Aug 14, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester (31) asks for a new ball before delivering a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays beat the Red Sox 4-3 in 10 innings. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
On the surface, this sounds like a pretty good idea. Lester would provide an immediate boost to the Jays’ starting rotation and he would bring valuable playoff experience to a team that hasn’t seen any October baseball in 21 years. Boasting a current record of 10-7 and a career-best ERA of 2.52, the Jays (or any other team for that matter) really can’t go wrong with Lester. He’s an all-star pitcher and guaranteed winner.
This ignores a more important question, however. What are the Jays’ real priorities at the moment?
If you asked me this question last year, I wouldn’t have hesitated to say help in the starting rotation. This year looks different to me.
I won’t deny that the Jays could use another quality arm or two in the starting rotation. No sane person would deny this, but there are other holes on the team that should be addressed first.
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We know the Jays are horrible against left-handed pitchers and they’ve already made one move to address this problem, trading for Danny Valencia from the Kansas City Royals. Another left-handed pitching specialist would be great to add.
The team also has a lack of depth in the outfield and the infield. I’m okay with the catching situation, but I don’t think Anthony Gose and Steve Tolleson are the type of bench players who find their way onto championship teams. Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis were supposed to solve the infield problem for the Jays last season, but we know how this worked out.
Jun 10, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Juan Francisco (47) makes a throwing error leading to a run scoring in the fourth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Rogers Centre. The Twins beat the Blue Jays 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Until Brett Lawrie and Edwin Encarnacion return, we’ll have to continue relying on Juan Francisco to play first base or third base depending on the situation. Dan Johnson and Valencia can also play first base so perhaps this problem is no longer a pressing one, but when Francisco is lodged at first base, it usually puts the infield defensive alignment in flux with Munenori Kawasaki moving to third base. I would like to see the team stabilize its infield defence if possible.
There’s also the question of greenhorn Ryan Goins – if he keeps hitting at his current pace, he should remain in the everyday lineup – who’s playing well above his career numbers at the MLB level right now. Are the Jays conformable banking on this to continue?
The outfield problem is pretty self-explanatory: Anthony Gose. The Jays need to find a fourth outfielder who can hit on occasion. It’s that simple. I don’t get the constant bunt attempts.
Beyond the infield and the outfield, there’s the bullpen to consider. Is Aaron Sanchez really its saviour? How long will Casey Janssen‘s current struggles last? If I was part of the Jays’ management team, I’d be looking at the Boston Red Sox’s Andrew Miller, not Lester, for help. He’s a quality relief arm who might come cheap on trade deadline day.
In terms of the starting rotation itself, R.A. Dickey, J.A. Happ and Marcus Stroman have been pitching some good baseball since June. It’s really Drew Hutchison and Mark Buehrle who’ve faltered, but I can see Buehrle breaking out of things soon. Hutchison might need a rest, but Sanchez or Dustin McGowan can take over his spot in the starting rotation until Brandon Morrow returns (remember him?) – they can’t really do any worse than a struggling and inconsistent Hutchison, right?
Everyone keeps forgetting about Morrow and his potential impact on the starting rotation. Once dubbed the team’s ace of the future, this could be Morrow’s last chance to reclaim the support of the coaching staff, management and fans alike. He wants this.
Finally, there’s the problem of “payroll parameters” and tradable assets to consider. Do the Jays really want to gamble on a guy who they probably won’t be able to re-sign in the off-season? What’ll be the cost in terms of present and future assets? Is the payoff Lester promises worth the cost? He’s one expensive luxury item.
These different factors lead me to think the Lester talk is just that.
Lester has been scratched from his start today against the Jays. If everything works out properly, this’ll be the last time they see him all year.