Are The Blue Jays Contenders Or Pretenders?

by Brandon Jopko | Posted on Sunday, June 15th, 2014
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MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Texas Rangers
Toronto Blue Jays’ T.V. play-by-play man, Buck Martinez, said yesterday on the broadcast that he hates it when fans say “‘The Jays are in first place, however…’, there is no however, the team is in first place and that’s all there is.”

While I should be happy that the Jays are indeed in first place, I too, am going to use the term “however” because deep down I am absolutely not comfortable with this team for a variety of reasons. Namely, the Jays’ initial starting second baseman, Ryan Goins, failed horrendously at the plate, which started the revolving door at second until journeyman Juan Francisco arrived and Steven Tolleson became the other half of the Jays’ platoon at second with Brett Lawrie. Secondly, Dustin McGowan’s experiment with starting pitching failed, and quite rightly, was returned to the bullpen. Sergio Santos couldn’t find the plate so far this season and got hurt again (so far, he has returned to the team as of June 13th.). Steve Delabar, too, hasn’t been his dominant self like in 2013. Brandon Morrow has been hurt again, and awful. J.A. Happ’s good fortune could turn ugly very quickly. Even R.A. Dickey hasn’t fully hit his stride yet this year as seen through his propensity to walk batters and failing to go deep into games (only twice in 15 GS has he completed 7 IP).

On the plus side, Casey Janssen’s return along with McGowan in the bullpen has made the relief corps formidable again. The bats were explosive during May which showed the potential this team has offensively. They’ve shown adjustments against good pitchers and are more frequently going the other way thanks to the preaching of hitting coach Kevin Seitzer. Mark Buehrle’s been out of this world tremendous, and Marcus Stroman is actually up in the big leagues and pitching decently so far as a starter although its only been three games. Drew Hutchison as well has been really good except for a handful of starts where he’s struggled at home. Given all this, the Jays are quite fortunate to be where they are due to the lack of solid performances from the other AL East clubs.

There’s also a potential question mark looming over the head of Francisco who’s been pretty bad the last 14 games hitting .121/.121/.364 with 14 SO in 33 AB. The eye test tells me that Lawrie looks good defensively at second base, however Fangraphs rates him as just below average with -0.7 UZR. Consequently, do the Jays need to find another player to add to their infield for the second half of the season?

There are a couple of intriguing names on the trade front that could potentially plug this infield hole, however the cost to acquire and the viability of these options remain dubious. Consider the following: a trade for Chase Utley makes sense; he’s a perennial all-star when healthy, but he’s under contract for 2015 and then a slew of vesting options come up. Ben Zobrist is out there as well who has an option for 2015, but he’s currently on a division rival and the Rays are sure to ask for a ton. Chase Headley could be acquired as he’s a free-agent this offseason, but he’s having a down year and having Lawrie play second full-time doesn’t make sense. Jimmy Rollins could be a ‘thinking out-of-the-box’ name to play second, but he has an achievable vesting option for 2015 and he would have to approve a trade as well with his 10 and 5 rights. Besides these options, another question needs to be asked – what prevents Toronto from taking on additional salary for 2015 should a trade present itself?

In terms of additional arms to be had at the trade deadline, there’s a lot of speculation that they could try to pry loose Jeff Samardzija or David Price, though the cost is sure to be exorbitantly high. Alternatively, could the Blue Jays acquire a pitcher like A.J. Burnett or Ian Kennedy, or other options like Jorge De La Rosa, Justin Masterson or Jason Hammel? Truth be told, the Jays used to be a remarkable organization where they went out and acquired a star player for the stretch run like they did for Rickey Henderson, Tony Fernandez and David Cone. This organization used to acquire the best, but admittedly, times have changed and cost for star players have only inflated.

Consider for instance the 2011 Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler deal. At the time, Wheeler was the Giants’ top pitching prospect (#2 in system) playing in Single-A, and it was a steep price to pay for two months of Beltran. For the Blue Jays, Aaron Sanchez or Marcus Stroman would be a suitable comparable. In my mind, the Jays absolutely cannot trade a Sanchez or Stroman as they will likely fit permanently into our rotation in the next year or two. As a result, the Jays may just have to rely on what they have internally.

I want to be a believer in this team, I really do. I want to see them go to the playoffs for the first time since 1993. We’ve been promised a winner from ownership and that has elevated fans’ expectations. This team does indeed have immense talent; it’s just that fans have been let down before, most recently in 2013 when the team was expected to win the World Series.

Regardless of the issues the team has faced thus far, and articles like this written by Jon Paul Morosi who says he favours the Orioles over the Jays to make it into the playoffs, Toronto just has to … well, do this:

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Brandon Jopko
About the Author

Senior Writer for Baseball Hot Corner and die-hard Blue Jays fan longing for another chance to experience his team in playoff glory. You can visit his blog at pumpedupjays.com or follow him on Twitter @pumpedupjays







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