Which Blue Jays receiver is most likely to be traded this offseason?

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Danny Jansen (9) and Alejandro Kirk both had strong seasons for the Blue Jays in 2022. (AP Photo/Scott Audette)
Danny Jansen (9) and Alejandro Kirk both had strong seasons for the Blue Jays in 2022. (AP Photo/Scott Audette)

The Toronto Blue Jays are no strangers to making successful off-season trades, and as they attempt to improve their roster, another seismic move could potentially be on the horizon.

Last winter, the team filled its huge third base void by completing a five-man trade with the Oakland Athletics, bringing defensive specialist Matt Chapman north of the border.

This time around, starting to pitch is the Blue Jays’ primary need, but unlike previous offseasons, they likely won’t be able to address that concern through free agency alone. Instead, an alternate strategy might be needed.

Amid the looming payroll crisis in Toronto, the trade market could be a valuable resource in the coming months. But for a meaningful move to occur, the franchise will likely have to contend with one of its greatest strengths: the receiver position.

Everyone who follows this team has wondered if the front office will ever use one of its most intriguing business chips, and so far, it hasn’t. Management chose not to disrupt that group last offseason — aside from trading Reese McGuire for Zack Collins — and followed suit at last August’s trade deadline.

This winter will be different for Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins as he will need to be more frugal with his spending. So if the right commercial package comes along, he will almost certainly be more willing to jump on it than in the past.

But which receiver is most likely to be traded? And what deductible? More importantly, what kind of return can Toronto expect to receive?

Unfortunately, there are probably no easy answers to any of these questions. But let’s try to find a solution anyway.

Danny Janssen

Starting as one of the oldest players on the roster, Jansen is easily the most experienced backstop in the group, compiling five major league seasons since making his debut in 2018.

Pitchers rave about Jansen’s pitching sequence and efficiency while managing games behind the plate. These are two of his most attractive traits and are often difficult to exploit with young catchers.

Staying on the field hasn’t been his forte, however, as the 6-foot-2 wide receiver hasn’t played more than 100 games since 2019 — his second MLB campaign. In 2022, he was limited to just 248 board appearances in 72 contests due to an oblique injury and a fractured hand.

The 27-year-old’s lack of availability has relegated him to a part-time role in recent seasons, capping his value. That would limit what he would bring back through trade, but he would still likely generate a lot of interest due to his offensive skills.

Jansen was a valuable contributor when healthy, which remained true last season, earning him the best offensive performance of his career. Although it happened in a small sample, the right-hander took advantage of every opportunity.

Overall, the 2013 16th round selection reduced .260/.339/.516 while posting career bests in home runs (15), RBIs (44), ISO (.256), wOBA ( 0.363), wRC+ (140) and offensive WAR (12.0). As a result, he was worth a career-high 2.6 fWAR.

Can Jansen replicate these results in 2023? It’s possible, especially since he also recorded career highs involving his hard hit rates (46.6%) and barrel rates (13.1%). But there are additional factors the Blue Jays need to consider regarding the veteran receiver’s future.

Jansen only has two more seasons of team control as he is eligible for free agency after 2024. He is also expected to earn a significant increase to his 2022 salary ($1.95 million), MLB Trade Rumors reports. planning to order $3.7 million in arbitration.

As the franchise looks to cut costs while emerging as a legitimate championship contender, trading Jansen could be a necessary move. However, that probably wouldn’t impact the starting pitcher.

Alexander Kirk

Kirk’s remarkable development was one of the most electrifying stories of last season, and chances are the other majors took notice as well.

The 23-year-old catcher put in a phenomenal performance in the first half, hitting .315/.395/.487 with 11 home runs and a 155 wRC+, earning his first career All-Star Game selection. He slowed the rest of the way, slashing .246/.340/.320 with a 95 wRC+ in his last 235 board appearances, but his campaign was still outstanding overall.

After a hip injury sidelined him for most of 2021, he shattered previous career highs in plate appearances (541) and games played (139) last season.

Defensively, the 5-foot-8 receiver was the difference maker in several areas, including his framing and blocking. He led the team in above-average called strikes (.016), framing runs (11.0) and blocking runs (0.4), according to Baseball Prospectus.

Kirk also ranked third in runs over average (12.0) and receiver defensive adjustment (12.1) among all major league qualified receivers. He was the only Under-25 receiver in the top five in both categories.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JULY 19: Alejandro Kirk #30 of the Toronto Blue Jays runs first during the 92nd MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard at Dodger Stadium on July 19, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Alejandro Kirk was an All-Star for the first time in 2022. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The 2022 Silver Slugger finalist is probably the most valuable receiver in the organization, primarily due to his outstanding offensive and defensive abilities. It also helps that he is under the control of the team until 2026 and does not become eligible for arbitration until after next season.

Trading Kirk would undoubtedly weaken the Blue Jays’ wide receiver depth, although it could significantly improve their pitching team. The St. Louis Cardinals, Arizona Diamondbacks or Cleveland Guardians — all of whom have disposable weapons and would benefit from improving their respective receiver position — could be potential matches.

But with Kirk’s value since joining the majors in 2020 forming a seemingly unbreakable bond with Alek Manoah, it’s worth wondering if moving him would be the right move. Although this fixes one domain in the list, it could cause damage elsewhere.

As the Milwaukee Brewers learned with the Josh Hader trade earlier this season, sometimes it’s best not to mess with a club’s chemistry because it could backfire horribly.

Gabriel Moreno

While Kirk may be the Blue Jays’ most talented support, many still see Moreno as the franchise’s catcher of the future, but that could change this offseason.

The 22-year-old has yet to establish himself as a full-time player in the majors, although he showed his rookie skills in 2022. He played just 25 games but reduced an impressive .319 /.356/.377 with a 113 wRC+ out of 73 board appearances.

Moreno wasted no time in registering his first major league hit, achieving the milestone in his debut against the Detroit Tigers on June 11. He also came up against one of the best shooters in the sport, Gregory Soto.

In that same contest, the 5-foot-11 catcher showed off his incredible arm strength, throwing Victor Reyes on a stolen base attempt with an 81.3 mph warmer at second base.

Toronto should be extremely encouraged by Moreno’s progress, but he’s not a finished product yet. And that’s OK. The youngster still has plenty of time to reach his ceiling as a big league impact performer.

With the Blue Jays in winning mode now, however, management will likely explore its trade value this winter. Since he’s still a pre-offer player with one minor league option remaining, there could be an endless list of potential suitors.

Pittsburgh and Miami may be the most attractive, as each could offer a substantial return, with Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds and Marlins pitcher Pablo López likely at the forefront of those trade conversations.

So unless Moreno’s deals fall short, he’s currently the Blue Jays’ most popular trade chip.

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