Toronto Blue Jays: Depleted Cardinals Next Up for Surging Jays

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 22: Steven Matz #32 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers a pitch in the first inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 22, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 22: Steven Matz #32 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers a pitch in the first inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 22, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

After sweeping the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in historic fashion this weekend, the Blue Jays return home to an off day Monday before kicking off a six game homestand with two games against a seriously depleted St. Louis Cardinals team that will be missing two of baseball’s best players.

The surging Jays have won six straight – and eight of their past ten – to vault in to 2nd place in the AL East, 12.5 games back of the Yankees. They now sit atop the AL Wild Card standings, half a game up on Tampa and two games ahead of Seattle.

The team is now 7-1 under interim Manager John Schneider. Admittedly, three of those wins came in Toronto against an undermanned Kansas City team missing ten MLB regulars due to their vaccination status, including All-Star OF Andrew Benintendi; they featured an AAA lineup more like the Omaha Storm Chasers than the Royals.

Three Cardinals Placed on the MLB Restricted List Unable to Travel into Canada for Two Game Series

Fortune has shone upon the Blue Jays again, as they’ll face a Cardinals team that will be without their two best players in All-Stars Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, plus catcher Austin Romine, all because of their vaccine status.

In addition, the Cards will be without starting pitchers Dakota Hudson, Jack Flaherty, and former Jay Steven Matz (left MCL tear, just placed on the 15-day IL again on Sunday), as well as Closer Alex Reyes, catcher Yadier Molina, and OFs Harrison Bader and Juan Yepez, who are all on the IL. Reliever Johan Oviedo won’t make the trip north due to an expired Cuban passport.

Of course, Blue Jays fans don’t feel badly at all for these teams after the Jays played “home” games in three different stadiums last year, including at TD Ballpark at their spring training facility in Dunedin, Sahlen Field in Buffalo, and Rogers Centre in Toronto. Given the COVID pandemic made the team vagabonds in 2021, some have argued that may have been a factor in missing the Wild Card play-in by a single game.

And, of course, unvaccinated Jays players wouldn’t be allowed to travel back and forth from Canada to the United States to play games, so the rules are the same and apply to both countries.

While fans would surely love to see All-Stars Goldschmidt and Arenado in action, the Jays are playing their best baseball of the season, and will look to add more wins however they can against a 51-46 Cardinals team that is only 2.5 games back of the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL central. Goldschmidt normally bats third and Arenado cleanup in the heart of their order.

As the beat writer covering the Cards, John Denton, notes:

"Losing Goldschmidt and Arenado — two players chosen this season to their seventh MLB All-Star Games — will likely be a huge blow for a Cardinals squad that has leaned heavily on their offensive and defensive abilities this season. Arenado (5.2) and Goldschmidt (5.0) rank first and second, respectively, in the National League in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) this season."

With both players – plus Romine – being placed on the MLB restricted list, they won’t travel to Canada, and will be replaced by Triple-A Memphis Redbirds players, including reliever James Naile (recalled Sunday to replace Matz), rookie catcher Ivan Herrera, utility-man Cory Spangenberg, and outfielder Conner Capel.

As per Denton, being ineligible for the Cardinals’ two games against the Blue Jays on Tuesday and Wednesday means “Arenado will forfeit $384,615 of his $35 million annual salary… while Goldschmidt will lose $285,714 of a contract that pays him $26 million in 2022.”

Cards Missing Two Potential 2022 NL MVP Finalists Can’t Hurt the Jays’ Chances

Goldschmidt, a 7X All-Star and 4X Gold Glover at 1B, has been on an absolute tear, homering twice on Sunday to add to his season total of 24 HR with 77 RBI. He has five HR and 12 RBI in the past seven games alone, and for the season is slashing .335/.417/.619 for a ridiculous 1.036 OPS.

A 7x All-Star and 9x Gold Glover at 3B, Arenado has also been playing at an MVP level this year, slashing .345/.394/.629 over his last 30 games for an OPS over that stretch of 1.023. He has 18 HRs and 59 RBI on the season.

Perhaps almost as important to the Cards is Arenado’s glove: according to Statcast, he currently ranks third overall amongst all MLB position players with 13 outs above average (OAA) and 10 runs prevented. FanGraphs has him tied with Pirates 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes for the league lead in defensive runs saved (DRS) this season at 15.

And for a team already missing catcher Yadier Molina, being without Austin Romine hurts their catching depth.

Jays’ Implications?

For a Blue Jays squad off to a flying start to the second half, playing two games against a depleted St. Louis team missing two of the biggest – and hottest – stars in MLB can’t hurt.

They then finish the month at home with four games against the AL Central cellar-dwelling Detroit Tigers, who at 38-58 (.396) have dropped three straight and are 2-8 in their past ten games.

dark. Next. Defining roles in the second half

With the August 2nd MLB trade deadline looming as well, there is an opportunity here for the Blue Jays to keep up this solid momentum and put some light between themselves and the rest of the AL East and Wild Card contenders. Let’s go!