Blue Jays: Does a bona fide ace get this team to the World Series?
By Jason Lee
I want to preface this article by acknowledging that as it stands, it appears unlikely for a Max Scherzer trade to materialize for the Blue Jays. The Washington Nationals are still very much in postseason contention and furthermore, according to Scherzer’s agent Scott Boras, the veteran ace would not waive his no-trade clause without an extension.
So, why does this article exist then? Firstly, the situation surrounding teams can change in a heartbeat and it’s exciting to explore future trade possibilities. Secondly, despite some early-season inconsistencies, this is the best team the Blue Jays have fielded since 2016 and it’s important to examine just how close the team is to World Series contention. Is Toronto one ace away from the World Series?
The Blue Jays have one of the best offences in all of baseball, ranking in the Top Five in runs scored, home runs, and OPS. Some may posit that the lineup is still relatively inexperienced, but with the additions of George Springer and Marcus Semien combined with the further development of the young hitters, there’s no doubt that the lineup is good enough to take the team deep into the playoffs.
This is where the fun starts. Let’s start off by imagining that the Blue Jays just pulled off one of their biggest trade deadline deals in recent memory, acquiring Max Scherzer from the Washington Nationals. In the playoffs, a team only needs 3-4 starters, instead of the five that are rotated in the regular season. On paper, this could be the starting four the Blue Jays lined up in the playoffs:
- Max Scherzer
- Hyun-Jin Ryu
- Robbie Ray
- Ross Stripling
One notable omission that you may have noticed is Alek Manoah. Though perhaps controversial, if the Blue Jays do make it to the postseason, it seems unlikely for the front office to let Manoah pitch an excessive number of innings in what really is his second professional season. Furthermore, with a clear need in the bullpen, Manoah could be a real asset in the playoffs coming out to pitch in high-leverage innings.
Now, let’s consider a hypothetical matchup with the Houston Astros in the ALCS. Here’s what the pitching matchups could look like:
- Max Scherzer vs. Lance McCullers Jr.
- Hyun-Jin Ryu vs. Zack Greinke
- Robbie Ray vs. Luis Garcia
- Ross Stripling vs. Jose Urquidy
It’s obviously difficult to evaluate matchups on paper but even so, one could definitely pose the argument that the Blue Jays would have a starting rotation that is competitive against any American League postseason contender.
Similar to starting pitching, the Blue Jays really only need 4-5 dependable relievers to get through a playoff series. Assuming mediocre health and the temporary switch of Alek Manoah’s role, here’s what the Blue Jays bullpen could look like come October:
- Closer – Jordan Romano
- Setup – (one of) Julian Merryweather/Ryan Borucki
- 7th inning – Alek Manoah
- Situational specialist – Adam Cimber
- Long man – Steven Matz
- Lower leverage innings – Tim Mayza/Rafael Dolis
- Wildcard options – Nate Pearson/Thomas Hatch/trade deadline acquisition
Admittedly, the Blue Jays won’t have a bullpen that ranks in the upper echelon amongst playoff contenders. However, with the recent acquisition of Adam Cimber, the returns of Julian Merryweather and Ryan Borucki (at least one of them has to be healthy by then, right?), and Alek Manoah’s change of role, it’s not hard to imagine a serviceable bullpen in the playoffs.
Back to the Original Question
So, exactly how close are the Blue Jays to a World Series berth? Would the addition of Max Scherzer push this team to World Series contention? Well, you tell me. Is an elite offence, an above-average starting rotation anchored by a bona fide ace, a serviceable bullpen, and a little bit of luck enough to bring a World Series matchup to Toronto?