The Jays currently find themselves in a familiar situation, enjoying a good season but struggling to gain traction in a treacherous division. Toronto's 38-36 record would have them a game back in the AL Central, but the team sits last in the East, trailing the red-hot Yankees by 7.5 games.
That's right, the Blue Jays – with a record two games over .500 – are only one game closer to first than the Twins, who hold the American League's worst record. Yep, life in the AL East is tough.
Of course, this has always been Toronto's plight, and it's not likely to change any time soon. At some point, they need to make an aggressive push to overcome their daunting divisional rivals, and with the strong roster they have assembled, now seems like as good a time as any.
Why They Will Trade With the Twins
Let's be honest: The Blue Jays' biggest need is pitching. If they want to add to their offensive strength, however, there's one name that sticks out as a natural fit, and that's Justin Morneau.
He's Canadian, his prodigious power would play well in Toronto's hitter-friendly stadium and Toronto is hurting at first base. Adam Lind, a former top prospect whose lack of progress in the majors is alarming given that he's now 28, was outrighted to the minors at the end of May with a .185/.271/.311 hitting line and went unclaimed on waivers. He crushed in Triple-A and was recalled this week, but the organization can't be feeling a ton of confidence in him.
They are, of course, well aware of the lingering issues Morneau has experienced from a concussion he suffered in their ballpark, not to mention his pesky wrist problems, and they have to be put off by his struggles against lefties. But a recent report stated that the club is "very interested" in Minnesota's first baseman.
Why They Won't Trade With the Twins
Let's be honest: The Blue Jays' biggest need is pitching. Toronto ranks third in the AL in runs scored, second in homers and fourth in OPS. Conversely, they rank 10th in ERA, 11th in WHIP and dead last in K/BB ratio. To make a dent in their offense-heavy division, they need to add some impact arms.
Savvy GM Alex Anthopoulos isn't likely be enticed by names such as Carl Pavano or Nick Blackburn, so Terry Ryan's best hope for a match might be Francisco Liriano continuing his dominant run into July or Matt Capps returning with a vengeance. The Jays' rotation has been depleted by injuries and they would love a front line caliber starter to complement Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow; meanwhile their closer situation is iffy given that they had to replace ineffective veteran Francisco Cordero with Casey Janssen about a month into the season and Sergio Santos has been hurt.
The problem isn't that the Twins don't have arms that could entice Toronto, it's that the Blue Jays aren't likely to part with quality pitching in a trade and that's surely what the Twins will be seeking. Intriguing options like Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison are mired on the DL for the foreseeable future.
The Blue Jays have needs that the Twins can address, especially if Liriano and Capps can improve their stock in the coming weeks while the Twins' slim chances of contending fade further. Can Anthopoulos offer up a package that will address Minnesota's long-term needs, though? It's worth noting that there's a history of deadline dealing between the two clubs, though it was nearly a decade ago that Bobby Kielty and Shannon Stewart were swapped.
Possible Trade Targets
Jake Marisnick - OF
Top prospect Anthony Gose, currently 21 and hitting well at Triple-A, might not be attainable, but his presence in Toronto's system creates some redundancy with Marisnick, another 21-year-old who is currently in High-A and possesses a nice power/speed combo. The Twins have a number of outfield prospects but Marisnick is a notch better than most and would provide more flexibility to trade from an area of depth.
Noah Syndergaard - RHP
A big 6'5" starter drafted as a supplemental first-round pick in 2010, Syndergaard has a highly acclaimed fastball and it's helped him rack up 64 strikeouts (with only 15 walks) in 48 2/3 innings for Low-A Lansing this year. He's only 19, but offers more upside than perhaps any starter in Minnesota's system.
Justin Nicolino - LHP
If the Twins fancy a left-hander, Nicolino may catch their eye. He was selected one round after Syndergaard and he's had similarly strong results as a pro, going 9-2 with a 1.37 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 128-to-24 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 118 innings between this season and last. Either young hurler would would be tough to pry away, but would be a worthy prize.
Joel Carreno - RHP
The pitching prospects mentioned above are both fairly far from the majors, but if the Twins are looking for a more immediate impact they could take a look at Carreno. He's 25 and he's already got some big-league experience, having made a handful of MLB appearances both last year and this year. He's struggled quite a bit with Toronto this year and he's 25, but those factors may increase Toronto's willingness to move him and there remains plenty of upside in his arm. In the minors, he has piled up 690 strikeouts in 647 innings.
Carlos Perez - C
Travis d'Arnaud is Toronto's best prospect and won't be touched, but the Twins may have a shot at another young backstop. Perez, 21, is thought to have the defensive skills to play catcher in the majors, and he's displayed solid power and plate discipline this year in the Midwest League. The righty swinger would give the Twins another option to eventually replace, or at least caddy with, Joe Mauer behind the plate.
Please add your thoughts and trade ideas (and other names the Twins could pursue) in the comments below!