Blue Jays takeaways from Teoscar Hernández trade

There’s an element of surprise every time a core player is dealt, which is exactly what Hernández has become over the past six seasons, growing from a talented but flawed young hitter to a cornerstone of Toronto’s 2020 AL Silver lineup. Slugger Awards. and ’21. However, the Blue Jays need to be more creative this offseason given their payroll, and this is the start of something bigger.

Looking ahead, the Blue Jays’ offseason is now taking on a very different shape.

1. Money Matters: This transaction is only Part 1
Hernández was expected to make $14 million in arbitration this offseason. That number is critical to this trade, and it’s also why we can’t properly evaluate it until the rest of the off-season is over.

The Blue Jays will of course need to fill the gap in their outfield, ideally with a bat that brings more balance to their lineup, but that projected $14 million could also be spread across the bullpen and rotation. They were financially in a place where one big move – or maybe two mid-range moves – made sense. They now have a powerhouse, but whether they get a Fail or a Pass on this transaction depends on where this new money is spent.

2. Why Hernández and why now?
Hernández was set to become a free agent at the end of the 2023 season, and there was no indication that the Blue Jays were willing to renew him against the number he could potentially earn in free agency. Hernández is not a perfect player, but if he came on the market at 31 years old, there would be teams who would love how he fits into their line-ups.

Inconvenient as it may be, this was the Blue Jays’ chance to advance from Hernández or Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and turning to a more balanced outfield. Hernández’s expected salary for next season is more than $9 million higher than Gurriel’s. You can do the math.

3. Welcome to the bullpen market
Now this is what it costs to acquire elite enlighteners, or at least enlighteners with the potential to become elite. Swanson, who is 29 and still has three years of team control, pitched on an 1.68 ERA last season and struckout 70 batters with only 10 walks in 53 2/3 innings. Pairing those numbers at the back alongside Jordan Romano finally raises the ceiling of a bullpen group that is deep but needs an updraft.

However, this is also a lesson for the Blue Jays. Robert Suarez re-signed with the Padres for five years and $46 million. Rafael Montero signed a three-year, $34.5 million deal with the Astros. Edwin Díaz re-signed for a whopping $102 million over five years.

It has never been more important to develop illuminators. The Blue Jays are making some very encouraging progress in player development, which will become apparent in the coming years, but in a perfect world, Toronto would have found its own version of Swanson internally, rather than trade Hernández for him.

4. Rebranding the outfield
Let’s go with “rebrand” instead of rebuilding here. The Blue Jays will have George Springer and Gurriel as starters, and while Whit Merrifield can play the outfield and Nathan Lukes is on the 40-man roster, there will clearly be another move here. This is Toronto’s chance to balance the lineup with a left-handed bat that has been talked about all year.

Among the free-agent options, Brandon Nimmo fits this lineup beautifully. Michael Conforto is another possibility, along with Michael Brantley or the trade market, where the Blue Jays are still active.

5. What comes next?
A lot. The Blue Jays still have the same number of needs, they’re just in different places now.

The pursuit of an outfielder will be near the top of Toronto’s list, and while their need in the bullpen has been significantly reduced with the addition of Swanson, rotation is still an issue behind Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman and José Berríos.

This is where the Blue Jays are likely to make a real splash. Whether watching the trade market or targeting an experienced starter with a short-term deal, the Blue Jays recognize they need to raise the floor at the back of this rotation. Draft is also a priority, after it almost became a big deal last season, but Toronto’s top priority will be to bring in at least one – ideally two – legitimate MLB starters.

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