Toronto Blue Jays: Washington Nationals interested in Roberto Osuna

As the Washington Nationals scour the Majors for a reliable closer, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher’ Roberto Osuna has popped up in their discussions.

Jon Heyman of Fan Rag wrote a piece on Thursday about the Washington Nationals need for a closer, mentioning Toronto Blue Jays‘ pitcher Roberto Osuna.

The team appears to be running away with the NL East early. With the best offence in the League and a solid rotation headed by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, the bullpen has been the only real question mark in 2017.

Heyman claims the Nationals have had “internal discussions” about six different closers, including Osuna. But would the Jays actually consider trading their 22 year old star?

On paper a trade makes almost no sense for the Toronto. Osuna is young, cheap, under team control until 2021 and has been dominant throughout his young career.

He has bounced back from a rough April, by posting a 1.23 ERA, with two saves, and 10 Ks in 7.1 innings this month.

In an era where teams are dishing out large multi-year contracts for shutdown ninth-inning guys, moving Osuna would seem detrimental to Toronto.

Even if Jays management decides to blow the team up, their young closer should be way down the list of trade candidates. The club is more likely to trade veterans nearing free agency, like Marco Estrada, Josh Donaldson and Francisco Liriano.

If Toronto goes into full blown rebuild mood, they will want/need as many young, controllable pieces as possible. Youngsters like Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Joe Biagini, Kevin Pillar and Osuna will be the foundation of a new team.

According to Baseball Prospectus, the Jays closer could see a significant raise this winter, from $552,400 this year to an estimated $4.5 million in 2018. Even if Toronto is rebuilding and cutting payroll next year, $4.5 million for Osuna is still a bargain.

Washington will have to blow Toronto away with any trade offer. The problem is they have traded away many of their top prospects over the last few seasons, including Lucas Giolito (#1 in 2016), Reynaldo Lopez (#4 in 2016), Nick Pivetta, Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearns.

The Nationals have three prospects remaining in the MLB Pipeline top-100 prospects, including fifth-ranked prospect Victor Robles. Toronto would presumably expect at least two top prospects, in return for such a valuable asset.

The most obvious comparable to Osuna would be when the Philadelphia Phillies traded young closer Ken Giles to the Astros after the 2015 season. Houston gave up two top-tier prospects in Mark Appel (Astro’s #2 prospect in 2014) and Vince Velasquez (#7), two mid-tier prospects in Tom Eshelman and Harold Arauz, along with a serviceable young piece in Brett Oberholtzer.

However, Giles and Osuna may not be perfect comparison.

The Astros gained five years of control of their new closer (two years before arbitration), whereas Osuna only has three after this season (arbitration eligible next year). But on the flip side the Jays closer had 56 saves coming into the season and two years of experience, whereas Giles only had one save and one year on his résumé at the time of the trade.

But the similarities are that they’re both young dominant closers, who are controllable for many years.

The chances of the Jays giving Osuna away this season are slim. Even if Toronto decides they need to rebuild and trade their closer, Washington lacks the minor league depth to get a deal done.

To be fair to Heyman, he just said the Nationals have “spoken internally about” him and a handful of other players. The Nationals are understandably “talking” about Osuna, but the chances of Toronto seriously listening seem highly improbable.