By now, you might not be able to tell which is bothering you more: the constant speculatory trade rumors surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays, or the idea that, once again, your favorite ball club may not make a deal to help them make a drive to win a playoff spot. On the one hand, you want your club to get the pitching help it needs. After all, it’s been 22 years since Toronto has last seen playoff baseball. On the other hand, you don’t want your emotions toyed with by all of the rumors that are flying around. They can’t all be true.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports brings us something that just might settle both of the above issues. He tells us that there very well could be some big time trade action this summer and he provides us with some evidence, rather than just throwing teams out there and using the word “interest”. According to Rosenthal, there was a heavy scouting presence so see Jeff Hoffman and Daniel Norris pitch this week. Among those teams, it will not surprise you to know that the Phillies, Athletics, White Sox and Reds were in attendance. It may not even surprise you to hear that the Marlins were there too. But, one of the teams that might be a surprise is the San Diego Padres.
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Rosenthal quotes his buddy, Jon Morosi and writes: “Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, who has a history of trades involving large numbers of players, could address both his primary needs by acquiring Craig Kimbrel and one of the Padres’ starters.” Now, before we go any further, we have to acknowledge the phrase “could address”. All this means is that it might make sense and there is no indication that there have been talks. But, the presence of scouts would suggest that maybe there were.
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So, how about it? Craig Kimbrel might be the closer the Blue Jays have been looking for. Despite the success of Roberto Osuna, you can’t think that the club is content to just leave the bullpen as it is. Kimbrel would certainly be an upgrade. Since 2010 when he burst on to the scene, Kimbrel is the proud owner of 208 saves. According to Fangraphs.com, he saved 50 games in 2013 and has not saved fewer than 40. Thus far in 2015, he has 22. He has a 2.66 FIP, a K rate of 35.9%, which is down a bit from his past few seasons.
At 27, his velocity has actually gone up each year and now sits at 97.5 mph on his fastball. That might be explained by him using it a bit less than in the past while he is using his change up more. For his short career, he’s been a 12.3 WAR player. His contract is a bit heavy, but might be worth it for the kind of lockdown closer he has become. He signed a 4yr/$42M deal last year the remainder of which breaks down like so: 2015: $9M, 2016: $11M, 2017: $13M. There is also a team option for 2018 for $13M with a $1M buyout.
But Kimbrel might not be the only piece San Diego is willing to leverage into young talent to make up for their failed ‘all in’ attempt of last winter. Rosenthal mentions that the Padres may even be willing to part with a starting pitcher. How about Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy, Andrew Cashner or even James Shields?
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Tyson Ross is 28 and making $5.2M this season. He has 2 more years of arbitration remaining, which means team control beyond this year. Already in 2015, he’s worth 2 WAR. Yet, he sits with a 5-7 record and a 3.56 ERA. While he’s only striking out 9.72/9, what is appealing is his 62% GB rate. His 3 HR (HR/FB rate is just 6.3%) allowed this season surely has to do with pitching in Petco Park, so we could expect that to be impacted by a move to Rogers Centre. This is why the GB rate is important. Hitters are averaging .247 against him with a BABIP of .339. He has a +WPA (win advancement) of 7.57. Ross just might be a good addition.
Ian Kennedy is 30 yrs old and making $9.8M and will be a free agent this winter. Thus far in 2015, he’s been much different than the 2011 version that went 21-4, 2.88. This season, he’s 4-9, 4.91. His FIP is actually worse at 5.45. He’s giving up just 38% ground balls with a 20.8 HR/FB%. So the Blue Jays would be looking at bringing a guy who would not do so well in the hitter friendly confines of Rogers Centre. He has made it through over 30 starts per season every year since 2010. But, for a rental player, the Blue Jays could do better.
Andrew Cashner is 28 years old and is making $4M with one year of arbitration remaining. On the surface, he looks like a less appealing option. His 3-10, 4.10 mark is not sexy at all. Now, we all know that W/L record is not the best indicator of success. Despite his ugly record, he’s been worth 1.1 WAR. He’s striking out nearly 8 per 9 innings. But, he’s walking nearly 3. His GB% is the lowest it’s ever been at 47.2%. And, his HR/FB mark sits at 11.9%. He brings a +WPA of 6.58.
And what of “Big Game” James Shields? The 33 yr old was a free agent this past winter and brought his talents to southern California. His contract looks like this: 2015: $10M, 2016: $21M, 2017: $21M, 2018: $21M. That’s a lot of dough for a guy who will be 36 at the end of it. There’s also a team option for 2019 worth $16M and a $2M buyout. Now, I admit that I was leading the “Sign James Shields” parade over the off season. And, while I was glad in the end to see him sign elsewhere, he would certainly be a helpful addition to this year’s Blue Jays rotation. He’s 7-3, 4.01 thus far. Currently, he’s riding a career high K% of 26.6. Unfortunately, he’s balancing that with a career high BB% of 8.1. Is this a sign of age related regression? His HR/FB% is at a career high 17.9%. And that is including having Petco Park as his home stadium! Oh, and hitters are making hard contact at an all time high of 33.1%. Do the Blue Jays want to be saddled with this aging expensive contract?
So, what do the Padres have to offer the Blue Jays? An expensive, yet dominant closer. They have a couple starting pitching options that might not send fans over the moon, but might be smart pick ups, especially if another move can be made to bring in one of the bigger names. But a package of Kimbrel and say, Tyson Ross would be quite the get for the Blue Jays.
Taking on salary for this club has been a concern in the past. Ken Rosenthal points out that last season the Blue Jays told everyone that they could not take on any salary in any deal. That ended conversations. But, Rosenthal also points out that this year things are different. And, they just might be. The Blue Jays are in a better position to contend. They are also looking at only a few more months of contracts like those of R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle. That frees up potential money for the next couple of years.
If the Blue Jays are indeed open to taking on salary, the amount and level of prospects going the other way might be more palatable. And, a move like this with the Padres might just be the under the radar type of move the Ninja GM likes. While all of the other teams are fighting over the “Big Fish”, the Blue Jays just might be able to swoop in and steal a package from the Padres.