Blue Jays: Go big or go home with the trade deadline
The Blue Jays could use some healthy starting pitchers, but if Ross Atkins is going to make a trade, they could use more than just a depth arm.
After a six-game win streak, the Blue Jays were riding pretty high heading into the weekend. It was tough enough to swallow losing two more one-run games to the Rays on Saturday and Sunday, but that was hardly the worst news.
On Sunday morning we learned that Matt Shoemaker was placed on the 10-day Injured List with shoulder inflammation, and unfortunately Trent Thornton left after just one inning of his start, with cameras picking up on him rubbing his right elbow after throwing the last pitch of the inning. Assuming that Thornton will be headed back to the IL as well, the pair will join Nate Pearson on the sidelines, and suddenly the Blue Jays are pretty thin in their starting rotation.
With the trade deadline just a week away, there’s a good chance that Ross Atkins and the rest of the front office staff are going to be busy looking for some rotation help, and they’ve already publicly stated as much. That said, I believe that they should “go big or go home” when it comes to making a roster addition, and I think there are several reasons for that.
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First of all, the Blue Jays have plenty of pitchers that could step into the rotation and likely do a pretty reasonable job. Between Anthony Kay, Thomas Hatch, Julian Merryweather, Jacob Waguespack, Ryan Borucki, and even Shun Yamaguchi, the depth should be there to survive the injuries they’ve had so far, especially if any of them are able to return in short order. The problem is that it’ll weaken the bullpen, which has been heavily leaned on thus far, but it’s still an option. It would also allow these talented young arms to showcase what they’ve got, and even even return to their natural role. For someone like Kay for example, that could be important in determining his future for next season and beyond, and could be the opportunity that he needs to showcase what he can do.
I can understand that the front office may want to acquire some additional pitching depth, even just to protect against the possibility that they’re not done with the IL in 2020. That said, to me it makes far more sense to pursue a high-end starter if you’re going to bother at all, both with an eye on 2020 and beyond. I think there are tremendous benefits to the Blue Jays possibly making the playoffs this year, and now that we’re nearly halfway through the schedule, I think the goals for the season have to be adjusted.
Does that mean that you pursue a rental arm? Not likely, but I think the positive progress we’ve seen from this group so far could warrant a fairly significant investment. Ideally that would be a starter that could slot behind Hyun-Jin Ryu at the top of the rotation, and one with multiple years of contract control. That’s not the easiest thing to find and it won’t come cheap, but there should be a handful of options available on the market with so many teams looking like they’ll be sellers. Maybe that’s someone like a Dylan Bundy from the Angels, Taijuan Walker of the Mariners, or maybe an arm like Lance Lynn or Mike Minor of the Rangers. The Jays should have the trade chips they need to get almost anyone they’re truly interested in, but it’ll obviously come down to acquisition cost.
I recently wrote about how Pearson’s injury is a reminder that this team could still use one more starter, and the latest injuries certainly reinforce that. I was more specifically referring to roster building with an eye on next season and beyond, but the team’s recent win streak has potentially opened up the urgency a bit. That said, I really do believe that the Blue Jays should either make an impact move, or not really bother at all, which basically comes down to a question of how important they see a playoff appearance being in 2020.
If the front office doesn’t view it as a critical step in this year’s goals, then leaning on the young talent they already have should be far better than what they used last season, when Edwin Jackson was making consistent starts for a while. If they can’t find a worthwhile deal now, I’d rather see them keep their chips for the off-season. However, if they can “go big” and add a high-end starter, I’d love to see them do just that.