Despite heading into Friday 9.5 games out of the American League East and 4.5 out of the AL Wild Card, the Toronto Blue Jays had been identified in connection with many of the marquee names floating around the rumor circuit. That all came to fruition with their acquisition of José Berríos from the Minnesota Twins.
I recently wrote on Berríos’ 2021 campaign, characterizing him as the best he’s ever been. That remains largely true. His walk rate is a career-best, at 2.37 per nine, while his strikeout numbers look about on-par with an improved rate from last year. His GB% has also been steadily improving over the last few years. That is especially notable given that he moves from one of the league’s worst defensive teams, in Minnesota, to a team in Toronto that is, at least, middle-of-the-pack in that regard.
In general, while Berríos doesn’t have the power arm or flash of, say, Max Scherzer or some of his counterparts atop the pitching leaderboard, he eats innings, doesn’t walk hitters, and generates enough on the strikeout side to be in the mix for the “ace” category. He makes Toronto significantly better. The Jays’ starting staff has thrown just 488 innings, which ranks 27th, and features a GB% that ranks only 18th (42.5 percent). He doesn’t add anything outlandish, but certainly improves two key areas that Toronto otherwise lacked.
On the side of the Twins, you have to really like what they accomplished here. In exchange for Berríos, they grab Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson, ranked second and fourth in the Toronto system, respectively. Martin’s bat has struggled this year, but he’s a 2020 draftee with the capability of playing several positions on the field. He’s a prospect that any organization in baseball could salivate over. And while Woods Richardson doesn’t necessarily have quite the upside of someone like Berríos, he has a future spot as a mid-rotation arm given that his command represents one of his biggest assets.
While the Twins didn’t have to trade Berríos, and there’s some debate as to whether or not they actually should have, this read as a massive return. They get a pair of upper-tier prospects that aren’t too far away. Whatever your perspective on this philosophy and how things played out with their starter, it’s likely even beyond what one might have hoped for in return.
As for how much this moves the needle for Toronto in terms of their postseason hopes...that is still a fairly murky picture. While it does set up their pitching staff far better for 2022, they’d still have to overtake Tampa Bay, Oakland, Seattle, and the New York Yankees ahead of them in that race. In any case, it’s a move they needed to make—both for this year and next—so you’d be hard-pressed to find someone disappointed in the move itself. In a vacuum at least.
Randy Holt is a contributing writer for Beyond the Box Score.