Toronto Blue Jays: Are there any aces available to chase?
Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins recently spoke about how the starting pitcher’s market is pretty thin right now. After looking around the league, I can see what he may be talking about.
A month ago it looked like there could be several teams that would end up as sellers ahead of the July 30 trade deadline, but the standings have shifted a bit since then. That’s especially the case in the National League.
Over in the NL East, the Mets are still at the top of the standings, but they’re just 3.5 up on the Phillies, 4.5 on the Braves, and 6.0 on the Nationals, who all looked like they could be potential sellers at different times over the last month. The Mets are vulnerable right now too with injuries to stars like Jacob deGrom and Francisco Lindor, and that’s gotta have the rest of the division thinking differently. That also likely means that talented starters like Charlie Morton (ATL), or even Max Scherzer (WAS) will be off the table as possible aces the Blue Jays could pursue.
In the Central, there has been plenty of chatter over the last year or two that the Reds might be a willing seller, and they have some top shelf starters in Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray. The Reds are now just 6.5 behind the Brewers for first in the division, and while they’ve got work to do to catch up, it’s not out of the realm of possibility at all and it doesn’t sound like they’ve given up. In the West we have the Giants, Dodgers, and Padres, who will all likely make the playoffs between the division winner and the two Wild Card spots. Unfortunately it doesn’t sound like German Marquez will be a possible upgrade to pursue either, as the Rockies reportedly intend to keep him.
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The one team and situation in the National League that I’m keeping at eye on is the Chicago Cubs, and specifically Kyle Hendricks. The 31 year old has two more seasons and a vesting option on his contract so the Cubs may want to retain their ace, but in my view he’d be an excellent target for the Blue Jays if he were to be made available. There hasn’t been much chatter about him on the market just yet though, and I get the sense the Cubs may not be very motivated to move him.
Not much has changed as far as potential buyers vs. sellers in the American League, but we have learned a few things that could affect how Atkins has to operate. For starters, it doesn’t sound like the Twins are overly motivated to trade anyone with contract control, so that could mean that Jose Berrios and even Kenta Maeda are unavailable. There have been mixed rumours about Berrios’ situation, as he’ll be a free agent after the 2022 season, but at the very least the Twins will be asking for a sky-high return. They’re clearly out of the playoff picture for 2021, but Berrios would certainly be missed if they have postseason aspirations next year.
As far as other difference-making starters, I’m not sure if there are any other places to look. I wouldn’t classify Kyle Gibson as much as an upgrade over what the Jays are currently rolling out, despite his very impressive start to this year. Historically he’s been a #3-4 starter at best, and his most recent outings have brought him back to earth.
With that in mind, I really hope the Blue Jays make a significant effort to continue improving the bullpen. Adam Cimber and Trevor Richards are nice arms that definitely help a struggling group, and it’s great to have Ryan Borucki back healthy again, but they could still use a late-inning reliever to give Charlie Montoyo another reliable option. Someone like Craig Kimbrel of the Cubs would be lovely (and pricey), but he’s not the only potentially available arm that could make an impact in Toronto. They might get that kind of boost at some point from Julian Merryweather and/or Nate Pearson, but it’s hard to bank on either of them being able to contribute consistently for now.
That’s not to say that Atkins should give up trying to improve the rotation, but I can understand why he’s suggesting that the market may not be there to acquire a true difference maker in that department. Things can change quickly though, and with just over a week before the deadline, hopefully the Blue Jays can find a way to improve their roster one way or another.