Toronto Blue Jays should sell at MLB trade deadline: But how much?

Toronto Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr and Bo Bichette
Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Blue Jays are 38-46 on the year, 15 games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East, and eight back in a tough wild-card race. There are still plenty of games left to make a dent in each of those deficits. But given the Jays’ recent track record, it may be time to start re-tooling for the future.

Since their core of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette debuted in 2019, the Jays have made the postseason three out of four years. But they have been swept out of the wild-card round each of those three appearances. That also means that this core group has yet to win a game in the postseason, let alone a series.

With another disappointing campaign under way, it’s time for the Blue Jays to start selling. They have talent on their roster that should help the club replenish its 24th-ranked farm system. The question for Toronto as it approaches the MLB trade deadline will be which players it views as core pieces moving forward, and which will be moved for pieces that will hopefully be a part of the team’s future.

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The Toronto Blue Jays finances

Toronto Blue Jays
Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

According to the team’s payroll over at FanGraphs, Toronto has a payroll of $225 million this season which ranks eighth in baseball. Its highest-paid player this year is George Springer at $24.166 million, followed closely by Kevin Gausman and Chris Bassitt at $22 million each. Gausman and Springer are under team control through the 2026 season. Bassitt is until 2025.

While payroll hasn’t been a huge issue for the club, with some reworking of the roster likely to take place, and contracts needing to be handed out to Bichette and Guerrero (if they’re part of the team’s future plans), moving a more expensive piece, if possible, could set the club up for future success.

FanGraphs also has the Blue Jays with a projected payroll of $130.5 million for next season. But that is based off of the known contracts the team has and doesn’t include arbitration estimates or filling a roster with pre-arb players. So, the final number figures to be quite a bit higher once the full roster is assembled.

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Expiring contracts for the Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays' Justin Turner
Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Turner, 39, is having a pretty solid season with a .729 OPS and a 114 wRC+. But he has spent most of the season at the DH spot. This limits his potential market. The veteran is making $13 million this season and wouldn’t net a huge return.

Left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, 33, holds a 4.18 ERA with a 3.53 FIP in 88 1/3 innings. He will be viewed as a solid third or fourth starter in a postseason rotation. His pro-rated $10 million salary for this season would be closer to $3.5-4 million if he’s moved around the deadline.

Outfielders Kevin Kiermaier and Yimi Garcia are both inexpensive depth options for clubs to consider. Kiemaier is still one of the best defensive outfielders in the game. Garcia, while injured at the moment, has struck out nearly 35% of the batters he’s faced while holding a 6.5% walk rate and a 2.57 ERA. Both could net an interesting prospect.

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The Toronto Blue Jays biggest question

Mar 28, 2024; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA;Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (27) celebrates after he this a home run during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays  at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

There is a world where the Blue Jays decide to keep both Bichette and Guerrero together, sign them to big extensions, and re-build the roster around them. There is also a chance that Toronto chooses not to live in that world and moves one, or both, of the mid-20’s cornerstones.

While Vladdy has had the higher peak offensively with his 166 wRC+ in 2021, Bichette has been a solid offensive player in his own right, averaging a 128 wRC+ in his first five seasons while playing a premium position on the infield.

Jays’ GM Ross Atkins said earlier this month that trading either star player “wouldn’t make sense” for the team moving forward. Given what each of those players means to the fan base, that’s probably the right thing to say. However, if the team is going to start moving forward, it could be time to move on from one of those foundational pieces. That way the team can start building towards a future that includes a postseason win or two.

Some would call it insane to trade either Bichette or Guerrero, but it’s also insane to keep trying the same thing while expecting different results.

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