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It's a fun time to be a buyer in MLB — provided, of course, there's even a market after Dec. 1.
After losing Steven Matz, the Toronto Blue Jays will likely have a shorter window than usual to bolster their roster in an attempt to make it back to the postseason in 2022. As CBA talks reportedly remain stagnant and a lockout appears imminent, the Blue Jays have certainly started to narrow down their list of potential targets.
In addition to breaking down the list of free-agent targets for Toronto, this is a good time to look at what players might be available via trade this offseason.
Chris Bassitt — Oakland Athletics
The A's will inevitably be linked to a myriad of rumours this winter, as the team is widely expected to purge its salary books and start re-tooling. For the Blue Jays, that mainly means opportunities to add pitching and infield help.
Starter Chris Bassitt is a good example of that. The 32-year-old earned his first-career all-star nomination last season, pitching a team-best 3.15 ERA with 9.1 strikeouts per nine over 27 starts and 157.1 innings. Those numbers are even more impressive when accounting for the fact that he missed over a month after fracturing his face on a comebacker in August.
The Ohio native has one more year of team control and will go through arbitration shortly. The Blue Jays would likely need to part with relatively valuable prospects to acquire Bassitt, but if last year's José Berríos trade is any indication, the team won't be shy to offer up some youngsters for immediate major-league wins.
Frankie Montas — Oakland Athletics
Sticking with A's starters, expect Frankie Montas's name to pop up a lot this offseason.
A 28-year-old Dominican Republic native, Montas posted eye-popping numbers in 2021, including a 3.37 ERA and 207 strikeouts over 32 starts. The right-hander is under team control for two more seasons before hitting free agency.
Frankie Montas, Nasty Front Door 97mph Two Seamer. 🚪 pic.twitter.com/ChLKvD16gj
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 30, 2021
Before 2021, Montas had never pitched more than 96 innings in a major-league season. He went from 53 frames in the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign to 187 last season, showing tremendous durability along with his impressive strikeout numbers. Those marks earned Montas a sixth-place finish in the American League Cy Young race.
His age and service time will likely make Montas even more valuable than Bassitt in the trade market this offseason. The A's are also expected to hear offers for starter Sean Manaea, who could draw the Blue Jays' interest, too.
Sonny Gray — Cincinnati Reds
The Reds are reportedly open to trading right-hander Sonny Gray, who is slated to earn a little over $10 million in the final year of his contract, with a $12.5-million club option for 2023.
Gray, a nine-year veteran with two all-star nods to his name, has posted elite strikeout and groundball rates throughout his career. The 32-year-old only pitched 135.1 innings in 2021, finishing the season with a 4.19 ERA in 26 starts, but his perennial qualities would make him a good addition to any contender's rotation.
His salary and last season's lukewarm numbers may give the Blue Jays an opportunity to strike a Toronto-friendly deal.
Luis Castillo — Cincinnati Reds
In contrast to Gray, the Reds have reportedly indicated that Luis Castillo is off limits.
The Reds are said to be open (again) to trading Sonny Gray. But they've indicated to rival execs that Tyler Mahle and Luis Castillo are off limits.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 23, 2021
But the right-hander will likely see a nice pay raise from the $4.2 million he made in 2021, and with Cincinnati expected to reduce payroll next year, it would make sense to at least pick up the phone on offers for Castillo. With two more years of club control for the flamethrower, the return would be massive.
The 28-year-old pitched 187.2 innings in 2021, with a 3.98 ERA and 192 strikeouts over 33 starts. However, his walk rate is a concern — as are his MLB-worst 16 losses in the regular season.
Castillo has an all-star appearance under his belt, largely due to an electric fastball that averaged over 97 m.p.h. last year.
German Márquez — Colorado Rockies
The Rockies are a giant question mark right now.
After trading away Nolan Arenado last offseason, keeping Trevor Story at the latest trade deadline despite a losing year, then declining to extend Jon Gray a qualifying offer this December, Colorado is reportedly not looking to sell in the winter.
Since we don't know what to believe with this team, German Márquez makes the list.
The 26-year-old Márquez was named an all-star in 2021, posting a 4.40 ERA and 1.272 WHIP in 180 innings pitched with Coors Field as his home ballpark.
A native of Venezuela, Márquez signed a five-year deal with Colorado in 2019. The righty is set to make $15.3 million in 2022 with a $16-million club option for the following year.
Pablo López — Miami Marlins
The Blue Jays have reportedly checked in with the Marlins about Pablo López, a right-handed starter with four years of MLB experience.
López made 20 starts in 2021, posting a 3.08 ERA. He's under team control until 2025 and won't be arbitration eligible for another year. The 25-year-old has strikeout potential that rivals some of the best names on this list, and his walk rates are pretty solid as well.
Recap of how Pablo López started today for the @Marlins:
That has never happened before in an MLB game🔥
(via @mlb) pic.twitter.com/PNxfFEbPEU
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) July 11, 2021
Adding López to the rotation would likely come with some growing pains, but it is a solid chance to add a top starter for several years rather than a short-term fix. It would also come at a higher cost for the Blue Jays.
The Marlins are reportedly looking to add quality hitters, and a potential return to Miami might include catcher Alejandro Kirk, since Toronto's top prospect, Gabriel Moreno, seems poised to make his major-league debut in 2022.
Michael Fulmer — Detroit Tigers
Since the Blue Jays still have work to do on their bullpen, Michael Fulmer may be a worthy trade target in the months ahead.
A starter-turned-reliever, Fulmer experienced somewhat of a career renaissance in 2021, posting a 2.97 ERA in 69.2 innings with the Tigers after a dismal 2020 campaign as a full-time starter. The 28-year-old former Rookie of the Year has one more year of team control ahead and may fit in nicely as a middle reliever for the Jays.
Cole Sulser — Baltimore Orioles
He doesn't have the star power of some of the other names on this list, but Cole Sulser should draw suitors from pretty much every corner of the league this winter.
The Orioles right-hander was a bright spot in 2021, posting a 2.70 ERA in 60 innings as a reliever.
Sulser is a late bloomer and still pre-arbitration eligible at 31 years old, which should up his value on the trade market considering how cheap that makes him. At the same time, he doesn't seem to fit into the Orioles' long-term plans — as the team is still in the throes of a seemingly never-ending rebuild.
The time seems right to sell high on Sulser — and the Blue Jays might be a willing trade partner.
José Ramirez — Cleveland Guardians
Should the Blue Jays fail to re-sign second baseman Marcus Semien and strike out on the several infield free agents available this offseason, trading for José Ramirez would make a lot of sense.
Ramirez shows versatility on both sides of the ball, as a multi-position infielder and a switch-hitter. He's also a three-time all-star and three-time Silver Slugger who's seen plenty of postseason success while playing for Cleveland.
LIFTOFF for Jose Ramirez 🚀
(via @Indians) pic.twitter.com/xDBGyKJhu1
— Yahoo Sports MLB (@MLByahoosports) September 18, 2021
Toronto reportedly came close to dealing for Ramirez at the 2021 trade deadline, so it would make sense if talks started heating up again now.
Ramirez has two more years of team control under an affordable $26-million mark in total. The 29-year-old had 36 home runs last year, along with 103 RBIs and 27 stolen bases on a .266 batting average and .893 OPS — good for the latest of his three all-star selections and a sixth-place finish in AL MVP voting.
A deal for Ramirez would certainly fall under the "blockbuster" category, with the Blue Jays most likely having to give up some notable players. Kirk and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. have swirled up the rumour mill as part of a potential return package for the Guardians.
Matt Chapman — Oakland A's
The Blue Jays have already been linked to Matt Chapman in trade rumours this offseason, though they would have to give up some really big names in their prospect pool to make a deal with the A's.
Chapman won't become a free agent until 2024 and is currently making around $6.5 million, though he'll likely see a salary bump in arbitration next season. The 28-year-old had 27 homers and 72 RBIs last year but produced a disappointing .211 batting average.
He's also one of the best defenders in the game, earning three Gold Gloves and two Platinum Gloves in his five-year career.
Matt Chapman covered all the ground to end it. 😱 pic.twitter.com/z6JUnuIAIv
— MLB (@MLB) July 20, 2021
The A's may not be as interested in taking a young catcher as a centrepiece in return, forcing Toronto to draw from elsewhere for assets in return. Names such as Nate Pearson and Jordan Groshans have appeared in trade speculation regarding Chapman.
Ketel Marte — Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks are largely expected to go hard into selling mode this offseason after losing 110 games in 2021. As a versatile defender and switch-hitter, Ketel Marte emerges as one of the most coveted trading chips for Arizona.
Marte was limited to 90 games in 2021, as he handled a nagging hamstring injury, but he was a force when healthy. The 28-year-old finished the season with a .318 average, 14 homers and 50 RBIs along with a .909 OPS.
Marte would fit in nicely with the Blue Jays, complementing Cavan Biggio's infield versatility and giving Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo some additional options when building his lineups. He's signed for another year with club options for 2023 and 2024 and is slated to make $8.4 million next year.
Arizona would probably look to add prospect depth rather than major-league-ready players in return — which shouldn't be a problem given the Blue Jays' current farm strength.
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