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Yankees potential trade partner: Toronto Blue Jays

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Toronto has a certain pitcher who fits the Yankees’ needs perfectly, and a first baseman who is a better option than Mike Moustakas.

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Fans of the Toronto Blue Jays probably haven’t had much to celebrate this season. It started off so well, too. On April 20th, the Jays owned a 13 - 6 record after beating the Yankees 8-5, and FanGraphs had their playoff odds pegged at a robust 49.3%. Their playoff odds, however, have since taken a turn for the worse.

Consider the graph below, where they’re represented by the blue line. Let this be a reminder to us all that baseball is a cruel and punishing sport, and we are all incredibly fortunate to be fans of the team on the top.

The Blue Jays’ fall from contention forced them to approach the trade deadline as sellers, making them potential trade partners for teams in contention, such as your New York Yankees. As it turns out, Toronto has two players in particular who suit the Yankees’ current needs.

The first player, whose name has been mentioned in several PSA articles — and countless times in staff conversations by a certain Canadian staff writer — is none other than J.A. Happ. The left-handed Happ is enjoying another fine season at the age of 35. While the very recent drubbing that Happ suffered at the hands of the Yankees drove his ERA up to 4.44, his FIP stands at a much more palatable 3.97.

A closer look at Happ’s peripherals suggests that he’s much more likely to pitch to his FIP than his ERA going forward. Happ is currently running a career-high 9.83 K/9, and his newfound strikeout abilities are backed up by his career-high swinging strike rate (10.0%) and a career-low contact rate (78.4%). On the other hand, Happ is also running a career-high HR/9 (1.37), but that seems to be caused by him having to pitch to the Yankees (three homers in allowed in 7.1 innings) rather than declining skills. He is a solid mid-rotation starter, and the Yankees could sure use one of those.

The second player is a lot less obvious, and his name is Justin Smoak. he makes sense in that he is a first baseman who can hit, and the Yankees haven’t had one of those in a hot minute. Now, I like Greg Bird just as much as the next guy, and I’m pretty sure that with health and enough at-bats Bird can be of Smoak’s caliber. That hasn’t stopped the Yankees from searching for an upgrade at first base, though, as evidenced by recent rumors connecting them to Mike Moustakas of the Royals.

My argument is that Smoak makes a lot more sense than Moose if the Yankees are looking for a first baseman. He has had the higher wRC+ in each of the last two seasons (132 to 114 in 2017, 122 to 110 this year), and as a switch hitter he has a far less drastic platoon split than Moustakas.

Sure, Moustakas may strike out less often, but Smoak walks more, and thus gets on base at a higher clip. Besides, who cares how good you are at making contact when you’re a slow-footed corner infielder hitting .258, like Moustakas is? I’d take the much more disciplined Smoak over Moustakas every time, and the Yankees should too.

If the Yankees are in the market for bullpen help, they could check on the availability of Tyler Clippard...

Credit: MLB

Actually, pass.

The Blue Jays have two of the Yankees’ greatest needs - a solid mid-rotation starter and a first baseman with a big bat. The Yankees, on the other hand, have one of the better farm systems in the game, and the talent stockpiled there could help the Blue Jays along their rebuild. In theory, the two teams look like ideal trading partners. As the trade deadline approaches, let’s wait and see what happens on the New York - Ontario border.

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.com and Baseball-Reference.com.