The trade sending Seung-Hwan Oh to the Rockies is nearly complete as the Jays try to restock their farm for the next contention window. In exchange for the reliable reliever, Toronto receives a pair of Low-A bats in Chad Spanberger and Forrest Wall.
Editor’s Note: The following analysis was based on the rumour that Sean Bouchard, and not Forrest Wall, was included in the trade.
As someone who follows both franchises closely, my initial reaction is that the Jays got the short end of the swap. Just like any deal, there’s a million ways this could pan out, but most probably end with both Bouchard and Spanberger providing little to no major league value for Toronto. The saving grace for the Jays here is that if one of them do work out (particularly Spanberger), you could get a significant amount of value at a time where the franchise is on the upswing and needs it most.
We’ll deal with Bouchard first since he’s the easier player to review. He plays all the corner positions (first base, third base, left field and right field) as well as DH and doesn’t hit well enough to get you excited for a 22-year-old in Low-A. In all likelihood, Bouchard never sees the majors and ends up a forgotten player. Unless the Jays see something very specific they tweak in his swing that they believe will take him to the next level, this is probably jut a filler prospect that can play multiple positions and help juggle the minor league rosters going forward.
Spanberger is the more interesting of the two names as he’s exceeded expectations at both rookie ball and Low-A so far. He was selected in the sixth round of the 2017 draft and hasn’t stopped hitting since, boasting a .316 / .364 / .580 line in Low-A Asheville this season. However, that also makes him a left handed hitter in an environment that could be described as sunshine and lollipops for left handed power hitters. Until he starts putting up numbers like this in a different park or preferably at a higher level, it will be hard to consider him a serious prospect in the Jays system.
The other issue here is that he’s still a million miles away from the major league club, so there’s literally over a thousand plate appearance where opponents and scouts will have opportunities to trip him up and find holes in his swing. At this point, it more likely than not he flames out over the next 24 months. However, the Jays are clearly playing the long game here, trying to stockpile value for the early 2020’s, and if Spanberger can defy the odds and keep moving along steadily, make adjustments to the pitchers who adjust to him, and grow his tools, there’s a change they find a real steal here.
So I guess the easiest way to sum this up is that the Rockies got safest and soonest value from the deal with Oh, and the Jays got the guy who has the highest value ceiling. Of course, you won’t see that value for a long time, if ever.
The return surprised me a bit because of Oh’s $2.5 million option in 2019. If he continues to pitch the way he has so far this season, he’d fetch far more than that on the free agent market, and I thought that would have pushed his value higher than a pair of Low-A hitters with high flame-out potential.
Oh fills a desperate need for the Rockies who only have two relievers who don’t rank as cringe worthy in high leverage situations right now, and Oh not only provides an upgrade there, but actually has the chance to make the seventh inning a strength for that team. (You have to have watched them this season to know how crazy that sounds.) Since the Rockies were such a perfect match for Oh, I actually thought the Jays might be better off trying to package Oh and Justin Smoak together and potentially take back a sunk cost contract to sweeten the prospect deal, but apparently no dice. I wonder if something like that was ever discussed.
In any case, there’s also ways this deal could blow up for Colorado. Oh is 36, so he could hit that wall at anytime, and his fly-ball rate is uncomfortably high for someone about to call Coors Field home. The Jays didn’t have to trade Oh right now with the option in place for next season, but perhaps we look back a year from now and conclude they moved him at the perfect moment. You just never know with relievers.
For now, we’ll watch Spanberger try to sharpen his skills at Lansing while the rebuild kicks into high gear with less than a week to go now before the deadline. Perhaps Spanberger will have more new teammates by this time next week.