With the World Series in the books, it’s time to look ahead to 2024. The Toronto Blue Jays have tonnes of holes to fill in their lineup but, unfortunately for them, the upcoming free-agent class is rather weak.
But fear not, Jays fans: there will be a flurry of moves if Toronto fancies itself a playoff team yet again. General manager Ross Atkins isn’t afraid to wheel and deal, and he said he’ll explore the trade market again ahead of 2024.
The Blue Jays can go in many different directions, but here are three mock trades Toronto should consider.
Orioles receive: LHP Brandon Barriera, UTIL Leo Jimenez
Blue Jays receive: OF Cedric Mullins
Mullins has regressed since he received MVP votes in 2021, but his dynamic profile fits perfectly in a very needy Blue Jays outfield. The 29-year-old left-handed hitter can smack anywhere from 15 to 25 homers while swiping upwards of 20 bags. He’s also solid with RISP (.773 career OPS), plays above-average defence in centre (+6 OAA), and isn’t a free agent until 2026.
The O’s have a logjam in the outfield, so it makes sense to deal Mullins. Austin Hays, Keston Hjerstad, Anthony Santander and Colton Cowser could all make the Opening Day roster. Baltimore can ultimately balance its roster by adding a high-upside starter in Brandon Barriera, who’d immediately become the club’s top pitching prospect.
Think of Mullins as a steadier Daulton Varsho. Neither Varsho nor Mullins were fantastic last season, but given their raw physical talents, it’s worth betting on one of them to get hot for next year, especially if the Jays can pull this off without depleting the major-league roster.
Cardinals receive: SP Alek Manoah, INF Addison Barger
Blue Jays receive: OF Lars Nootbaar
The Blue Jays and Cardinals have been amicable trade partners over the last few years, and maybe — just maybe — Toronto’s front office can sell St. Louis on Manoah. There’s no denying the right-hander’s value is in doubt after coming off a horrible season (5.87 ERA in 19 starts) followed by a notable disagreement between club and player over his shoulder, but he’s not spare parts.
Manoah isn’t far removed from a third-place AL Cy Young finish in 2022, and the Cardinals are very, very thin on major-league starting pitching. The acquisition of Manoah could make sense for St. Louis, regardless of whether the club intends to compete in 2024. The Cards need bodies, and Manoah is under control through 2027 and could rediscover his ace status next season.
Nootbaar would be a fantastic addition for Toronto. The 26-year-old has pop (.429 career SLG) and poise (136:198 career BB:K) from the left side while happily manning any of the three outfield spots. Nootbaar is an easygoing leader in the clubhouse and would factor into the Blue Jays’ long-term plans since he’s not a free agent until 2028.
Mets receive: LHP Ricky Tiedemann, 1B Spencer Horwitz
Blue Jays receive: 1B Pete Alonso
Wouldn’t this be fun? If the Mets are seriously taking calls on Alonso, the Blue Jays better dial as quickly as possible. Atkins talked about adding some power to the lineup this offseason, and there’s no one better than “The Polar Bear,” who leads baseball with 192 homers since 2019. Alonso, per reports, is an integral piece to the Mets clubhouse, so prying him away won’t be cheap, but an offer involving Tiedemann might do the trick.
After dealing Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander at the deadline, New York is short on impact starters. By adding Tiedemann, a top-100 prospect, the Mets could give him one year to find his footing before the club hits its goal of competing in 2025. Horwitz won’t move the needle much, but he’s a strong hitter who could assume a bulk of Alonso’s shares at first base or designated hitter.
With Alonso, a free agent after 2024, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. alternating DH and first-base reps, Toronto would instantly possess one of baseball’s most terrifying batting orders for the next two seasons. It would sting to surrender Tiedemann, but it’s not often the best power hitter in baseball is up for grabs. Ultimately, Toronto doesn’t need a left-handed starter this upcoming season as badly as it needs an elite clean-up hitter.