Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins went into Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline looking for young, controllable talent that could help Toronto both immediately and in the near future.
What the Blue Jays received — a major league outfielder, a triple-A talent that’s well on his way to permanent major league status and a couple of lower-level prospects, for good measure — pretty much summed up exactly what Atkins had planned. And it only took two trades to get there.
Toronto dealt left-hander Francisco Liriano and cash considerations to the Houston Astros for outfielder Nori Aoki and minor-league outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez, then traded right-handed reliever Joe Smith to the Cleveland Indians for a pair of minor-league prospects, second baseman Samad Taylor and left-handed pitcher Thomas Pannone.
“Francisco Liriano and Joe Smith were great members of the organization who made significant impacts and now we have four players with different years of control, with different upsides at different positions we didn’t have yesterday,” Atkins said on a conference call.
Hernandez a central piece
“So we feel good about the process, we feel good about the work that went into the trade deadline.”
Aoki, a 35-year old native of Hyuga, Japan who batted .272 in 71 appearances with Houston this season, will immediately slide into Toronto’s roster. But from the Blue Jays perspective, Hernandez is considered the central piece of that trade.
The 24-year-old batted .279 with 12 home runs and 44 runs batted in over 79 games with triple-A Fresno this season. He has made 42 career appearances with the Astros over the last two seasons, batting .230 with four homers and 11 RBIs.
Atkins said the Jays had their eyes on Hernandez “for a while.” He’ll report to triple-A Buffalo with a promotion in September likely, though Atkins also said Hernandez could play regularly for Toronto’s major league team before that if needed.
“He’s a well-rounded player who runs well, throws well, gets on base, has some power, can play all three outfield positions,” Atkins said. “It’s extremely difficult to acquire talent that you can say all those things about that you will have five-plus years of control of and can potentially be someone you can count on year in and year out.”
The return on the Smith deal is less obvious as of now with neither prospect ranking high on the Indians top lists.
But Atkins, who worked in Cleveland’s organization for 15 years before joining…