The 2022 Major League Baseball Trade Deadline was one out of a fairy tale – at least for that of one Juan Soto.
The 23-year-old super-slugger found a new home in San Diego alongside fellow superstars Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado, while the New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros also stayed very busy all throughout the day as active buyers leading up to the deadline.
The Toronto Blue Jays?
Well, they reportedly engaged in conversations with a number of big players, but were unable to pull the trigger on any of them… Juan Soto included.
Oh right, Noah Syndergaard was also a player the team was keen on.
No, Toronto did not pull off any of the bigger moves in what was an exceptionally active trade deadline, but the team did land a few names that will look to help what seems to be an underachieving bubble team.
First, the club opted to beef up its bullpen by way of a trade for a former Blue Jay and a Canadian – How much better could it get?
Well, the club gave away its star prospect Jordan Groshans in the process, so it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Blue Jays fans. The deal saw Anthony Bass return to Toronto alongside Brampton, Ontario’s own Zach Pop in exchange for Groshans – the team’s No. 4 prospect.
“It’s pretty special to be able to go back home, see my family and play for the Blue Jays,” Pop said of the deal. “I’ve got a lot of friends and a lot of people rooting for them right now. To be a part of what they’re doing up there right now is pretty amazing. They’ve got a great team over there, and I’m lucky to be a part of it. They’re doing some special things.”
Both Bass and Pop are relievers and will come out of the bullpen for the Jays in the stretch run. Pop – a 25-year-old right-hander – will be under club control through 2026, while Bass – a 34-year-old right-hander – could option for another season in Toronto following the conclusion of 2022.
“I’m going to a team with a chance to make the postseason, which, as players, is what we always want to do,” Bass said. “Our end goal is to win a World Series, so that part is exciting, going to Toronto for that opportunity. Obviously, it’s a familiar place. I was with them in 2020, so it will be a nice transition for me.”
Pop is a heavy hurler in the midst of a decent 2022 campaign. His 7.8 strikeouts over nine innings is a decent upgrade from some of Toronto’s current relief help. He is a ground ball out machine and will likely throw many low strikes for the club moving forward.
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Bass, on the other hand, has had himself a career year thus far with Miami, posing 45 strikeouts over 44 and two-third innings with a beautiful 1.41 earned run average to boot.
This acquisition of two strong relievers is all fine and well, but for it to be the headline deal of an important trade deadline day, it just wasn’t enough from GM Ross Atkins and company.
The team did add vaccination holdout Whit Merrifield in another deal that saw minor leaguers Samad Taylor and Max Castillo head to Kansas City.
“He’s such a good player, first and foremost, and he is very accomplished with incredible experiences,” Atkins said of Merrifield. “The versatility, the contact ability, the speed, playing multiple positions, incredible base runner. I feel very good about him at so many different positions that that versatility will help us down the stretch. Between he and Calvin and Rimel and others, we feel like we can really protect and keep guys from time to time off their feet in the event of the injury we’re very well covered.”
The utility infielder is hitting .240 this season over 95 games but was one of a slew of players on the Royals that did not make the trip to Toronto earlier this past July due to vaccination status.
“Right or wrong, I didn’t do it on a whim,” Merrifield said in an interview related to his stance on COVID and its restrictions related to Canada/USA. “It’s been a long thought process. Because I understand what Canada has in place right now. That’s the only reason that I would think about getting it at this point, is to go to Canada. That might change down the road. Something happens and I happen to get on a team that has a chance to go play in Canada in the postseason, maybe that changes.”
The 33-year-old has actually had a tough showing this year in Kansas City. That, pairs with his worrisome attitude related to the border requirements may give some Jays fans nightmares, but current clubhouse manager John Schneider doesn’t seem the least bit concerned with his new infield position player.
“I think he’ll fit in great,” Schneider said. “He’s a good player who can do a lot of different things that complement our roster that’s already really good. The athleticism, the versatility. We’ve seen him play. He’s a gamer. So we’re excited to have someone who gives you a little bit more insurance.”
Toronto’s biggest need, however, was help in its rotation. Despite the attempt to bring back Syndergaard, the groundwork just didn’t seem to happen and nothing major materialized in time for a move prior to the deadline.
“We are so excited about this team and the acquisitions,” Atkins added. “I think the continuity aspect of it being able to think about complementing this core, the work we’ve done on the teammates and the character, the present value and the future value of each of these individuals is really exciting for us.”
The mainstays including Kevin Gausman, Jose Berrios, Alek Manoah, and Ross Stripling do need help with the injury to Hyun-Jin Ryu. Another starter to assist Yusei Kikuchi was in high demand. Will that failed acquisition come back to haunt Toronto come the postseason? Only time will tell.
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