There’s an element of surprise any time a baserunner is tackled, and that’s exactly what Hernandez has become over the past six seasons, growing from a talented but flawed young hitter to a cornerstone of Toronto’s lineup, winning AL Silver Slugger Awards in 2020 and 21. The Blue Jays need to be a little more creative this season, though, given their paychecks, and that marks the start of something bigger.
Looking ahead, the Blue Jays’ offseason is now taking on an entirely different shape.
1. Money is important: This trade is just part 1
Hernandez was expected to earn $14 million in arbitration this offseason. That number is important to this trade, and it’s also the reason we can’t properly assess it until the rest of the offseason is in play.
The Blue Jays will need to fill the hole in their arena, of course, perfectly with a batter that brings more balance to their lineup, but the expected $14 million can also be spread across the bullpen and turnover. They were in a position where one big move – or maybe two medium ones – made sense. They’re in a weak spot now, but whether they get a failing or a successful score on this trade will depend on where that new money is spent.
2. Why Hernandez and why now?
Hernandez was slated to become a free agent at the end of the 2023 season, and there were no indications that the Blue Jays were willing to extend him the number he could earn in free agency. Hernandez isn’t a perfect player, but if he hits the market at 31, there will be teams that love how he fits into their squad.
Inconvenient as it was, this was the Blue Jays’ chance to move on from Hernandez or Lord Goriel Jr. and switch to a more balanced ballpark. Hernandez’s projected salary for next season is more than $9 million higher than Guuriel’s. You can do the math.
3. Welcome to Bullpen Market
That’s what it now costs to get elite palliatives, or at least palliatives with the potential to be elite. Swanson, who is 29 and has three years of team control left, pitched to a 1.68 ERA last season, striking out 70 batters with just ten walks over 53 2/3 innings pitched. The combination of these numbers along with Jordan Romano on the back end raises the bar for the deep bull group but needs to head up.
This is also a lesson for the Blue Jays. Robert Suarez re-signed with the Padres to a five-year, $46 million contract. Rafael Montero signed a three-year, $34.5 million deal with the Astros. Edwin Diaz re-signed for $102 million over five years.
The development of analgesics has never been more important. The Blue Jays are making very encouraging strides on the player development side, which will become evident in the years to come, but in an ideal world, Toronto would have found their own version of Swanson internally, rather than trading Hernández for him.
4. Rename the domain
Let’s go with the “rebrand” on refactoring here. The Blue Jays will have George Springer and Jurrell as starters, and while Whit Merrifield can field and Nathan Lukes on the 40-man roster, it’s clear that there will be another move here. This is Toronto’s chance to balance the lineup with left-handed bats, which has been a talking point all year.
5. What comes next?
Much. The Blue Jays still have the same number of needs, they’re in different places now.
The pursuit of an outfielder will sit near the top of Toronto’s roster, and while his need for the to-do list has been significantly reduced with the addition of Swanson, rotation remains an issue behind Alec Manuah, Kevin Guzman and Jose Berrios.
This is where the Blue Jays will likely make a real splash. Whether it’s researching the trade market or targeting a veteran rookie on a short-term deal, the Blue Jays know they need to raise the ground on the back end of this rotation. Depth is also a priority, after almost becoming a huge issue last season, but Toronto’s top priority will be getting at least one — ideally — two legitimate MLB starters.