Blue Jays trade for reliever Cabrera from Cards

July 22nd, 2023

SEATTLE -- There’s still some heavy lifting to do over the next 10 days, but the Blue Jays got a jump on addressing their bullpen depth Friday by acquiring from the Cardinals. 

The 26-year-old lefty was in his fifth season with the Cardinals, but had recently been designated for assignment. Going the other way is catching prospect Sammy Hernandez, a 14th-round pick a season ago who has since reached Single-A. 

There’s a reason Cabrera lost his spot on the Cardinals’ roster, of course, pitching to a 5.06 ERA with some control issues, walking 18 batters over 32 innings. He struck out 38 over that same span, though, and the Blue Jays have already identified a couple of minor adjustments they’d like to explore. Add in the fact that Cabrera’s fastball sits at 96 mph from the left side, and this is the type of arm you want to roll the dice on.

“We like the arm, the velocity, the strikeout ability,” said Toronto manager John Schneider. “I think it allows us to deploy Tim Mayza a little bit different, then Trevor Richards and Erik Swanson a bit differently. They’ve been used as our de facto second lefties.”

Schneider knows Cabrera well, too. You can go all the way back to 2016, when Cabrera was still with the Rays organization as a starter and pitching with Single-A Bowling Green. That season, Cabrera faced the Lansing Lugnuts -- who were managed by Schneider -- four times. 

Just as appealing as any radar gun readings or strikeout rates, though, is the fact Cabrera still has an option year remaining. This allows the Blue Jays the flexibility to move him up and down from Triple-A if they continue to add to their bullpen, but for now, he’s expected to meet the club at some point on this West Coast road trip. 

“When you look at how lineups are, in a perfect world, it’s a little bit of a lower-leverage [role] to start,” Schneider said. “We feel good about the guys that we have and the performances they’ve had so far this year. It’s just another option who can be really tough on lefties.”

Toronto’s bullpen has been excellent this season, quietly posting the fourth-best ERA in baseball at 3.62 with strikeout and walk rates that both rank in the top five. Mayza has been downright dominant, with his 1.10 ERA, but the Blue Jays have long coveted another lefty option in their system.

The Blue Jays are expected to be active heading into the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline in larger deals. A right-handed bat to complement their lineup sits near the top of the list along with a depth starter and further bullpen help as they look to load up for a postseason run that goes beyond a Wild Card appearance.