Blue Jays could consider wide variety of controllable starters

Danny Salazar's under team control through 2020 (Tony Dejak/AP)

The Toronto Blue Jays’ pitching staff could still use reinforcements, even after adding Jesse Chavez.

Recent history suggests Chavez can provide 150 innings with a league-average ERA. That kind of production would certainly help the 2016 Blue Jays, though it shouldn’t be enough to end their off-season search for arms.

Now interim GM Tony LaCava must determine where to look next: the trade market, free agency or both.

Conveniently enough, the current free agent pitching market has something for everyone. Need an ace? David Price and Zack Greinke are available. Want to keep your draft picks? Call Mike Leake and Scott Kazmir. Looking to buy low? Consider Mat Latos and Jeff Samardzija.

Still, some types of pitchers are elusive, even in a deep free agent class. Teams seeking youth, below-market salaries or some combination thereof are turning to a trade market that’s been far more active than free agency.

Should the Blue Jays try to obtain controllable young pitching, they’ll find a wide variety of established arms worth considering, including some of the most prized trade chips in baseball.

Jose Fernandez
Age: 23 | Team control: through 2018 | 2015 stats: 2.92 ERA, 64.2 innings, 79 Ks | 2016 salary: $2.2 million*
Fernandez’s trade value remains incredibly high.

Trevor Bauer
Age: 24 | Team control: through 2020 | 2015 stats: 4.55 ERA, 176 innings, 170 Ks | 2016 salary: unclear; earned $1.94 million in 2015
Unlike some pitchers on this list, Bauer has yet to put together a dominant season.

Julio Teheran
Age: 24 | Team control: through 2019 + 2020 club option | 2015 stats: 4.04 ERA, 200.2 innings, 171 Ks | 2016 salary: $3.3 million
The Braves seem willing to listen on anyone this side of Freddie Freeman.

Danny Salazar
Age: 25 | Team control: through 2020 | 2015 stats: 3.45 ERA, 185 innings, 195 Ks | 2016 salary: ~$507,500
Salazar’s young, talented, controllable and affordable, so he’d have substantial trade value.

Shelby Miller
Age: 25 | Team control: through 2018 | 2015 stats: 3.02 ERA, 205.1 innings, 171 Ks | 2016 salary: $4.9 million*
The Braves could listen on Miller, who’s about to get expensive via arbitration.

Sonny Gray
Age: 26 | Team control: through 2019 | 2015 stats: 2.73 ERA, 208 innings, 169 Ks | 2016 salary: ~$522,500
Few pitchers have more trade value.

Jose Quintana
Age: 26 | Team control: through 2018 + club options through 2020 | 2015 stats: 3.36 ERA, 206.1 innings, 177 Ks | 2016 salary: $5.4 million
Quintana and Chris Sale look like building blocks for the White Sox.

Carlos Carrasco
Age: 28 | Team control: through 2018 + club options through 2020 | 2015 stats: 3.63 ERA, 183.2 innings, 216 Ks | 2016 salary: $4.5 million
The Blue Jays tried for Carrasco mid-season before acquiring David Price.

*Via MLB Trade Rumors’ arbitration projections.

Realistically, some of these players could be untouchable or close to it. Good luck sparking trade talks for Fernandez or Gray. Even available arms like Carrasco, would require a massive haul — likely a combination of big league talent and prospects, with high-upside names a must.

This time last year, it took Derek Norris to obtain Jesse Hahn and Howie Kendrick to acquire Andrew Heaney. The price only rises if the pitchers in question have proven themselves at the MLB level, as the Miller for Jason Heyward swap showed.

Plus, it’s not as though the Blue Jays are the only team seeking pitching. The Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs are among the many teams that could use frontline arms.

Successful large market teams don’t limit themselves to free agency, even though they often spend big. Within the last year, the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers have traded for controllable arms, acquiring Nathan Eovaldi, Wade Miley and Alex Wood, respectively.

While it’d be a surprise to see LaCava and Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro purge the farm system entirely, we’re not talking about rentals here. Controllable pitchers can make an impact over the course of many years, justifying a high asking price. Considering that Chavez and R.A. Dickey are both free agents after 2016, the Blue Jays could use a long-term starter to pair with Marcus Stroman.

The Blue Jays have frequently said there are no absolutes in their search for pitching. Using that logic, we shouldn’t expect them to focus on trades to the exclusion of free agency. There’s too much free agent pitching to ignore. This much is apparent, though: if controllable, young arms with upside are a priority, the trade market’s the place to look.

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