Black Friday has come and gone, but the shopping doesn't stop.
There's plenty for Toronto to find in the free agent market right now, but the possibility of another big trade looms large. The Jays have three MLB-caliber catchers heading into 2023—Gabriel Moreno, Alejandro Kirk, and Danny Jansen—and some big league holes still to fill.
The Jays have publicly and repeatedly stated they're open to keeping all three backstops creatively on the roster next year, but the ideal (and simplest) offseason outcome involves a trade for one. There are plenty of fits across the league, given that each of Toronto's three catchers brings something different, so I took a stab at a trade for each:
1. Need-For-Need With The Twins
Blue Jays Trade: C Danny Jansen
Twins Trade: OF Max Kepler
This one's pretty straightforward. Both Jansen and Kepler have two years of remaining team control, with Toronto's catcher arbitration eligible in 2022 and the Twins outfielder guaranteed for 2023 at $8.5 million with a $10 million option in '24.
When healthy, Jansen was arguably Toronto's best overall player per plate appearance last season, posting an .855 OPS with 15 homers and a strong play-calling presence behind the plate. But, that health has long been Jansen's biggest inhibitor, with the 27-year-old backstop logging over 250 plate appearances in a season just once.
Kepler comes with his own concerns, with just one full season of above-average hitting and a higher salary. But, he fills a clear offensive need. Hitting from the left side, he's mashed right-handed pitching throughout his career, with a lifetime .784 OPS vs RHP and 84% of his career homers against the strong side of the platoon. Kepler may not be the centerfield star that would elevate Toronto's overall fielding, but he's been somewhat of a defensive darling in right field lately, grading out elite at the position in 2022 by OAAA.
If the Jays decide Jansen is the man to move, it's this kind of one-for-one move that fills a clear need that seems likely. A similar fit would be Mike Yastrzemski of the Giants. San Francisco is looking for a veteran catcher to pair with burgeoning backstop Joey Bart and may need to open up a spot in right field for a free agent splash.
2. A Milwaukee MLB Swap
Blue Jays Trade: C Alejandro Kirk
Brewers Trade: SP Brandon Woodruff
With new GM Matt Arnold at the helm in Milwaukee, the Brewers could be real players this offseason.
One obvious hole for Milwaukee to fill is catcher, with just 2.4 WAR from the position in 2022 and almost half that value sitting in free agency in Omar Narvaez. Where the Brewers have plenty to move is the rotation, with at least six reliable starters at the top level and prospects like Robert Gasser pushing the big leagues. It'd be hard to pry top hurler Corbin Burnes from Milwaukee, but maybe someone like Eric Lauer or, in this case, Woodruff is more attainable.
Woodruff hasn't logged heavy innings throughout his career, but he's been consistently healthy and has top-of-rotation production. A two-time All-Star, Woodruff owns a 2.84 ERA and 3.05 FIP over the last three years, finishing fifth place in the NL Cy Young in 2021. The Jays will have to stomach moving out four years of Kirk for just two of Woodruff, but with the Milwaukee starter's track record it's the cost of doing business.
3. Going All-In For Pitching
Blue Jays Trade: C Gabriel Moreno, INF Orelvis Martinez, INF Leo Jimenez
Guardians Trade: SP Shane Bieber
Is it worth sending out most of your top hitting prospects for two years of a veteran starting pitcher? Maybe not. But, when that hurler hasn't posted an ERA above 3.3 in the last four years and has one of the best track records among active starters, you have to consider it.
If the Jays move Moreno, they're probably looking for a star-studded haul. While he's the least established catcher on the roster, his prospect pedigree, production in the minors, and flashes with the big club last year make him quite valuable.
Bieber's draw is pretty obvious. He's earned multiple Cy Young votes in three of the last four seasons, only missing out due to injury in 2021. Despite waning spin rates in 2022, Bieber logged 200 innings with the seventh-best qualified ERA in the AL. With two years before free agency, Bieber would pair alongside Toronto's current starting options to form arguably the best rotation in baseball.
It's not a given the Guardians would move their ace and franchise cornerstone after winning the AL Central last year. But, we've seen Cleveland make these retool moves quite effectively over the last few years and ESPN's Jeff Passan hinted they were open to moving the righty at the 2022 trade deadline. If the Jays dangle a potential franchise catcher in Moreno and more, it may be enough to entice.