The Toronto Blue Jays sit on June 7th with a 26-35 record good for 15.5 games out of first place in the difficult AL East. Despite early season success, the Jays have been hindered by injuries and poor performance from declining players of late. As teams like the Phillies found out, hanging onto aging stars for too long comes back to hurt a team in a big way and the Jays are doing just that. With no hope for the rest of the season, a rebuild needs to happen immediately.
Josh Donaldson has battled injuries throughout this year for Toronto which has hurt the team in more ways than one. Other than hurting the team’s overall record, Donaldson not being on the field has hurt his trade value. In a contract year with the Blue Jays doing nothing in the standings, Toronto’s first order of business should be trading their star third baseman for whatever they can get.
Immediately after trading Donaldson, a phone call should be made to Double-A where the Jays need to bring up baseballs top prospect, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. If you haven’t seen Guerrero’s stats, you have certainly seen one of his moonshot home runs off buildings and over fences at seemingly every AA park in the league. The son of Hall of Fame outfielder Vladimir Guerrero Sr. is hitting an improbable .401 this year in 202 at-bats in the minors with 11 home runs and 55 RBIs. His OPS is an unheard of 1.116 and his call-up is inevitable. The only problem is, Donaldson is still blocking the third base position. Guerrero’s defense is not fantastic, but the Jays think it will hurt his development if he is a teenage DH in the big leagues and in a lost season, there is no reason why Guerrero shouldn’t get everyday reps at third base to try to improve his defense.
Once Donaldson is traded, the Jays can get rid of the contracts of J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada. Happ has an ERA of 4.08 this year but has been solid during the last few years and would be of interest to a contending team. Depending on how the starting pitching market shapes up during the coming weeks, teams like the Yankees or Brewers may be willing to overpay to get a guy at the deadline. Estrada, on the other hand, is coming off a couple solid seasons as well but has been awful this year. His ERA is well north of 5 and he has only compiled two wins this season. In 64.2 innings Estrada has allowed 75 hits and struck out just 48. Toronto should hope Estrada can pull it together before the deadline to improve his trade value.
The Jays still have a strong young core that is worth building around and a minor league system that is promising. Future starts Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio join Guerrero in what is one of the best minor league systems in the game. With trades of Donaldson, Happ, Estrada, and others, the Jays already strong farm system can be made even better for a promising future. Things are moving fast in Toronto and despite being in fourth in the AL East, this year is not a waste for the Jays.
Photo: The Athletic