The Toronto Blue Jays are expected to be aggressive leading up to the Aug. 2 trade deadline, but could they make a splash for one of the game’s brightest stars? And would it be worth it?
No, this article isn’t about Juan Soto, though that’s fun to speculate about, too. Instead, it’ll focus on two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani.
Prior to this week, the Los Angeles Angels were adamant about not making Ohtani, who’s eligible for free agency after next season, available via trade. That should sound familiar to Washington Nationals fans who heard GM Mike Rizzo echo a similar stance regarding Soto earlier this season.
Now, Angels GM Perry Minasian is reportedly willing to listen to offers on Ohtani, according to the New York Post’s Jon Heyman. While a blockbuster trade is considered “very unlikely,” Heyman reports the team isn’t shying away from taking calls.
Heyman believes five teams have been the most aggressive for the 28-year-old thus far: the San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals and Seattle Mariners.
Of course, this remains a very fluid development. Anything could change between now and Tuesday’s 6:00 p.m. ET deadline. In the end, though, it’ll require a massive haul to pry the 2021 AL MVP away from Los Angeles.
Toronto likely possesses the necessary pieces to make a compelling offer for Ohtani, with most trade proposals probably centred around key parts of its farm system. The team could be forced to include players from its major-league roster, too.
In all likelihood, the Blue Jays would need to surrender top prospects Gabriel Moreno, Ricky Tiedemann and Orelvis Martinez. They may also have to trade infielder Jordan Groshans, right-hander Nate Pearson and possibly Santiago Espinal or Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
No matter how you slice it, acquiring Ohtani wouldn’t be cheap. Doing so would significantly weaken the organization’s prospect pipeline, which Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro have worked hard to replenish since 2016.
A crucial detail to keep in mind, though, is you’d be acquiring a generational talent. Players like Ohtani don’t become available often. The last time a two-way star of his calibre changed teams was when the New York Yankees purchased Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox for $125,000 in 1920.
For a team like the Blue Jays, who are currently in need of an impact starting pitcher and left-handed hitter, acquiring the two-time All-Star would address two needs with one move.
Offensively, Ohtani would fit perfectly in Toronto’s already talented batting order. The 2021 Silver Slugger’s presence would add some much-needed balance to the top half of the lineup, which is predominantly right-handed.
Interim manager John Schneider would then have plenty of exciting options at his disposal. One potential combination could be inserting Ohtani between George Springer and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Another might be having the lefty slugger hit behind Guerrero, putting him in front of Alejandro Kirk.
Adding another talented hitter to the mix — someone who’s hit 67 home runs and slashed .256/.363/.550 with a 144 wRC+ score across 254 games since 2021 — would provide the Blue Jays with the best offence in baseball. Not even Aaron Judge and the Yankees would compare to Toronto’s loaded lineup.
Ohtani would also dramatically improve the team’s starting rotation. The right-hander would join a staff that already features Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman and José Berríos. And he’d be around for at least the next two postseasons.
This season, Los Angeles’s two-way superstar has taken his craft to another level on the mound, posting career-bests in ERA (2.81), xERA (2.46), FIP (2.37), strikeout rate (36.4 percent), walk rate (5.8 percent) and fWAR (3.3).
Adding to his case, the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year has improved his first-pitch strike (61.3 percent) and swing percentages (39.4 percent), both of which are also career-highs.
Trading for Ohtani would improve the Blue Jays in two critical areas: their starting rotation and offence. The bullpen, however, would remain the club’s No. 1 weakness and probably couldn’t be addressed after gutting the farm system.
That begs the question, would the club be better positioned to win the World Series by acquiring Ohtani? Maybe, but given the Yankees' stranglehold on the AL East, the Blue Jays would still have to navigate a best-of-three wild-card series that is more or less a crapshoot.
At this point, Toronto’s front office must prioritize adding more high-leverage relievers, preferably ones who feature swing-and-miss stuff. Improving the rest of the roster by the trade deadline would be a bonus.
Making a flashy move by acquiring a generational superstar would be a bold move. It would generate plenty of buzz among the fan base, as it should. But at the end of the day, if it doesn’t improve your chances of winning a championship, what’s the point?
The Blue Jays are determined to win now, and rightly so. Their core includes Bo Bichette, Teoscar Hernandez, Springer, Guerrero, Manoah, Berríos, Gausman and others. They are currently built to win.
But as unfortunate as it is, acquiring Ohtani — or Soto — alone wouldn’t be enough to put them over the top to win this season’s World Series.
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