Blue Jays trade OF Hernandez to Mariners for reliever Swanson, pitching prospect Macko

Kevin Michie and Shi Davidi discuss the Jays trading Teoscar Hernandez to the Mariners, what to expect from the return in Erik Swanson and Adam Macko, plus what the outfield could look like next season with the team’s newfound financial flexibility.

TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays strengthened their bullpen, freed up payroll and created space to transform their righty-dominated lineup by trading slugger Teoscar Hernandez to the Seattle Mariners for reliever Erik Swanson and lefty prospect Adam Macko on Wednesday.

Coming on the heels of parting ways with fellow outfielders Raimel Tapia and Bradley Zimmer on Tuesday, projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn about $6.5 million, shedding Hernandez and his roughly $14.1 million hit for Swanson, due to make about $1.4 million his first time through arbitration, opens up about $19 million for GM Ross Atkins.

Parting with Hernandez, the electric right-fielder who is a two-time Silver Slugger winner but also a player who can be maddening with his inconsistencies and concentration lapses, weakens a lineup that was a primary Blue Jays strength.

But the true measure of the deal is in what the club accomplishes with its newfound spending power, especially given that Hernandez is eligible for free agency after the 2023 season and past extension talks between the sides went nowhere.

Swanson also gives the club a financially efficient back-end of the bullpen type of arm, one that was sought by multiple other clubs this off-season. Though the 29-year-old’s fastball sat at a relatively pedestrian 93.6 m.p.h. this past season, opponents swung through it 29.3 per cent of the time, complemented by a put-away splitter whiffed at 28.8 per cent of the time and a slider that generated a 30.3 per cent whiff rate.

Importantly, Swanson was also immune to platoon advantages, limiting right-handed hitters to a .555 OPS and lefties to a .517 OPS, which will give manager John Schneider more flexibility in lining up his bullpen.

The Blue Jays, philosophically, have been reluctant to commit big dollars to their bullpen and Swanson, who is three seasons away from free agency, addresses a major need without a significant financial investment.

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The 21-year-old Macko, who was born in Slovakia but moved to Canada as a teenager and was drafted in the seventh round by the Mariners out of the Vauxhall Baseball Academy in Alberta, gives the Blue Jays a future piece.

The lefty struck out 60 batters in 38.1 innings over eight starts at high-A Everett last year, including two strong outings against the Vancouver Canadians, the Blue Jays’ affiliate.

One rival evaluator praised the Macko add, describing him as raw with “great stuff” and a chance “to be really, really good.”

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