TORONTO – Bold trades converting prospect capital like Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson into present value like Jose Berrios were always going to be part of the progression for the Toronto Blue Jays after the mega-contract signing of George Springer last winter.
That the transition happened now, hours ahead of Friday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline, before their first home game at Rogers Centre in 670 days, with FanGraphs calculating their playoffs odds at 26 per cent at the beginning of the day, is what’s most intriguing about this springboard blockbuster.
While there are objective reasons to believe that the Blue Jays are better than their 51-48 record, notably a win expectancy of 59-40 based on a plus-97 run differential, there’s just as much cause for them to kick the can down the road and look to reload for 2022.
The Blue Jays entered the day 4.5 games back of Oakland for the second wild card spot, with Seattle and the Yankees between them and each had improved ahead of the deadline. Martin opened the season as the club’s top ranked prospect according to Baseball America, rated No. 22 overall in the game at midseason while Woods Richardson sat fourth on the team list.
Parting with them now is a substantial price, even if Berrios remains under contractual control through the 2022 season. For the first time under president and CEO Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins, the Blue Jays have subtracted meaningfully from a farm system carefully curated since their arrival after the 2015 season.
There’s risk here that one or both emerge into significant players while the Blue Jays get only a season and two months with Berrios. But if such deals don’t happen now, then when? And at a certain point, the priority has to shift to leveraging every bit of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Springer, Teoscar Hernandez, Hyun Jin Ryu and the rest of a talented group.