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Blue Jays Offseason Sim Results, Part 2: Trades and Free Agents

MLB: General Manager’s Meetings Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In yesterday’s post, I covered the setup for the simulation and the option and arbitration tender decisions I made. Today, I’m going to go over the trade market and free agency, and sum up. Full results for all teams are available over at Royals Review. Huge hat tip again to Max Rieper, who puts a preposterous amount of work into this.

Before discussing the moves, I did make, I want to go over three that ultimately didn’t happen. My first order of business was to gauge trade interest in Alek Manoah. I don’t really want to see him traded. He’s a 25 year old recent Cy Young candidate who appears to be more or less healthy (mysterious ‘shoulder injection’ aside). That’s not a guy you give up on easily. That said, I don’t know how damaged relations are between Manoah and the club, but it’s a safe bet that things are at least tense. It also doesn’t appear that the organization’s coaching staff were able to figure out his problem in-season. It’s at least possible that a change of scenery is best for all parties, so I decided to see what the market might look like if it had to happen. What I found, at least among knowledgeable members of other fanbases, is that Manoah’s value has cratered. That he was so bad and healthy seems scarier to trade partners than if he’d been seriously hurt. I never got a firm offer I’d seriously have considered. Mostly it consisted of ex-prospects who were two or three years into their MLB careers and hadn’t ever accomplished much of anything. Arguably Manoah is in that same bucket of reclamation projects, but the fact that he has proof of concept for excelling in MLB still puts him firmly a level above to me.

The next was a trade offer I got from the Yankees of Jasson Dominguez for Vladimir Guerrero jr. I admit half the reason I seriously considered it was that I knew it would start fights in the comments, but it does make a degree of baseball sense. Dominguez is out through the middle of 2024 for Tommy John, but he’s a top 50 prospect who cracked the majors at 20, and boasts massive power, plus speed, and centre field defence. He probably lacks Vlad’s MVP upside, which is why the Yankees, desperate for short term impact talent, dangled him. He’s a potential all-star, though, or close. If the Jays are looking to extend the window, swapping two years of very expensive Vlad for six of a talented player making much less could work. It helped that there were real 1B options on the market this winter but the outfield picture is bleak. Ultimately the Yankees went a different direction (trading everyone except Dominguez for Juan Soto), and anyway I couldn’t have pulled the trigger. Not for nothing that my handle on every other baseball site is Expo27. I’m a Guerrero family fan lifer.

The last is a free agent signing of Lee Jung-Hoo. The Korean outfielder boasts elite contact skills (though little power), plus speed, and a glove that should be plus in a corner or passable in centre. At just 25, he has his whole prime in front of him. With a thin outfield crop behind Cody Bellinger this winter, I thought a deal similar to what Boston gave Masataka Yoshida (5 years, 90 million) made a lot of sense, with probably a couple of years tacked on because of Lee’s youth and much better glove. I think he’s a possibility for the real life Jays, but in the sim he got bid up to a laughable 10/$260m (big free agent deals are often way too big in the sim, and the shiny new toy aspect of Korean and Japanese league players inflates the premium even further).

Now, to the moves that did happen:

  • Bowden Francis traded to the Brewers for Tyrone Taylor: I’m a Francis fan, but we needed a high end fourth outfielder. Taylor offers speed, above average CF defence and actual pop with a career .212 ISO and 101 wRC+, with three years of cheap control.
  • Addison Barger, Hayden Juenger, and Santiago Espinal traded to the Marlins for Edward Cabrera: this one was a bit of a gamble. I like Barger, and think he could probably be fine manning third base this season in Toronto. He’ll strike out more than you’d like, but the power is real. Espinal I was happy to give up, given that I’d considered non-tendering him anyway, and while Juenger is interesting to me he wasn’t good in AAA last year and upper level middle relief is the farm’s one strength. I wanted a fifth starter, and Cabrera is exciting. He hasn’t put it all together yet, but his 4.01 MLB ERA is respectable, and his 97mph fastball and devastating change suggest untapped potential. He reminds me a little of Aaron Sanchez, a big guy with big stuff that generates whiffs and ground balls which make up for too many walks (most of the time). He’s also five years from free agency. He’s the most valuable player in the deal by any fair accounting, and I figure the team that gets the single best guy usually wins the trade. There was risk, though, in that at this point I had nobody but an IMO not ready Orelvis Martinez to man third.
  • Brandon Belt signed for 1/$10m: I like Belt. I get the feeling pretty much everyone does. The Jays need lefty thump, and if the guy who provided plenty last season wants to give it another go, why not?
  • Adam Macko and Connor Cooke traded to the Marlins for Jon Berti and Juan Reynoso: I wanted to shore up the utility infielder spot without spending much money. Old friend Jon Berti is 33 now, but he still boasts elite speed, good contact, and plus D anywhere on the infield. In his career he’s a 2.6WAR/600PA player, and despite getting up there his skills show no signs of erosion. He’s under control for two years, the first for $3.6m. Macko has upside, but failed to improve in his second tour at High A Vancounver last season. Cooke is another potentially good middle reliever who’s expendable. Reynoso is an athletic 19 year old with a promising breaking ball and big K numbers but even bigger walk problems so far in A ball, a lottery ticket to partly replace Macko.
  • Matt Chapman signs for 4/$70m: this one was almost an accident. I checked in on Chapo halfway through the sim and his best offer was 3/40. I offered 4/70, which I think represents the absolute floor of his plausible market, if even that, and I guess everyone was so busy throwing quarters of billions of dollars at assorted KBO and NPB imports that he slipped through the cracks. I can’t see this happening in real life. Chapman will command nine figures, likely in the range of $130-150m over five or six years. As I’ve said before, the infield market is him, talking yourself into four years of Jeimer Candelario, and then the abyss.
  • Yimi Garcia traded to the Guardians for James Karinchak and Parker Messick: This was mostly about clearing salary. Yimi is worth his $6m, but with Jay Jackson on the 26 man fringe I figured he was expendable. Messick, a second rounder in 2022, has a middling fastball but a great change and strong command, profiling as a #5. Karinchak was a throw-in. His always high walk rate balooned to 16% this season and his previously elite K rate dipped, but the stuff is still there, he has an option, and makes just $1.5m. Let’s see if a new coaching staff can get him back on track.
  • Cody Bellinger signs for 6/$120m: Another one that I think will be wildly exceeded in reality. I’m a little skeptical of Bellinger. He’s a terrific defensive outfielder, and just 28. He doesn’t hit the ball hard really at all (his hard hit rate was in the 10th percentile), which leads me to believe the return of his home runs this season is a mirage. His plate discipline is below average, and now that he’s less feared he’ll probably never walk like he did early in his career again. His contact rate took a huge jump this year, from below average to well above, but I wonder how sustainable that is. Steamer projects him for a 108 wRC+, which feels about right. Combined with his glove in CF that’s a 3.5ish WAR player (Steamer says 2.6 but that’s with a bunch of 1B innings dragging his defensive value down). Probably worth ~$180-200m over seven or eight years if you think his youth means he’ll be firmly in his prime and healthy for the first half of the deal, but health has also been a question. He just feels like the kind of player where whoever wins the bidding will regret it 18 months from now. All of that said, at the price I signed him for here he’s a steal.

Alright, to sum up, the roster looks like this:

Rotation: Kevin Gausman, Jose Berrios, Chris Bassitt, Yusei Kikuchi, Edward Cabrera

Bullpen: Jordan Romano, Chad Green, Erik Swanson, Genesis Cabrera, Tim Mayza, Jay Jackson, Trevor Richards, Mitch White (long man)

C: Alejandro Kirk/Danny Jansen

1B: Vladimir Guerrero jr.

2B: Davis Schneider/Cavan Biggio (I’d do a loose platoon with Schneider facing lefties and the easier half of righties)

3B: Matt Chapman

SS: Bo Bichette

LF: Cody Bellinger

CF: Daulton Varsho

RF: George Springer

DH: Brandon Belt

Bench: Tyrone Taylor, Jon Berti

AAA: Alek Manoah, Orelvis Martinez

So, what does ownership think of my performance?


How are the Blue Jays Going to Commemorate Tom’s Tenure as GM?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Statue outside the park
    (31 votes)
  • 16%
    Name on the Level of Excellence
    (52 votes)
  • 44%
    Tasteful portrait in the office complex lobby
    (138 votes)
  • 16%
    We’d just as soon forget
    (51 votes)
  • 12%
    Picture in each 500 level urinal
    (39 votes)
311 votes total Vote Now