Toronto Blue Jays: Alex Anthopoulos Needs to Make a Deal Soon


Toronto Blue Jays: Alex Anthopoulos Needs to Make a Deal Soon

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The Toronto Blue Jays are in the hunt for top spot in the AL East. It looks like it could come down to the wire, which means the team will look for help at the trade deadline.

If you remember, Jose Bautista  made it known that he wasn’t happy about the team’s decision not to make any trades last season. Players like David Price, and Jon Lester were dealt last season, with the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees being very active in the trade market.

It signaled to the players that GM Alex Anthopoulos was not willing to invest in last season’s team. However, it is a different story this season.

The offseason additions of Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin, Marco Estrada, Devon Travis, and Chris Colabello have worked out well, while Michael Saunders continues to recover from his knee injury. They lead the MLB in runs with 476 – the next closest team are the New York Yankees with 401. They are second in home runs in the MLB with 115 (behind the Astros who have 123) and lead the MLB in RBIs with 458 – the Yankees are second with 382.

May 14, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher

Drew Hutchison

(36) talks to pitching coach

Pete Walker

(40) on the mound during the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

What has hurt the Jays has been the pitching, which has a combined 4.13 ERA  (granted Matt Boyd‘s 14.85 ERA does not help with that). They have converted only 14 of 27 save opportunities, which is near the bottom of the league.

It was a tough go for the Blue Jays pitching staff to start the season, but with Mark Buehrle, Drew Hutchison and Marco Estrada putting together solid outings recently, the Blue Jays look like they are ready to make a push at the trade deadline. There are a lot of options out there for the Blue Jays, but Anthopoulos needs to avoid waiting too long before making a deal, for a couple of reasons.

Sportsnet spoke with Anthopoulos before Felix Doubront took the mound against the Chicago White Sox. One of the hurdles that has prevented him from making a deal at the moment, has been hesitation from teams.

"“A lot of clubs are saying ‘Look we’re not ready,’” he said. “They want to give themselves as much time as they can. If you start trading guys at this point, attendance can be affected. Those are big decisions to make so they want to wait until the end of July. A lot of parity and that’s certainly going to slow things up. We don’t have anything close. We’re starting to talk a little bit more. The all-star break would be the earliest to get something done."

The Blue Jays starting rotation has suffered with inconsistency from knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and the injuries to Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman, but there is an opportunity to improve on that. Pitching is something every MLB team wants to add or improve.

The Blue Jays inability to add a quality starter in the offseason, has come back to haunt them. If Stroman was healthy then the team would be in a different situation, but the fact of the matter is the team lacks a true ace who they can depend on consistently.

Leaving it to younger pitchers has not worked out. Out of all the pitchers, Buehrle has been the only consistent one for the Jays.

Apr 19, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Daniel Norris (32) throws a pitch during first inning in a game against the Atlanta Braves at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The one thing going for the Jays is they have until July 25th to find a fifth starter, either having Sanchez return, letting Doubront make another start or have another starter come in via a trade. There has also been discussions of whether Daniel Norris could make a return from triple-A, but they should keep him in Buffalo until his consistency improves. That is why the team needs to find a proven starter, who can stabilize the rotation so the team is not forcing younger pitchers to come in when they are not ready.

The reason why the Blue Jays need to kick the tires on a trade sooner rather than later is because of the other teams interested in making a deal. The AL East is probably going to come down to the wire, so expect the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles to be looking at some of the same players as the Blue Jays.

Johnny Cueto is one of the pitchers the Blue Jays have been reportedly interested in. If the Yankees and Orioles are also looking at acquiring Cueto, it will most likely start a bidding war between the rival clubs.

The Yankees always find a way to pull off a deal every season and the Orioles will do the same, if they feel that they can run away with the division. The real question is whether Anthopoulos will be willing to go into a bidding war if it meant acquiring a pitcher like Cueto, who ranks in the top 20 in strikeouts with 111 and near the bottom in hits allowed with 78. He sits behind Max Scherzer in holding opponents to a .190 batting average, and is second with a .087 whip.

The main issue with a deal involving Cueto is the fact he is a free agent after this season. There is a risk in whether the team should give up future prospects that can be high end players, in order to acquire a rental player that may not re-sign.

Jun 21, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics pitcher

Scott Kazmir

(26) follows through on a pitch against the Los Angeles Angels in the fifth inning at Coliseum. The Athletics defeated the Angels 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

There are many pitchers who have been reported on the rumour mill, who can help the Blue Jays.These include Jeff Samardzija, Aroldis Chapman, Cole Hamels, Scott Kazmir, Francisco Rodriguez, Tyler Clippard and Jonathan Papelbon, just to name a few.

So to say the opportunity for the Blue Jays to pull off a deal is not there, would be a sorry excuse. If Anthopoulos is worried about a deal backfiring on him and costing him his job—I’m not saying it is—then is he the right man for the job?

Luckily, the Blue Jays are not perceived like the Toronto Maple Leafs, who tend to let their stars take the brunt of the blame for the team’s shortcomings. However, there has been talk about whether the time has come to move on from players like Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

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Both are free agents in 2017 and if the team is not in postseason contention by then, how long does the team expect them to stay? Encarnacion at 32 years-old and Bautista at 34 years-old, would want to compete for a World Series within the next couple of seasons.

Both have had injury issues that could cut their careers short, but they would have plenty of suitors if they made it to the free agent market. With the Blue Jays needing a starting pitcher, is it time to consider trading Bautista or Encarnacion for one?

If that is the case, then Encarnacion should be in play, because the Blue Jays need options in the outfield and it is unlikely that the team trades Bautista. Encarnacion is not having his best year at the plate, but is still a quality bat who has value.

This was something Greg Zaun discussed with Tim and Sid, to which he had a couple of good points on the recent trade rumours surrounding the Blue Jays.

The plan for the Blue Jays should be to look into a situation where a trade involves players who are not seen as rental deals. For example, Cueto and Samardja, because they will cost the Blue Jays too much, especially with other teams involved in those talks.

Instead, they should look into long term options that can solve multiple needs like a pitcher and the outfield, which the team needs to improve now. It is not like Pompey or Saunders are coming back anytime soon in the outfield, and the chance of Sanchez and Stroman being a part of the rotation are unlikely at this point.

The team should look at a deal that can bring in an outfielder (or a separate one) and a starting pitcher, who are under the age of 32 at least. This way the team does not overspend on a player like Cueto, who will try to capitalize on the chance to play in the postseason in order to get a big contract in free agency.

A trade involving Josh Reddick and Kazmir would be an ideal situation for the Blue Jays. If the team has to give up Encarnacion in order to do it, then fans should understand the long term benefit before they get upset with losing the slugger. Sportnet‘s Mike Wilner explained why a deal involving Encarnacion is tricky to pull off, but never say never.

Expect the Oakland Athletics to be tough negotiators this time around, because the Donaldson trade is paying major dividends for the Blue Jays. Judging by the urgency of winning the AL East, Anthopoulos should not sit back and let the Yankees or Orioles make a deal to improve while he stands idle.

What should the top priority be for the Blue Jays? Pitching, an outfielder? Should Anthopoulos continue to remain patient or try to get a deal done soon? Or should the team just ride things out? Comment below on what you think the Blue Jays should do.

Next: James Shields should be a priority for the Blue Jays