Would Blue Jays be wise to make a big move or two?
The recent 11-game win streak has helped propel the Toronto Blue Jays back into the playoff picture. Unfortunately, it has also helped bring back to light a much bigger question.
Where do the Toronto Blue Jays go from here?
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Of course, the one true place the team needs to go is in the direction of some pitching help. Under most circumstances this offense is going to keep them in contention, but it also serves to hide the issues that plague the team in the rotation and in the bullpen. We’ve seen both of those issues in a matter of two games in New York, when Brett Cecil blow a late lead to end the 11-game win streak and Scott Copeland followed it up by getting knocked around in four innings of work on Tuesday.
The mere presence of Copeland in the rotation, albeit for just two starts, indicates the team’s overall lack of pitching depth. According to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, the team is not yet ready to give top prospect Daniel Norris another shot in the majors and they also don’t want to risk Felix Doubront unless they know that they’ll keep him on the roster long-term. That means that Copeland will receive at least one more start while the team waits to see if Aaron Sanchez will be ready to go after missing three starts with a lat strain.
The bullpen is even more dire situation, as Toronto just doesn’t have the options available to make any significant upgrades. However, having Liam Hendriks come in and try to rescue the game from Brett Cecil on Monday was hardly ideal, and certainly not the way you’d set-up a contender’s bullpen.
All of that begs the Blue Jays to make a move, and with the mentality that Toronto is playing for this year, they may very well do so. If there was a season when the American League East was up for grabs and Toronto could end its long playoff drought, this is it.
However, would the decision be a bit misguided?
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Jesse Spector of The Sporting News makes a fairly apt comparison between this year’s Blue Jays and last year’s Oakland Athletics; two teams that lived and died by the blow-out. Both teams were outstanding in regards to games when the offense was absolutely clicking and by nature of their run differential, their records should have been drastically different. However, their struggles in close games doomed them to records that either had them squeaking into the postseason or, in the 2015 Blue Jays case, in the hunt with no real guarantee of making the playoffs.
Unfortunately, Spector failed to carry the point of his conversation to its natural conclusion. By virtue of his argument, Spector is asserting that Toronto needs to make a move or two to shore up the pitching staff and give themselves the best possible chance of reaching the playoffs. The Blue Jays certainly have the pieces to make a deal or two happen.
However, that is where Spector went wrong and he provided the perfect point of contention against that assertion.
By highlighting last year’s Oakland Athletics, Spector provided the perfect argument against making a move. In 2014, the Oakland Athletics had a two game lead in the American League West when the non-waiver trade deadline passed. Leading into the deadline, the A’s made a couple of moves, acquiring Jon Lester from the Boston Red Sox and the pair of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs, bolstering their rotation for what they hoped would be a deep playoff push.
However, Oakland finished the season 22-31 and were a distant ten games behind the division-winning Los Angeles Angels, barely making the postseason as the American League’s second wild card. The A’s were promptly evicted from the playoffs with a 12-inning loss to the eventual American League champion Kansas City Royals in the Wild-Card play-in.
For their efforts, the Athletics weakened their offense by sending Yoenis Cespedes and a competitive balance pick to the Red Sox for Lester. Additionally, they traded two of their top prospects in Addison Russell and Billy McKinney to the Cubs in the Samardzija-Hamels swap. Yes, the A’s then shipped Samardzija to the White Sox this past winter in a deal that brought back shortstop prospect Marcus Semien, but he’s hardly of the caliber of Russell.
In the process of going for an empty shot at a title, the A’s single-handedly beat themselves both in 2014 and weakened themselves for 2015 and the future. That comparison alone should give the Blue Jays pause, at least in an effort to fully examine where this club stands and the realism of its playoff aspirations, and more importantly a title.
One piece may get the Blue Jays over the hump, but are two moves likely to send Toronto to the World Series? Is it worthwhile for the Blue Jays to part with such promise and future simply for a cup of coffee in the playoffs, just to say they ended the drought?
The questions are real and Alex Anthopoulos is surely taking stock of where this team stands before taking such a big gamble.
Next: Should the Blue Jays pursue Cueto and Chapman?