Marc Rzepczynski will be 25 years old on the 29th of this month and promises to provide many more outings as the one he served up on Friday night. I would say that the big lefty was “effectively wild” as he threw a 2-hitter (with no walks) against a decent lineup and provided the Jays with an outing that was befitting of what they would have received from Brandon Morrow – the pitcher that Marc was replacing. He plunked 2 hitters square in the back and threw a couple of pitches that Bob Uecker would have loved to call “Just a bit outside”. This may have unsettled Angels hitters and made them nervous as none of them wanted to take a bean to the noggin. Still, the excellent start was what Jays fans expected of Marc when the season began, as he had shown glimpses of his talent last season when he maintained a 3.67 ERA over 61 innings with 60 Ks and only 51 hits allowed. However, injuries slowed his 2010 season and may actually benefit the Jays down the stretch.
Benefit? Yes, as the Jays are facing some struggles from 2 of their SP who were injured all of the 2009 season and may be tiring – or are injured – as a result of the year off. I’m thinking of Jesse Litsch in particular, a pitcher who has an ugly 5.79 ERA with an equally ugly 1.457 whip this season. Even before he was put in the DL, Jesse was definitely not pitching like the pitcher we saw in 2008 when he went 13-9 with a 3.58 ERA and 1.233 whip. In my opinion, and after this great start from Marc, Jesse should either be shut down, sent down to AAA to work on his stuff once healthy, or moved to the pen so that he can limit his innings and start anew in 2011. If Tallet is sent packing in trade, Jesse could always become the long relief guy if he returns healthy. Rzepczynski would get a shot to prove himself, gain experience at the highest level, and would provide the Jays with a 3rd lefty in the rotation, all with different styles.
If Marc is truly as he advertised in Anaheim last night, the Jays have a potent rotation down the stretch, and a very balanced one as well.
Marcum already has 10 wins, while Ricky, Brett, and Brandon all sit at 9 wins each. Add Marc and his potential, and you’ve got a group of guys here that can really do some damage down the stretch. Meanwhile, the Yankees have no clue what they’re getting from their guys 3-5, the Rays have had some ugly outings from Shields and now have Niemann and Davis on the DL, and the Red Sox have had some really ugly outings from Beckett and their pen. The Jays are within 10 games of the AL East lead (I’d say that’s unattainable) but are only 8 games out of the Wildcard. I don’t expect them to get either one, but if they make a decent run at it, the confidence it provides the team going into 2011 is unmeasurable. They’ve now played 10 games against the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Angels, most recently and have come away with 7 wins. That’s an incredible difference compared to last season.
When you look at the Jays record in the AL East, 26 and 19, and compare it to the other contenders in the AL east (Yankees are 26 and 18, Rays are 27 and 18, and the Red Sox are 24 and 24) you have to recognize that the Jays are ready to play with the big boys and are coming out on top a good portion of the time. They, and the lowly Orioles, have the best record in the AL East over the last 10 games and are on a bit of a role. That begs the question, will the Jays add something to see where it takes them down the stretch? With some teams looking to dump salary for very little, why not add a little something to see how far the Jays can go?
The Jays still have a ton of games left to play against their AL East opponents and control their destiny as a result. If they could add 1 more pen arm and 1 more off-the-bench threat (a clutch hitter in the Matsui mold) they could be a dangerous team and could be in play for the Wildcard. As it stands today, however, most of us expect the Jays to trade some players in order to prepare for a championship run in 2011 and beyond.
Here’s what we know so far in terms of who cleared waivers and who is interested:
- Lyle Overbay, 1B: The Minnesota Twins could really use a “Jays package” in order to ensure they have a backup plan to Justin Morneau and to replace some injuries in the pen. Morneau has been dealing with concussion symptoms since Johnny Mac kneed him in the head and the injuries to Joe Nathan and Jose Mijares have left a big hole in their pen. If the Twins could provide a nice package of prospects (including the likes of Joe Benson, Adrian Salcedo, Angel Morales, Max Kepler, Deolis Guerra, or Aaron Hicks), they could land both Overbay and Scott Downs. Or, they could aim a little lower and ask for Brian Tallet or Jason Frasor instead of Downs. Either way, they seem like the likeliest destination for Lyle. Other possibilities include Atlanta, and Boston (if Delgado remains injured). Otherwise, the Jays may keep him around and just cut him loose in the off season. They will most likely give Adam Lind more starts at first and could use Lyle off the bench more often if that route is chosen, especially as a defensive specialist late in close games.
- Vernon Wells, CF: I know it’s 99% likely that Vernon will remain a Jay, as the Jays would have to cover half of his remaining salary to offload the veteran. Besides, the team does need one or 2 veterans, doesn’t it? Vernon is one of the biggest reasons the clubhouse has gelled so well this year, so why deal him? As far as I know, he’s the only “horrid” contract the Jays have, which is better than what some other teams can say. Still, if the Jays could find the right package, pay enough money, and agree that a change is needed, he could be on the move. I’m thinking of the Chicago White Sox. They missed out on Adam Dunn despite adding Edwyn Jackson to entice a deal, and have had some pretty horrible players playing in the OF. Mark Kotsay, Andruw Jones, and other have been tried in the OF with little success. If they could provide 1-2 prospects and take on half of Vernon’s salary, it could be enough for Alex Anthopolous to think about dealing the Jays leader. The Jays OF of the future seems to be LF Travis Snider, RF Jose Bautista, and either Darin Mastroianni or Anthony Gose in CF. Therefore, I expect that any chance that AA has to make a decent deal for Vernon, he may be forced to take. Fred Lewis can man CF as well, for the short term. Like I said before, I don’t expect this will happen this season, but the White Sox are my wildcard team if a deal is consummated.
- Edwin Encarnacion, 3B: The recent injury to Chipper Jones has put an Edwin trade to Atlanta in the realm of possibility. He’s been playing really well of late and seems to be doing much better defensively. I’m not sure of the returns possible, but something in the mold of Nate McLouth, who has fallen out of favor, may be an option. Nate is owed $6.5 million in 2011 and has a $10.65 club option in 2012 with a $1.25 million buyout. If the Braves cover some of this, he could be appealing to the Jays as a bench OFer. He has speed, can play all 3 OF positions at a very high level and is a better offensive threat than Dewayne Wise would ever be. A change of scenery could provide a “Escobar” like turnaround. If not Atlanta, the Phillies and Cards seem like the likeliest destinations.
- Brian Tallet, RP: Teams who are upset over Toronto’s asking price for Scott Downs may ask for Tallet instead. Not only does he provide a LHP relief option, but he’s also available as a long-reliever/spot stater, something many teams covet. The Rays, Twins, Giants, and Red Sox could all be interested in Brian. He and Edwin are the 2 guys who have cleared waivers who I expect will be moved before September.