With the Toronto Blue Jays sinking further and further out of the playoff picture and less than a week remaining before the trade deadline, there will undoubtedly be a plethora of rumors popping up in the coming days. Most of those rumors will revolve around the Blue Jays selling players, some of which may have legs and other that won’t.
One of those that won’t is undoubtedly the speculation that the St. Louis Cardinals could have interest in Toronto starter Mark Buehrle.
In a speculative piece last week, the Belleville News-Democrat, a paper out of Illinois, discussed some of the targets that the Cardinals may pursue to shore up their pitching staff for the stretch run. Eventually, that discussion turned to Missouri native Buehrle.
The author, Scott Wuerz, went through the normal swath of speculated available arms; Cliff Lee, Matt Garza (since traded to Texas), David Price, Jake Peavy, and Josh Johnson, before ending with a quick blurb about Buehrle. Wuerz does a good job of pointing out that the Cardinals and Blue Jays have been solid trade partners in the past, as our own Kyle Matte did just yesterday in a different trade proposal, and even gets into why this would be a favorable situation for the struggling Buehrle.
Unfortunately, a trade of Buehrle will not likely happen between the Blue Jays and the Cardinals.
For one, by moving Buehrle, the Blue Jays would be trading one of the few, healthy starters that they have under club control for next season. If I do my math correctly, I can count four in R.A. Dickey, Buehrle, Esmil Rogers, and J.A. Happ (who will return next week). There are question marks around what they Blue Jays can get from Brandon Morrow (who is likely done for the season), and there is not a very likely chance that Toronto will have/want Josh Johnson back next season. By moving Buehrle now, the Jays will potentially have two holes to plug in a rotation that has struggled with health and consistency for the last two seasons.
Secondly, what would St. Louis possibly send Toronto for a pitcher sporting a 4.83 ERA, a 4.35 FIP, and a 4.30 SIERA? Buehrle is hardly a postseason difference-maker at this stage of his career and Toronto would be unlikely to get a player of consequence in return. He lacks the firepower of Matt Garza, the upside of a Bud Norris, or even the intrigue of a Ervin Santana. Buehrle is exactly what you see from him, a guy that will keep you in games but won’t throw you on his back come playoff time.
Finally, we have the matter of salary to discuss. As of Opening Day, the Cardinals had a team payroll of $115,222,086, good for 10th highest in baseball. However, Mark Buehrle is sitting on a heavily back-loaded contract that he signed with the Marlins and was transferred to Toronto when he was sent to the Blue Jays in the mega-deal this past winter. While that contract includes team control for two more seasons, that also means that the Blue Jays owe the lefty $18 million in 2014 and $19 million in 2015. That’s a big chunk of change for anybody to swallow, whether it be Toronto taking on part or most of it, or the team trading for him. That severely limits his trade value in this market, and would further limit any return to be had. St. Louis may have a decent team payroll, but they still spend smartly.
So no kiddies, Mark Buehrle is not going anywhere at this time of the year and will likely finish out this contract in a Blue Jays uniform. Speculation can be fun, but sometimes it needs to be grounded in reality.