In the dead of night, Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos goes to work. It’s there he summons an earth shattering move striking Jays’ nation to its core: He dealt Jose Reyes, Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco for one of the preeminent stars in the game, Troy Tulowitzki.
On one hand, the Jays debited their farm system in a massive way. Gone is last year’s first round draft pick and potential ace Jeff Hoffman. Gone is fireballing 20 year-old in Miguel Castro. And gone is another 20 year-old kid who seemed to know how to deliver a ground ball in Tinoco. Not to mention the leadoff hitter for the past two years Jose Reyes.
On the other, of course, you just acquired Troy Tulowitzki, one of the best players in the game and the best shortstop in the game for the past six years. Don’t get me wrong, having Tulo in a Jays uniform until 2020 is going to be a great thing. When you juxtapose Josh Donaldson and Tulowitzki on the left side of your infield, good things happen, no doubt.
But this deal needs to be graded on the secondary moves each club is capable of making and ultimately makes. For the Colorado Rockies, they have the chance to take the bigger half of the proverbial wishbone through moving Jose Reyes and further stockpiling their minor league system.
The Jays on the other hand need to make a complimentary move in the form of a starting pitcher. This is nothing new; it was well known as the move the Jays needed before Tulo and LaTroy Hawkins set foot in the six.
Currently the Jays sit seven games back of the New York Yankees for the American League East division lead, and two and a half games back of the Minnesota Twins for the second place in the American League wildcard. Their record of 50-51 is nothing to write home about despite their +94 run differential, the second highest in the majors to the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s why, although tailgating behind three teams in the wildcard standings, the Jays have the strongest chance at earning a wildcard spot with a 28.6 % chance. They even have a 35.9% chance of making the playoffs–via the wildcard or divisional win route.
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It’s this close position that’s making Jays fans hammer away at their keyboards, refreshing their twitter pages for a move, any move to upgrade the rotation. The problem with that, however is that not just any move will be the right move for 2015 and beyond. A rental could be a failure of biblical proportions.
Don’t get me wrong; who wouldn’t want David Price for a playoff run? Who wouldn’t want a 2.53 ERA pitcher who’s surpassed 4 WAR since 2009? Everyone would. The catch-22 with a move for a player of his calibre, and contractual situation, is that it would first off cost a lot to reel him in and secondly, risk everything in the future for two months of undeniable uncertainty.
Take for example the Tulowitzki addition. Many experts claim the move added one win over Reyes for the remainder of the Jays season. On July 26th the Fangraphs post-season projection system had the Jays winning 82.4 games by season’s end, with a 34.8% chance of making the playoffs. By Tuesday, after the Tulo trade, their chances had increased by about one percentage point with their expected win total moving one tenth of a win. You can see how one move, with only two months remaining in the season, can be somewhat inconsequential. Of course, these are projection systems; there’s a reason why teams play out the rest of the year.
So what could adding a player like Price do? Add a win, maybe one and a half. It’s not going to be drastic night-and-day difference. The price for acquiring Price will be steep: Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, Max Pentecost, who knows they might even ask for someone like Marcus Stroman. Outside of Cole Hamels, this is likely the biggest ticket on the trade market docket.
If the Jays fail to make the playoffs, and odds are they will (I’m sorry), they’d be left with a bankrupt farm system and a broken rotation for 2015. There’s conceivably no way the Jays can entice free agents monster starting pitchers like Price to come to Toronto via the free agent market given the money they could potentially earn through on open market. The Jays would be left without a viable starting pitcher in their farm system to replace possible free agents, Mark Buehrle, R.A Dickey and Marco Estrada. Going all in on a two-month player, although enticing for the short-term, can have dramatic ramifications. It could hamper them for years to come.
That said, Anthopoulos could do something crazy in the off-season and retool the entire team. Stranger things have happened.
In the coming days, think twice before giving up everything for a rental. If a rental is at the right price without selling away the entire future, maybe it makes sense. Mortgaging the future on a whimsical chance isn’t the best of ideas; that said, it just might be the one the Jays employ.