What the Blue Jays and Cardinals Got in the Jordan Hicks Trade

Jordan Hicks of the St. Louis Cardinals

With just two days away from the 2023 MLB Trade Deadline, the Blue Jays swung a deal for a high-octane reliever in Jordan Hicks. Toronto acquired the 26-year-old for two Minor League starters in Adam Kloffenstein and Sem Robberse. Here’s a look at the deal.

Related: What the Mets and Rangers Got in the Max Scherzer Trade

The Blue Jays’ Return

Now-former Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks looked like a future star in 2018-19, when he struck out 101 batters over 106.1 IP and owned an ERA of 3.47. Things, however, did not go well for Hicks in 2022, as his BB/9, WHIP, and ERA figures all rose.

This season, Hicks’ numbers have been greatly improved. The right-hander posted a 3.67 ERA over 41.2 IP, and assumed the closer’s role after Ryan Helsley went on the IL. Hicks picked up eight saves for St. Louis in 2023, the most saves he’s had in a single season since 2019 (14).

Command has always been a problem with Hicks. The 26-year-old owns a career BB/9 of 5.2, but his chase, whiff, and strikeout numbers are all up this season. 

His two-seamer — a pitch that can buckle right-handed hitters and run away from lefties — is a plus pitch with premium velocity. Between his sinker and four-seamer, Hicks has thrown 373 pitches that have hit at least 100 MPH this season. Per Statcast, that figure is first in the Majors and well ahead of Jhoan Duran for second place.

He can also get a lot of ground balls with his sinker. Hicks owns a career GB% of 61.2%, well above league-average.

Hicks can further throw off opposing hitters’ timing with a high-80s sweeper slider that fooled right-handed hitters with high frequency. Hicks’ sweeper has a Whiff% rate of 60.5% against right-handed hitters.

This is the second reliever the Jays have acquired from St. Louis this month, as Toronto picked up Genesis Cabrera via trade on July 21. Toronto designated right-hander Mitch White for assignment as a corresponding move.

The Cardinals’ Return

In return, the Cardinals received two right-handed pitching prospects in Adam Kloffenstein and Sem Robberse. 

We’ll start with Kloffenstein, a third-round pick by the Blue Jays back in 2018. Kloffenstein is a large figure at 6 ‘5’’, and while it took a while for him to develop, the 23-year-old posted arguably his best season as a professional in 2023.

Per MLB.com. Kloffenstein’s arsenal includes a mid-90s four-seamer, along with a sinker, cutter, sweeper slider, curveball, and changeup. The 23-year-old generates plenty of ground balls, and he can get whiffs with his stuff. Kloffenstein struck out 105 batters over 89 innings with New Hampshire (AA), while opposing batters hit .235 off of him this year.

The other piece to this deal is Sem Robberse, who’s now rated as the sixth-best prospect in the Cardinals system per MLB.com. A native of the Netherlands, the 21-year-old Robberse struck out 86 over 88.2 IP in New Hampshire (AA) and opposing hitters batted just .213 off him this year, a figure that would be a career-best for the righty in a full season.

Robberse’s fastball will sit in the low-to-mid-90s, but can tie hitters up with more of a finesse arsenal that includes a cutter, changeup, and slider. On video, he flashed above-average command, but the 2023 Futures Game participant walked 33 batters AND gave up 14 home runs — up from 2022 when he yielded 11 over 111.1 IP — in the Eastern League this season.

The Cardinals assigned Kloffenstein and Robberse to Memphis (AAA)

The Verdict

The addition of Hicks gives John Schneider another option in the later innings, something even more important now given that closer Jordan Romano is on the IL. Romano left Toronto’s game on July 28 and gave way for Yimi Garcia in the ninth inning against the Angels.

With Hicks in tow, Toronto now has Garcia, Hicks, and Erik Swanson as options to get saves in the interim. Hicks figures to be a key player in the Jays’ bullpen for the rest of the season, given his elite stuff.

As for the Cardinals, St. Louis picks up two starters that could make their way to the Majors in the near future. Now, teams don’t pick up prospects in trades for need — but the Cardinals did need starting pitching depth in the worst way. Given Adam Wainwright’s impending retirement and the likely departure of Jack Flaherty in the coming days, St. Louis’ rotation will look very different than it did on Opening Day of 2023.

While Kloffenstein and Robberse may not make the Cardinals out of the gate to start next season, St. Louis is in the process of stockpiling arms for the future as the two will join a farm system that includes Tekoah Roby, Michael McGreevy, and Tink Hence.