Toronto Blue Jays Shouldn’t be Quick to Sell or Buy


Toronto Blue Jays Shouldn’t be Quick to Sell or Buy

Let’s assume the Toronto Blue Jays are serious about competing this season.

Jun 22, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar (11) at bat against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s assume they’re also serious about building for the future.

What does this tell us?

It tells us the Jays should be weary of making any big moves. They’re a good team, but they’re not a great team, and it’d be a huge mistake to let the allure of the present distract them from the promise of the future.

In their current form, the Jays need starting pitchers – we all know this. They’ve been linked to the likes of Johnny Cueto, James Shields and Cole Hamels. Of the bunch, Cueto is the least attractive option from a long-term perspective: he can test free agency in the fall. Shields and Hamels, on the other hand, are locked down until 2018 with team options for 2019.

There’s no doubt any one of these pitchers could help the Jays win today, but it’s not clear how they’d fit into the long-term plans of the team. It might require a small fortune to re-sign Cueto – the pending departure of Mark Buehrle this off-season should open up some money – but that’s only part of the equation.

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The bigger problem might be fitting one of these guys into the rotation without sacrificing any of the young arms on the team.

As it stands, the rotation next year will likely include Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, R.A. Dickey and Aaron Sanchez or Daniel Norris. That’s a fairly impressive rotation on paper, if not the actual mound, and aside from Dickey, it’s a very affordable one – all of this accomplished without any outside additions. Such a set-up would also allow the Jays to use either Sanchez or Norris from the bullpen, helping to fix that problem, too.

(I see Dickey returning next season because the Jays will “need” a veteran pitcher to guide the young arms, but the team has a buyout option on him for $1 million. They could always use this, then re-sign him for something more reasonable. As it stands, Dickey is scheduled to make $12 million next season.)

Of course, this vision of the future rotation could easily change, especially if one of the young arms goes the other way for Shields or Hamels. For now, however, that’s how things stack up. The Jays should be weary of messing with this.

Jul 10, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels (35) throws to the San Francisco Giants in the first inning of their MLB baseball game at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

Things change a bit when we look at the team’s positional players. The Jays have a number of valuable utility players in Danny Valencia, Chris Colabello, Dioner Navarro and Justin Smoak. One of these players could be traded for an extra bullpen arm, but that wouldn’t be enough to push the Jays over the hill. It’d also mess with MLB’s deadliest batting lineup. This suggests the need for further caution.

Turning to the team’s everyday players, Edwin Encarnacion has been linked to trade rumours. He might fetch a small ransom on the trade market, but it’s not clear what kind of signal this would send to the team or the fans. Encarnacion is a key part of the heart of the current lineup – why rip it out? It’d require a substantial return to justify his loss – a price few teams would be willing to pay for someone on the decline.

Bearing all of this in mind, the best option for the Jays might be to stick with their current lineup. They have the bats to compete; they just need the arms to figure things out.

With a little luck and patience, that could still happen.

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