Thinking Big To Help The Toronto Blue Jays
Grantland’s Jonah Keri wrote today of the Toronto Blue Jays’ season and of them being just two games above .500 despite the league’s best offense, “thank a terrible pitching staff, consisting of a phalanx of mediocre veterans and a bunch of kids who’ve been occasionally good and often terrible.” While that is a pretty honest and accurate description, they have had 19 quality starts out of the last 40 games (Buehrle and Sanchez have five; Estrada, Hutchison and Dickey have three) so the pitching has been better, up from near the bottom of the league in ERA to 24th. Still it’s plain to see upgrades would be a welcomed addition. It’s just a matter of what the Jays are willing to give up.
Enter the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies, two teams that have assets to deal that could help Toronto both in the rotation and the bullpen. Jeff Sullivan’s piece on Fox Sports compared various trades for starters and says the Angels/Brewers trade for Zack Greinke and Jean Segura might be the best comparable for Toronto to work with. Therefore, he reasons, to get Johnny Cueto, it might cost one good prospect plus bits. With Aroldis Chapman included it’s likely two good ones plus bits. I’d have to think that Blue Jays’ #1 prospect and #14 overall prospect in MLB, Daniel Norris, would have to be a part of that trade for those two arms, but he’s also a premium prospect. Would you do it? I’m hesitant at the inclusion of Norris, but the Blue Jays may have to bite the bullet if other teams start calling Cincinnati too.
ESPN’s Christina Kahrl says Philly would most definitely demand Norris for Cole Hamels. Or, as she suggests for Cueto, maybe Richard Urena (#7 ranked prospect), Miguel Castro (5th ranked prospect) and Jairo Labourt (10th ranked prospect) could be convincing. To prevent dealing Norris in such a deal, who could be a top of the line starter very soon, would be bananas to say the least. But to include Chapman in that, I don’t see how the Jays can not include Norris unless they do a two for one upgrade in the form of a Jeff Hoffman (3rd best prospect) and outfielder Dwight Smith, Jr. (9th best prospect) although I’d hate losing those two just the same.
CSNPhilly.com’s Corey Seidman recently sifted through recent trades of closers and found that arguably the Addison Reed and Jim Johnson trades were the most favourable comparison for dealing Jonathan Papelbon. As for the cost to the Blue Jays, I suggested the following on Twitter: considering the Yankees recently traded reliever David Carpenter, who was designated for assignment, to the Nationals for their 12th best prospect, maybe the Blue Jays have to give up someone in the mold of 11th ranked prospect, Matt Smoral, for Papelbon, or maybe a Labourt or Matt Boyd (19th ranked prospect). If Philadelphia throws in more money, maybe that’s enough to pry loose Castro.
Of course, the availability of cash will also play a role with Toronto of which, reportedly $5-8 million might be available to add deadline help. Being nearly at the half way point in the season, Cueto has about $5 million left in salary, Chapman has $4 million. That’s pretty close to doable. Papelbon has about $6.5 left so any deal there will certainly require the Phillies to eat some cash. Ditto for Hamels who has about $11.25 million left this year.
As you can see, the amount of prospect capital the Jays would forego could be enormous. However the question we have to ask ourselves is pretty simple: are the Jays serious about making a push right now for the playoffs thereby increasing their chances of getting in, or do they continue to be cautious being mindful of the potential roster they could have for 2016 and 2017?
Truth be told, ending the Blue Jays’ 21 year playoff drought would be pretty sweet.