The Blue Jays were very busy ahead of Monday's trade deadline, making bold moves in unexpected ways. It was a massive shift from the prospect sale of one year ago, as the Jays found under-the-radar type of moves and kept their top prospects as a result. Here's some perspective on yesterday's trades:
1) RHP prospect Guadalupe Chavez to Houston for RHP Scott Feldman.
This was a surprising, but strong, move for GM Ross Atkins. After the Dodgers paid a haul for Rich Hill, the Jays seemed bound to pay a high price for a mid-rotation starter, but found an attractive alternative at a much lower price. Feldman's appeared mostly out of the bullpen this year for the Astros, but he did make 80 starts over the previous 3 seasons, and his ERA is consistently under 4.
Feldman offers little upside, but terrific control keeps him consistently valuable. He rarely walks anyone, and generates a ton of weak contact and ground balls. At the time of the deal, the Jays likely planned to have Feldman in the rotation, but a last minute deal for Francisco Liriano likely makes him the swingman for the time being.
Guadalupe Chavez is still in rookie ball and is a long way away from the majors. He was clearly not one of the team's top prospects at the time of the deal, so you have to figure the price is lower than acquiring Jeremy Hellickson or Ervin Santana. You would hope for an ERA just under 4 for either of these starters, a benchmark that Feldman typically meets. I did not expect Feldman to be dealt, but it is nice to see the Jays finding strong value in a surprising way.
2) RHP Jesse Chavez to Los Angeles Dodgers for RHP Mike Bolsinger.
Two months of Jesse Chavez is not all that valuable, so the Jays did well to add starting pitching depth at the AAA level. Bolsinger is a soft-tossing right-hander with a solid K/BB ratio, but he will give up his fair share of hard contact. He struggled greatly in 6 MLB starts this season, but did boast a 3.62 ERA in 21 starts just last year.
Bolsinger utilizes a fastball- slider- curveball combination, which should do well against right-handed hitters. In contrast, lefties have hit .303 against him for his career, and he could really use an extra weapon to help offset this. His ability to generate strikeouts gives him serious potential as a future back-end starter, but allowing a great deal of hard contact could keep him in the minors. He's pitched fine in AAA this year, and should be prepared to pitch for the Jays if called upon.
Chavez offers serious potential as a backend starter, particularly when he is in a big park, but it seems like the Blue Jays were ready to move on. He's been extremely homer prone this season, and Toronto only utilized him as a reliever. With just two months of control remaining for Chavez, there's not much to lose here for the Jays, as they didn't plan to use him as a starter down the stretch anyways.
3) RHP Drew Hutchison to Pittsburgh for LHP Francisco Liriano, C prospect Reese McGuire, OF prospect Harold Ramirez.
This trade came out of nowhere, but this last-minute deal offers serious upside to the Blue Jays. Francisco Liriano has been awful this year, largely due to horrible command, but the amazing arsenal is still there. He posted an incredible 3.26 ERA over the previous 3 seasons, and held opposing hitters to a .220 average. On one hand, he could rebound and be the Blue Jays top starter, but on the other hand, he could pitch like 2012 Ricky Romero.
Even when Liriano is successful, he tends to walk his fair share of hitters. His pitch count often limits him from pitching deep into games, so Toronto's bullpen will need to be prepared to pitch more innings. Despite a much higher walk rate, Liriano is throwing more pitches inside the strike zone compared to previous seasons, an encouraging sign that his numbers may return to a more reasonable level. On the other hand, hitters are making more contact against Liriano, while chasing less pitches out of the strike zone in the process. There is a real chance that he can rebound, but this is a very risky time for this experiment.
In terms of the prospects acquired, MLB.com now places McGuire and Ramirez as Toronto's 4th and 5th best prospects respectively. Although they are ranked slightly lower on my personal list, both prospects will carry trade value if Toronto wishes to flip one in the offseason.
McGuire, 21 is widely praised for his plus defence behind the plate. He also offers a strong ability to make contact, and generates a fair share of walks, but rarely hits for any power. I'll compare him to a young Ryan Hanigan, who has made a career for himself playing strong defence, drawing plenty of walks, and effectively putting the ball in play. I believe McGuire is more likely to develop as a backup catcher than a starter at this point, which is why he is slightly lower on my list.
Ramirez, also 21, is a right-handed hitter that has consistently hit over .300 in recent seasons. He's played a ton of centre field this year, but it's widely assumed that he will move over to a corner outfield position in the near future. There are legitimate concerns as to whether his bat will play in the corners, as he's shown little power over his career thus far, and does not draw many walks. Let's hope that Ramirez can prove the scouts wrong and stick in centre field.
The Big Picture
All in all, the Blue Jays did well to preserve the farm system at a time when prices are at an all time high. Drew Hutchison could end up as a mid-rotation starter, but it was tough to envision when he would see another extended look with the Jays at the Major League level. A change of scenery could really do wonders for his career, but the same can be said for Francisco Liriano as well.
Toronto found strong value today, but will take a significant risk down the stretch. Liriano can help or hurt their playoff chances greatly, and his performance will largely determine the success of today's moves. It's nice to see top prospects such as Anthony Alford, Richard Urena, and Sean Reid-Foley remain in the organization, and it's a refreshing change to see a stronger farm system rather than a depleting it further.