Blue Jays President and CEO Mark Shapiro has made no secret of his distaste for mega-prospect dealing along the lines of what former GM Alex Anthopoulos conducted in his last year at the helm of the club. Shapiro said this fall that while he’s pleased with the progress of the system, “it’s not where it needs to be.”
In what has been an otherwise quiet off-season for Toronto fans, the two deals the club has made have highlighted the progress the organization has made over the past two seasons. Through good drafting, and a decent haul of bargain-bin international prospects (the PED scenario notwithstanding) in the wake of signing Vladimir Guerrero Jr in 2015, the system has rebounded enough to allow GM Ross Atkins to upgrade the 25-man roster without having to give up a player from the 40.
In November, the team dealt 2016 2nd rounder J.B Woodman to the Cardinals for IF Aledmys Diaz. Despite his drop-off in performance in 2017, Diaz offers insurance to Toronto as an upgrade in a back up role, while Woodman, who flashes tools but has yet to make consistent contact in his pro career, gets time in another organization to try to refine his approach.
With Anthony Alford, Teoscar Hernandez, and Dalton Pompey above him on the depth charts, and several promising youngsters below, Woodman was likely surplus in the Blue Jays’ minds, and was a good price to pay for Diaz. Woodman was among the Midwest League leaders in both Swinging Strike and Line Drive rates, indicating that when he did make contact, it was often of the hard variety.
On of those OFers below him (before 2017), Edward Olivares, was dealt along with reliever Jared Carkuff to San Diego for Utility Player Yangervis Solarte. Olivares had a breakout year with Lansing in 2017, and likely raced past Woodman in the eyes of the organization. Olivares is a potential five-tool player who can play all three outfield positions, but there are concerns about his approach. Olivares can expand his strike zone, and his pitch recognition skills need improving. Unless he can make adjustments, Pitchers at the higher levels could expose him. Still, there is much to like about Olivares, and he joins a young system on the rise. With the play this season of youngsters McGregory Contreras and Chavez Young below him, Olivares likely was valued by the Blue Jays, but was deemed surplus in order to improve the major league roster. His 2017 stats were impressive, although he wasn’t able to duplicate that success in a smaller sample when he was promoted to Dunedin. The best summary of Olivares suggests a toolsy-but-raw profile; for the Padres, who are not looking to contend this year, he gets time to develop in their system.
Carkuff is part of a stockpile of relief arms the Blue Jays have in the lower levels of the system. He’s fanned a batter per inning in two years of pro ball, and while Carkuff faces long odds to reach the majors, he’s moved quickly through the Toronto system, and could do the same with Padres.
It’s a roll of the dice when teams trade prospects. And while you can’t argue with the results from a 2015-16 Blue Jays perspective, you wonder if dealing four Starting Pitching prospects didn’t leave the organization a little thin in 2017. Last year, the team had to comb the minor league free agent ranks to bolster their 40-man roster. This year, they had the depth to upgrade the 25-man. And with a 12th over all draft pick and the team linked to top-ranked 2018 IFA SS Orelvis Martinez, and 2017 IFAs like Eric Pardinho and Miguel Hiraldo making their pro debuts next year, the system will continue to get better.