I guess Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro do have a way with trades, as J.A. Happ and Seung Hwan Oh have been dealt for two prospects each. Both pitchers have had excellent seasons for the Blue Jays and were likely to move. The return of prospects highlights Shapiro and Atkins’ area of expertise: minor league development and asset management.
Happ had moved into #1 trade bait territory for the Jays since Donaldson’s injury plagued year had set him up on the DL for most of the first half of the season. With the Mariners, Brewers, Cubs, and Yankees interested the price would have seemingly rose with such immense competition for the leftie ace. But on the contrary, Happ struggled in his last few starts and the price had to drop for the rental player. The Yankees ended up winning the race but still gave up a nice return for the Jays ace.
Originally it was believed OF Clint Frazier or LHP Justus Sheffield would have to be involved in a deal for Happ, but instead the Jays pick up INF 3B Brandon Drury, and OF Billy McKinney. The haul is still impressive for the Blue Jays on this deal.
Drury was picked up in the off season from Arizona by the Yankees as a depth option at third base. With the emergence of Miguel Andujar at third base and Gleyber Torres at second base Drury simply didn’t have room on the Yankees roster anymore and was moved. Think of Randall Grichuk from St. Louis – outfield depth pushed him out of the organization and they needed to capitalize on his value in a trade. Drury is just 25 years old and comes with three years of contract control. He has had a down year offensively, hitting below .200 but has all the ability to straighten things out and get back in form for his new team.
Drury’s acquisition is interesting seeing as there is a theoretical logjam at third base for the Jays. Solarte, Donaldson, Gurriel Jr. and Vlad – all are lining up for the spot. Until Donaldson gets traded or resigns on a likely one year deal we can only hypothesize about his future with the Jays, but the pick up of Drury does make Solarte’s future a little less clear.
Billy McKinney adds more competition to the outfield job in Blue Jay land. The 20th ranked prospect in the Yankees system has the ability to play in all outfield positions and has spent time at first base as well. His versatility in the field is undoubtedly attractive as a plug-and-play player is always more useful to a manager. According to pinstripedprospects.com McKinney’s bat is above average. Hitting from the left side of the plate McKinney has a smooth stroke and level swing. Since promotion to AAA he has sacrificed some of his plate discipline in a more power-hitting approach. Overall, there is a good chance that McKinney will be an everyday outfielder in the majors.
So Happ returns a developed prospect for third base, and a developing player in the outfield – not bad!
Seung Hwan Oh was moved to the Colorado rockies for two prospects as well. The Jays pick up first baseman Chad Spanberger, OF Forrest Wall, and a player to be named later or cash.
Oh had been Toronto’s most reliable bullpen arm this season putting up a 2.68 ERA over 47 innings of play. The Final Boss (a nickname he earned in St. Louis) can close, set up, or be a middle relief pitcher and brings a veteran presence to the bullpen with him. Colorado are gearing up for a playoff run and have added an interesting and versatile piece to their pitching ranks.
For Toronto they add another prospect to challenge Rowdy Tellez to the future of the Blue Jays first base in Chad Spanberger. Spanberger was the Rockies’ 24th overall prospect and is impressing in A-ball this season. Currently sitting at a .315 average, Spanberger has 22 home runs to his name, 75 RBIs, and an OBP of .363. Through 92 games this season he has improved on his 2017 numbers and should be pressing for a AA promotion to New Hampshire.
Forrest Wall the newest member of the Jays outfield prospect pool settles in at #23 on the Jays prospect rankings. He has suffered some injuries which have stunted his prospect development, however he is healthy and looking to get his numbers back on track. Currently hitting .206 in AA with 6 home runs and 12 RBIs, Wall needs to regain his plate discipline. He is a leftie hitter which always adds value to prospects, and has the ability to hit the deep ball or spread the ball to all fields. More of a project than cant-miss prospect, Wall will need patience in order to regain his form in the Blue Jays system. The competitive AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats team could help reignite him and get him back on track.
So it’s officially begun. The Jays are moving out rental type players who have value to playoff contenders. What is next for Jays management is the search for pitching prospects to support and replace the likes of Borucki and Sean-Reid Foley in the minors. Perhaps Solarte, Granderson, and even Donaldson could be next in the clear out and rebuild of the Jays roster.
All stats from milb.com