Less than a month from the trade deadline, the Houston Astros are starting to gear up for yet another championship run in 2022, and there are plenty of options on the trade market that would help them get even better than they’ve already been this year. There’s one player that isn’t talked about very much in connection to the Astros (or a trade in general), but it would make sense to pursue a deal for both sides – and it would address the much-discussed concerns at the catcher position – especially because it wouldn’t significantly change the team’s on-field product. The man in question is Danny Jansen, a catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Jansen is currently on the IL, recovering after getting hit on the hand by a pitch in early June, but he’s close to returning and is already rehabbing with the Jays’ AAA affiliate in Buffalo. The chunk of games he has missed in the past two years might worry Astros fans, but it comes with a few asterisks: his last 2 IL stints have had nothing to do with a right hamstring issue that plagued him for a while before, and that leg has been fully healthy for about a year now. As well, taking a high fastball straight to the hand should not say anything whatsoever about his durability. What should be even more encouraging is how he has performed since the start of 2021 when healthy.
Jansen was a highly-touted prospect but his bat didn’t catch up to the rest of his game when he got to the big leagues, which isn’t uncommon for young catchers. This reached a breaking point in April of 2021 when he had a brutal .211 OPS through the season’s first month. Since May of 2021, however, among catchers with at least 200 plate appearances, Jansen ranks first in all of baseball with a 150 wRC+. In that timespan, in which he has suited up for 73 games, he has hit 18 home runs and posted a slugging percentage of over .600, which is unsustainable but impressive nonetheless.
Multiple trips to the injured list have understandably prevented this narrative from gaining much ground outside of Toronto, but when he has been healthy, Jansen has been one of the best offensive catchers in the game of late. Since offense is at a historical premium at that position, the only way any team would trade an asset like that is if they simply had too many good catchers, and that is exactly the case with the Blue Jays. Alejandro Kirk has taken the league by storm, leading MLB catchers in OPS in 2022, and top prospect Gabriel Moreno has has proven enough to stay with the team since getting called up last month. As well, Zack Collins has a wRC+ above league-average, which is about all you can ask for from a third-string catcher. At some point, the Blue Jays will not have room for one of these players, and the Astros could capitalize on that dilemma now.
Jansen has a .915 OPS when healthy this season and Blue Jays pitchers have spoken highly of his impact on the staff, even its veteran members: he served as a personal catcher for Hyun-Jin Ryu before Ryu went down with a torn UCL. He’s also well-adjusted to not playing every day even when he isn’t injured, as Kirk’s strong play has often necessitated a sharing of the catcher duties between the two this season.
Acquiring Jansen would ensure that Martin Maldonado, who the organization has a high amount of faith in, still gets his fair share of playing time. It also takes the pressure off the young Korey Lee to be the sole generator of offense at the catcher position, which is a huge ask for a rookie on a World Series contender. While the Blue Jays’ area of surplus happens to be an area of need for the Astros, the inverse is also true: with the return of Jake Odorizzi, the Astros have too many big-league pitchers, and some of the Jays’ pitching staff has struggled again this season. Based purely off the positional holes a Jansen trade would likely fill for both teams, it makes sense to consider.
It isn’t a hypothetical that has been talked about very much, but a trade that sends Danny Jansen to Houston could certainly make sense for both sides. On the flip side, the Blue Jays also have an incentive not to trade him, that being the way he helps their pitching staff which is inferior to Houston’s. It would likely disrupt their clubhouse to some degree too, since he came up alongside Guerrero Jr., Bichette, Biggio, and other members of Toronto’s young core in the minor leagues. Those within the team see him as a valuable commodity north of the border, but for the right price, a trade might make sense. As well, with an Astros club that doesn’t need to move mountains to be considered a World Series favorite, it just might be one of the missing pieces they need to push them over the top.