The 2021 Toronto Blue Jays squad finished fourth in the American League East Division with a record of 91-71. They landed just out of the second Wild Card spot in the American League despite two MVP finalists in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Marcus Semien and an American League Cy Young Award campaign from Robbie Ray. The Jays’ offense was ranked second in fWAR with 30.5 but was missing punch from one of the traditional power slots, third base.
Santiago Espinal appeared in 92 games for the Jays, playing 3rd base in 81 of these contests. He finished 2021 with a respectable OPS+ of 114 but had only 2 home runs and 17 RBI on .405 SLG. As Semien will not be returning to the team in 2022, the Jays will need to replace his production, and third base will be one of the best places to look for a power bat. Below is a list of some possible acquisition targets, including some dark horse options.
Contract Status: Free Agent
Career Averages: .278/.376/.504; 132 OPS+
Bryant rebounded after a poor showing in 2020, finishing 2021 with a 124 OPS+ and 25 home runs. The 2016 National League MVP and World Series champion is one of the top remaining 2022 free agents. The grand pooh-bahs of free agency prognostication do not believe Bryant will have any real interest in the Blue Jays due to Toronto’s distance from his hometown of Las Vegas. While I am no baseball insider, I still believe the Jays could and should be a contender for Bryant’s services due to their roster strength and Toronto’s status as one of the most family-friendly cities hosting an MLB franchise.
Contract Status: Signed with Chicago White Sox through 2024 with 2025 team option
Career Averages: .261/.346/.439; 113 OPS+
Moncada is not one of the more realistic options included here, but the White Sox will need to make bold moves if they want to achieve their goal of a deep title run in 2022 and beyond. This trade could be quite expensive for the Jays in terms of prospects since Moncada is under contract for three more years and has a team option for 2025, but he would make a solid addition to the Jays’ young core.
Contract Status: Signed with Cleveland through 2022 with 2023 team option
Career Averages: .278/.354/.501; 126 OPS+
Ramírez was the trade target Jays fans were clamoring for in 2021. He has been a stud for much of his career in Cleveland, with three Silver Slugger Awards and three All-Star appearances to his name. J-Ram also finished second in 2020 American League MVP voting.
Ramírez is the most conventional choice at third base and will cost the Jays some top prospects since he is still under contract with Cleveland. However, acquiring him may not be as costly as it would have been in 2021 since the clock is running out on his contract.
Contract Status: Signed with Cincinnati through 2024 with 2025 team option
Career Averages: .252/.334/.466; 108 OPS+
Suárez’s production suffered a downturn in 2020, and his 2021 OPS+ of 80 was woeful for a slugger. However, he still is averaging 31 home runs per season and could perhaps use a change of scenery to a team that will not experiment with playing him out of position. The Reds are rumored to be shopping players, and Suárez could easily be included in a Luis Castillo package, which would have the benefit of filling out the Jays’ rotation and lineup.
My Favorite Option: Suárez
I think a deal for Luis Castillo and Suárez makes a lot of sense for the Jays, adding a top of the rotation arm and slugger to the Toronto roster. Suárez’s poor production over the last couple of seasons and the Reds’ desire to tear down the team following the pandemic shutdowns could be leveraged to discount the asking price for Castillo.
Featured Image: TORONTO, CANADA – July 22, 2015. Detail of Blue Jays logo patch by Roxana Gonzalez / Shutterstock.com.