Meet the Newest Toronto Blue Jays

On November 16, the Toronto Blue Jays acquired Erik Swanson and Adam Macko in exchange for Teoscar Hernandez. Let’s meet the new Blue Jays.

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The Toronto Blue Jays traded fan favorites Teoscar Hernandez to the Seattle Mariners for a reliever Eric Swanson and pitcher Adam Macko. Social media reacted quickly and passionately to the news of the trade. Some of the views expressed were even positive! Let’s meet Swanson and Macko.

Swanson, who will be in his age-29 season in 2023, was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the eighth round of the 2014 MLB June Amateur Draft. On April 1, 2016, Texas traded Swanson with Nick Green and Dillon Tate to the New York Yankees in exchange for Carlos Beltran. The Yankees sent Swanson, Dom Thompson-Williams and Justus Sheffield to the Seattle Mariners on November 18, 2018, for James Paxton. Swanson made his MLB debut on April 11, 2019.

The FanGraphs data below demonstrates that Swanson’s career took off after the 2020 season. In 2021, he posted a 3.13 xERA and a 3.96 FIP. The 2022 campaign was even better.

Check out his Baseball Savant Summary. That’s much red!

Regarding Swanson’s 2022 season, Table 1 provides more details. The highlights are as follows:

  • There is a lot of blue on this table. Swanson’s K%, BB% and K%-BB% numbers are elite.
  • His ISO and xISO numbers are terrific, and Swanson’s OPS and xOPS marks are impressive.
  • Compared to Jordan RomanoSwanson outclassed Toronto’s closer in almost all metrics.
  • The expected metrics (xISO, xERA/xwOBA and xOPS) indicate that Swanson’s performance was not due to good luck. Also, his results were not helped by an above-average defense. (The OAA of Seattle’s defenders when he pitched was zero, which is average).

Swanson’s 2022 performance was elite. Although only 8.2 innings of his 53.2 innings were in high-leverage situations, Swanson appears well-equipped to excel in the role of a backend reliever. In high-leverage situations this season, Swanson posted a 0.285 wOBA, 29.4% K%-BB% and a 0.92 FIP; the MLB average for relievers was 0.306, 12.9% and 4.05, respectively. Yes, 8.2 innings is a small sample, but his numbers are impressive. Also, Swanson recorded a 0.48 WPA this season.

What can I tell you about Swanson’s pitches? Take a look at Table 2. The key points are as follows:

  • Swanson’s primary pitch is his four-seam fastball (54.8%), followed by his Splitter (25.4%) and a slider (19.8%). The pitch mix is ​​similar to his 2021 season.
  • The Run Value numbers on the four-seam fastball and splitter are above-average in 2022 and 2021.
  • For people who want some swing-and-miss in the bullpen, the 2022 Whiff% on all three pitch offerings was above-average.
  • However, the velocity on Swanson’s fastball is not elite (it ranks in the 52n.d percentile among all 2022 MLB pitchers).

However, the 1.1 mph decline in his fastball’s velocity from 2021 may be a concern. Yet, despite the velocity change, Swanson still produced excellent results with his fastball and splitter.

Swanson’s pitch arsenal and the related characteristics look pretty, pretty good. Hmm, there must be something negative. What about lefty-righty splits? Nope, there were no noticeable differences between the production generated by left-handed or right-handed batters who faced Swanson. Check out Table 3.

Injuries? Yes, he has suffered injuries, but not at an alarming rate. In 2022. Swanson missed 28 days from mid-May to mid-June due to an elbow issue. He was absent for 40 days in 2021 because of a groin ailment and an arm injury sidelined for 29 days in 2020. However, there does not appear to be a chronic injury issue.

Swanson has become an elite reliever. But why trade a fan favorite and a premier hitter (Hernandez) for a reliever when Toronto has aspirations of becoming a World Series Champion as soon as 2023? Some of the reasons are as follows:

  • Toronto’s bullpen was middle-of-the-pack among American League teams. Table 4 shows that Toronto’s collection of relievers ranked near the bottom of many metrics among the six American League teams that qualified for the 2022 postseason.
  • Table 5 illustrates that the Blue Jays bullpen trailed the Houston pen considerably in almost all key metrics. Houston and Cleveland were the top two American League bullpens in 2022.
  • In other words, Toronto needed to bolster their bullpen with an elite late-inning, swing-and-miss reliever. Swanson fits the bill.
  • Swanson will be under team control for three seasons; Hernandez is eligible to become a free agent after the 2023 campaign.
  • The Hernandez trade creates an opening and payroll flexibility for the Blue Jays to add a free-agent outfielder (for example, Brandon Nimmo). Alternatively, Toronto may be able to acquire an outfielder (Dylan Carlson) with one of their catchers.
  • Macko is an intriguing prospect. His inclusion in the Swanson trade allows the Jays to bolster their prospect pool. Let’s look at Macko.

Baseball America recently ranked Macko as Seattle’s #8 prospect. According to Baseball America, his fastball “averages 93-94 mph and touches 97-98 with his fastball. His primary weapon is a sweeping, high-spin curveball in the low 70s with late tilt and bites that gets both swings and misses and called strikes on both sides of the plate.” According to Baseball America, Macko “struggles with consistency. He often cruises for a few innings before suddenly unraveling.”

In the opinion of Baseball Prospectus, Macko projects to be a #4 starter or a “high-octane lefty reliever.” That publication estimated that Macko will arrive in the MLB in 2024.

The last word

I fully endorse the Swanson-Hernandez trade. Toronto badly needs to bolster the performance level of their bullpen. The data shows that the Blue Jays’ reliever corps did not match favorably with the better American League bullpens. The Swanson acquisition addresses a need for an elite, swing-and-miss high-leverage reliever. Furthermore, Macko strengthens Toronto’s organizational pitching depth.

Hernandez is one of MLB’s better power-hitting right-handed bats. However, his departure creates a roster spot and payroll flexibility that the Blue Jays can use to recruit a free-agent outfielder. Alternatively, the open outfield slot can be filled via a trade using Toronto’s catcher surplus.

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