Blue Jays may have to be creative with additions
With the impending trade deadline approaching, the Blue Jays are one of many clubs who will be seeking upgrades, especially in the pitching department.
There is plenty of reason for optimism these days for baseball fans north of the border. The Blue Jays currently sit in 3rd in the AL East at 52-42, three games back of the division leading Orioles and trailing the Red Sox by one. If the season ended today the Blue Jays would be the second Wild Card team, in an overloaded East representation in the playoffs.
The Red Sox have struck early, acquiring Drew Pomeranz to bolster their rotation, the only glaring weakness in an otherwise strong, young roster. Their rotation has been a disappointment thus far with Clay Buchholz and others struggling, so GM Dave Dombrowski didn’t waste any time making a move, but also set the first marker for the cost of acquiring rotation help.
Since the addition of the second wild card spot, more teams than ever consider themselves contenders late into the season, and 2016 is no exception. With 19 teams either in a playoff spot, or within 5.5 games of one, the demand for upgrades is significant. As always, pitching is needed basically everywhere, so the Blue Jays will be in tough if they want to make an impact deal before the deadline.
With the possibility of All-Star Aaron Sanchez being moved to the bullpen later in the season, the Blue Jays would ideally like to upgrade the rotation. Sanchez’s addition to the bullpen would be significant as well.
But with the limited amount of rotation arms seemingly available, the Blue Jays may not land an upgrade to what they already have. Depth would certainly be welcome regardless, but it may be difficult to find a trade that makes sense given the market.
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With that in mind, Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro may have to be creative in upgrading the Blue Jays pitching staff. There may not be a lot of quality starters available, but there could be a number of impact bullpen arms on the market. Could the Blue Jays look to build a super bullpen, a la the World Series champion Royals of 2015, or what the Yankees attempted this season? Given the state of the trade market, it may be an option worth exploring.
Among the teams that could be likely sellers, there are several late inning options that Blue Jays fans would welcome with open arms. In the AL, the Oakland A’s have Ryan Madson and former Jay Mark “scrabble” Rzepczynski. The Los Angeles Angels have Huston Street and Joe Smith (granted neither has performed particularly well this season).
The Blue Jays could also look to the AL East trade market, a maneuver that has not been used much at all in recent years. The Yankees are potential sellers and could be looking to move impending free agent closer Aroldis Chapman. The Cuban fireballer has performed well since returning from suspension to join the Yankees, saving 17 games and pitching to a 2.39 ERA. He also has 40 K’s in 26.1 innings, and continues to set the standard for velocity in the MLB.
The Rays are also likely to be sellers before the deadline, and have many options that may be of interest to the Jays, if they’re willing to deal within division. The Rays do have potential rotation pieces like Matt Moore and Jake Odorizzi, but also have some strength in their bullpen. Alex Colome has performed extremely well as the closer in the absence of Brad Boxberger this season. Colome could end up on the block for the right price, and if Boxberger can get closer to healthy it’s possible he draws some interest as well.
Looking at the NL, the Rockies will be looking to sell and have Jake McGee on an expiring contract, as well as a few other talented arms. The Padres , Diamondbacks, Reds, Brewers, Phillies and Braves are all among those expected to sell, and have bullpen pieces of varying talent, and cost.
It’s difficult to argue that the Blue Jays need to look at bullpen upgrades regardless, but making significant moves in that department could potentially be a savvy option. Imagine a 6 inning start by Marco Estrada followed by Sanchez in the 7th, Chapman in the 8th, and Roberto Osuna in the 9th (We can debate that Osuna closer role later if needed).
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If Sanchez does remain in the rotation as is reportedly being discussed, the need grows in the bullpen as the Blue Jays approach the playoffs as well. I’m sure the Jays’ brass has been exploring the market for bullpen arms regardless, but it may be in their best interest to parlay their unexpected rotation strength into the opportunity to build a dynamic late-inning force.
It worked for the Royals in 2014 and 2015, and it may be the most realistic way to improve this exciting roster without shaking up the core.