to the mix could appeal to the Tigers, who seem to be a good fit for Moreno. Whether the Blue Jays want what the Tigers can offer in return is another question.

The fit works, maybe in both directions

Twins

Once Gary Sanchez hit free agency, Ryan Jeffers jumped up on the Twins’ depth chart to become their primary catcher. Generally speaking, Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey expressed optimism in Jeffers, but made it clear the club will seek more help.

“We’re going to have to add, either through free agency or trade,” Falvey said. “Catcher is going to be a definitive free agent or trade focus for us.”

Left-handed hitter Max Kepler is under contract for up to two more seasons and is a player who could attract the Blue Jays. That lines up with Jansen’s timeline for free agency, but whether either side finds that structure attractive is an open question.

fathers

Although the Padres have Austin Nola, they have room for a second-rate receiver. Meanwhile, Trent Grisham could appeal to Toronto given his defensive skills and left-handed bat. A Jansen structure for Grisham might draw San Diego, but that’s a lot for the Blue Jays to give up (Jansen had an .855 OPS compared to Grisham’s .626 mark).

guardians

The emergence of Canadian Bo Naylor gives Cleveland an inside option, but it’s hard not to wonder about a team that has looked hard for Kirk in the past. Or, how about pairing Jansen with Naylor for two years while the rookie adjusts? Jansen’s power would be a welcome addition to a Cleveland lineup full of contact hitters. And the Guardians have young pitching, which the Blue Jays are always looking for. But maybe the Guardians will play it safe and bring back Austin Hedges and former Blue Jay Luke Maile.

Generally speaking, club president Chris Antonetti said the Guardians remain flexible.

“We’re wide open at that position,” Antonetti said. “We are really excited about the future of what Bo can become and what he will develop into. Luke did a tremendous job for us this year, so we go into the offseason with some options, but at the same time, if there are ways we can improve, we’ll look to do them.”

pirates

With a receiving tandem of Jason Delay and former Blue Jays backup Tyler Heineman, the Pirates need an upgrade. And in Bryan Reynolds, the Pirates have exactly the kind of trading chip the Blue Jays will likely covet: a switch-hitting center fielder with three years remaining in team control and a career OPS+ of 127.

A rebuilding team, the Pirates could accept any growing pains that might come with Moreno. But six years of Moreno would likely be too much to give up three years of Reynolds, creating a tricky balancing act for the Blue Jays and their Pittsburgh counterparts, former Toronto executives Ben Cherington and Steve Sanders.

brewers

As the offseason begins, the Brewers’ major league receiving depth consists of Victor Caratini and Alex Jackson, far from ideal. Owner Mark Attanasio has hinted that this could be a busy winter for the Brewers who have attractive pitching in the form of Eric Lauer, Freddy Peralta and Aaron Ashby, among others.

cardinals

On paper, this may be the best option of all. Yadier Molina’s retirement leaves the Cardinals without a starting catcher for the first time in years. As Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said, the good news is that they know what they need. The bad news is that they still don’t know how they’ll get it.

“Understand that like Yadi, he was first and foremost a defensive savant with a high baseball IQ,” Mozeliak said. “You have to understand that that is not going to be the easiest thing to replace. Having said that though, what we’re trying to look at is ‘how do we replace it? Is there any opportunity for a little more offense in that space?’ It’s not a position we’ve had to shop around for 21 years. You accept that the defense will probably take a step back (but) there could be some potential for an offensive advantage.”

Mozeliak said the Cardinals are exploring trades and free agency as they search for a replacement for Molina. While they’d rather not change their big league roster, they’re open to the possibility if the return is good enough.

That’s where things could get interesting. In theory, the Cardinals have enough outfielders to consider parting ways with someone like Dylan Carlson or Lars Nootbar, who would likely draw a lot from the Blue Jays.

A switch-hitting center fielder, Carlson will be under the team’s control for four more seasons. Offensively, he’s been slightly above average to this point in his career (104 OPS+), but at 24, there’s still room for improvement.

Meanwhile, his teammate Lars Nootbar is perhaps even more intriguing. The 25-year-old left-handed hitter played more often in right field, but he did play some center and his offensive numbers were extremely impressive. In 108 games, he hit 14 home runs with an elite walk rate (14.7 percent), an above-average barrel rate (12.1 percent), and an above-average strikeout rate (20 .5 percent). Could a structure around Nootbar and Kirk work for both teams? Presumably, Jansen would also have some appeal to St. Louis.

For now, this is speculative rather than certain, and perhaps it will stay that way. But if punters here in Las Vegas wanted to set odds, they’d probably start with St. Louis.


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