Inside the Clubhouse: Why did the Blue Jays trade Teoscar Hernandez?

MLB, MLB Free Agency, MLB Trade Rumors, Toronto Blue Jays

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The Blue Jays made the first big move of the MLB offseason, sending All-Star outfield Teoscar Hernandez to the Mariners. What motivated the move?

The Toronto Blue Jays had the best offense in the American League and had almost all of their position players returning in 2023.

So why did the Blue Jays decide to trade Teoscar Hernandez?

The Blue Jays lineup was too right-handed heavy and making a trade was the first step toward creating a more balanced lineup. They just needed to make a decision on which outfielder to move — Hernandez or Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who are both entering the final years of their contracts — and chose Hernandez, who garnered strong interest from 3-4 teams.

The Mariners were the most aggressive of those teams and presented a package that enticed Blue Jays officials: right-handed reliever Erik Swanson and left-hander Adam Macko. Swanson, 29, has three years of control, a 34 percent strikeout rate, and the upside to be a dominant late-inning reliever. Not to mention a Baseball Savant page that scouts drool over. Macko, 21, is a toolsy prospect who made eight starts in High-A with a plus-breaking ball, but struggles with inconsistent command.

While it was a hefty price for Hernandez, the Mariners desperately needed an influx of talent on offense. Their brief postseason appearance highlighted their need for an impact bat and Hernandez, 30, is one of the best young power hitters in baseball with an impact that should translate to T-Mobile Park, which is notoriously known as a pitchers’ park.

So where do the Blue Jays go from here in 1) replacing Hernandez in the outfield and 2) adding a left-handed bat? The Blue Jays have been linked to Brandon Nimmo, the consensus top free-agent center fielder. Signing him would require moving George Springer to right field and general manager Ross Atkins told reporters that “I know George will be open to it.” If they explore the trade market, among the names that could make sense include the Cardinals’ Dylan Carlson or Lars Nootbaar, among others.

The trade involving Hernandez gives the Blue Jays increased options and flexibility when constructing their roster. The Hernandez addition is only step one of the Mariners’ plan to upgrade their offense and maximize a playoff window that team executives believe is only getting started.

Will the Brewers stand pat?

The Milwaukee Brewers are getting trade interest in right-hander Corbin Burnes and shortstop Wily Adames, but the team prefers to build around both players rather than trade them, according to sources familiar with the situation.

At least two teams were told that Burnes was not available when they checked in earlier this offseason. Still, Burnes figures to be a popular name in trade rumors in the coming years. He’s 28 and one of the best young starting pitchers in baseball. He’s projected to earn $11.4 million in arbitration and that price will only continue to rise. And the Brewers just traded star reliever Josh Hader who was in a similar position contractually.

The odds that the Brewers trade Adames appear small. He’s signed through 2024 and is a franchise cornerstone. The team has publicly indicated a willingness to extend their star shortstop and while talks have not yet started, a potential framework could revolve around what Dansby Swanson garners in free agency.

The most likely trade candidates in Milwaukee are second baseman Kolten Wong ($10 million), starting pitcher Adrian Houser (projected $3.6 million in arbitration) and outfielder Hunter Renfroe (projected $11.2 million in arbitration).

The Pirates helped Anderson and Quintana make some money

When the Pittsburgh Pirates signed Tyler Anderson and Jose Quintana, both additions flew under the radar. Each signed one-year deals; Anderson for $2.5 million in February 2021 while Quintana signed for $2 million in November 2021.

Less than two years later, each player is set to cash in.

Anderson is coming off an All-Star season with the Dodgers and just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels. Quintana, meanwhile, is likely to sign a two or three-year contract after a strong season with the Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals after a midseason trade.

New from The Baseball Insiders

Who is running things for the Astros right now?

With James Click not returning as Houston Astros general manager, Bill Firkus, the team’s assistant general manager, is now the organization’s point person in free-agent and trade discussions, sources say.

“He was really good. Straight up,” one person who negotiated with Firkus this offseason said.

MLB free agent updates:

  • Anthony Rizzo returning to the Yankees comes as no surprise. While the Houston Astros were serious about signing the veteran first baseman, he preferred to remain in New York and the two sides eventually came together on a two-year, $40 million contract that includes an option for a third season. The Astros’ options now include Yuli Gurriel, Jose Abreu and Josh Bell, a name that they strongly considered at last season’s trade deadline.
  • Could Tyler Anderson leaving the Dodgers lead to a pursuit of All-Star right-hander Justin Verlander? It’s possible. But he figures to also draw interest from the New York Mets and Texas Rangers, among others, while a return to the Astros remains in play. A report from suggested that Verlander is seeking a deal similar to Max Scherzer’s three-year, $130 million contract.
  • Jacob deGrom has made it clear that he’s open to returning to the New York Mets, but there are others, including the Texas Rangers, who are interested in the superstar right-hander.

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