Blue Jays add RHP Swanson, LHP Macko in deal for Teoscar

November 16th, 2022

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have traded to the Mariners in an early, major move that lays the groundwork for the rest of this organization’s offseason.

In return, the Blue Jays are acquiring right-handed reliever , who broke out with a dominant 2022 season in the Mariners’ bullpen, and left-hander Adam Macko, a 21-year-old starter who slotted in as Toronto’s No. 8 prospect per MLB Pipeline.

This trade represents a significant pivot for the Blue Jays, who have watched Hernández grow into a star in Toronto, winning an AL Silver Slugger Award in both 2020 and ’21. After coming into his own in the shortened ’20 season, Hernández hit 32 home runs with 116 RBIs in ’21, before his numbers regressed slightly in ’22. Still, he was a cornerstone of Toronto’s lineup.

“Teo has been incredible for us,” said general manager Ross Atkins. “From 2017 when we acquired him, with the excitement he’s brought to the field, he’s been a huge part of this transition for us going from an interesting team to a contending team. He has a lot of strong relationships here, including one with me. I think the world of him. We will miss him. We got to the point where we thought the acquisitions on the run-prevention side would help us. It does create some flexibility for us as well in terms of resources.”

The Blue Jays are accomplishing two things with this move, the first of which is addressing one of their most glaring needs in the bullpen. Swanson, the 29-year-old who converted from a starter to a reliever, is the caliber of arm Toronto set out to acquire this offseason.

Swanson pitched to a 1.68 ERA last season for the Mariners, striking out 70 batters and walking just 10 over 53 2/3 innings. He won’t blow anyone away with his fastball -- sitting in the mid-90s, it will look right at home in the Blue Jays’ bullpen -- but his splitter can give hitters fits and he rounds out his arsenal with a slider.

Swanson gives the Blue Jays the back-end piece they’ve wanted to pair alongside Jordan Romano, and after improving their bullpen depth over the past 12 months, this is a move that finally raises the group’s ceiling. There’s also the element of team control with Swanson, as he’s under club control through the next three seasons.

“Swanson is coming off a really remarkable year, getting both sides of the plate out on a regular basis,” Atkins said. “He has a very high strikeout rate, with a well-above-average weapon in his splitter. We feel his fastball plays above average, with a slightly above-average slider that attacks righties and lefties exceptionally well. He’ll complement us well. He can pitch in any inning for us. The strikeouts are big; that’s been talked about a lot, obviously, for some good reason. That’s an opportunity for us to improve.”

Macko, the prospect in the deal, is a significant piece as well. The lefty, who was born in Slovakia but drafted in 2019 out of high school in Vauxhall, Alberta, posted a 3.99 ERA in High-A this season, striking out 60 batters over just 38 1/3 innings. Macko isn’t the biggest presence on the mound at six feet, 170 pounds, but he has continued to build his frame since being drafted and his velocity has climbed along with it, sitting in the 93-94 mph range while touching 97 mph.

In moving Hernández, though, the Blue Jays shift their outfield picture in a big way, making that a top priority going forward. Hernández was projected to earn over $14 million in arbitration this offseason, so the full scope of this deal won’t be clear until Toronto spends that money elsewhere.

and are locked in as starters, can play some outfield and was recently added to the 40-man roster, but it’s clear there will be an addition made now. The Blue Jays would like to get more balanced offensively, and this move opens the door for that to happen with a bat that is ideally left-handed and more contact-focused.

Hernández was also one of the more beloved players on Toronto’s roster, not only by fans, but by teammates and the coaching staff. This isn’t an easy move for the organization to make, but that’s representative of the difficult jump they are trying to make from a good team to a great one, which brings its own growing pains along with it.