TORONTO – The second trade in a week for the Toronto Blue Jays added more depth to a bullpen in need of legitimate big-league arms, cleverly using organizational surplus while protecting prime minor-league assets.
Reliever Trevor Richards, destined for leverage according to manager Charlie Montoyo, and triple-A starter Bowden Francis, were acquired Tuesday from the Milwaukee Brewers for first baseman Rowdy Tellez, who was optioned to triple-A when George Springer came off the IL.
Richards will join Adam Cimber, picked up with outfielder Corey Dickerson from the Miami Marlins on June 29 for utilityman Joe Panik and minor-leaguer Andrew McInvale, in beefing up Montoyo’s options. Factor in the addition of right-hander Jacob Barnes, picked up from the New York Mets on June 19, and the Blue Jays have raised the floor of their relief corps.
“I'm happy that we made this move,” said Montoyo. “Of course I'm going to miss Rowdy, but that's just part of the game and I know Trevor Richards is going to help us out.”
That they’ve done so at minimal expense is a common thread running through their recent history of in-season addition trades. Like Panik, made redundant by the emergence of Santiago Espinal, Tellez had no pathways to playing time with the Blue Jays with the emergence of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the return of Springer and the eventual add of the injured Dickerson.
A question for them in the weeks ahead will be how can they also raise the ceiling of their relief corps, especially with the Chicago Cubs’ recent collapse increasingly making it look like closer Craig Kimbrel will be available, and Pittsburgh Pirates closer Richard Rodriguez dangling.
The prices for them will be much, much higher. For some contex, in 2016 the New York Yankees turned Aroldis Chapman into a package from the Cubs that included Gleyber Torres and Andrew Miller into a return with Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield (who was later packaged to the Mariners for James Paxton).
Such a cost would be a total non-starter for the Blue Jays, who are keeping an eye on their prospects to fuel the next wave of talent to help eventually renew the current core of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Teoscar Hernandez and Cavan Biggio.
Still, they do have some intriguing surplus at both catcher and in the outfield, along with several players Rule-5 eligible this winter, which gives them a chance to be creative. Both Richards and Cimber arrive with three more seasons of club control, helping address an immediate need with the potential to serve as longer-term puzzle pieces, too.
Tellez had moments where he looked like a potential part of the core with the Blue Jays but never got untracked this season before his window of opportunity closed. For the Brewers, he fit an immediate need, leading to a rare deal five days before the draft, and he should do some damage at Miller Park.
Richards is the prime return for the Blue Jays and he’s on the move for the second time in six weeks, after being traded with Willy Adames by the Tampa Bay Rays to Milwaukee for J.P. Feyereisen and Drew Rasmussen.
The 28-year-old has a cumulative 3.69 ERA and 1.137 WHIP with 41 strikeouts in 31.2 innings, mainly throwing a fastball/changeup combo with the occasional curveball.
“He's going to get a chance in high leverage, that's for sure,” said Montoyo. “He's going to get here and we're going to talk to him about it and see where we go from there.”
Francis, 25, has a 3.62 ERA and 1.022 WHIP with 65 strikeouts in 59.2 innings over 11 starts between double-A Biloxi and triple-A Nashville. He’ll likely report to triple-A Buffalo and the Blue Jays will see if he turns into more depth.