Apr 22, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Antonio Bastardo throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 9th inning during the game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Trade Rumors: Blue Jays shifting focus to starter, relief markets

The Toronto Blue Jays have approached the trade deadline with a wide-open perspective, assessing available pieces that could improve the club in any capacity. Perhaps that is part of Alex Anthopoulos’ master plan.

Lay down a trail of breadcrumbs and keep everyone guessing.

So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the latest news has the Blue Jays apparently changing course yet again. According to the latest tweet from Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports, the Toronto front office is once again focuses on finding pitching help at the deadline with the returns of Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind, and Brett Lawrie imminent.

That would appear to be a sound decision for Toronto, as Toronto’s rotation is starting to show holes. Starter Drew Hutchison has appeared to tire, throwing up two consecutive starts in which he’s allowed 6 earned runs. Meanwhile J.A. Happ, despite a 6-innings of shut-out baseball on Tuesday night, is sporting a 5.50 ERA in July and has failed to finish the 5th inning in 4 of his last 9 starts.

On the other side of the coin, the relief corps has been a mess in 2014, ranking above just the Rockies and Astros in bullpen ERA (4.54). That lead to quick exits for Sergio Santos and Brad Mills, both of whom were designated for assignment, and a hail mary thrown by the promotion of top prospect Aaron Sanchez to the bullpen.

That all said, the Blue Jays have been very present in scouting the Philadelphia Phillies. While the team was in Philadelphia on Monday to see starter Cliff Lee, they also had a side interest. According to Jim Salisbury of Comcast Sportsnet, Toronto was also heavily interested in reliever Antonio Bastardo, as were at least three other clubs.

The 28-year-old reliever would appear to fit well into the Blue Jays desires. The hard-throwing lefty is sporting a 3.27 ERA and a 10.8 K/9 ratio over 44 appearances already in 2014. The lefty also has strong splits, proving to be equally effective against both left-handed and right-handed hitters.

What also makes Bastardo attractive is the fact that he will be third-year arbitration eligible this winter, meaning any team acquiring him has an extra year of team control. That’s important to a Blue Jays team that not only needs to plug holes in a leaky bullpen in 2014, but also faces having Casey Janssen as a free agent this winter.

With the Phillies likely facing a lengthy rebuild, there is no really clear picture as to what they’d want in return. However, we know their system is devoid of hitting prospects, something the Blue Jays also lack at the higher levels. That may put a damper on any trade possibilities between the two teams.

Regardless of the package, one thing can be for certain. Sales of a Bastardo jersey in Toronto could reach a fever pitch, as it would be priceless to see the name-calling pairing of Bastardo and Dickey side-by-side in the stands.

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