As the Toronto Blue Jays approach the July 31st MLB Trade Deadline, there are clear areas of need. They must address their starting pitching depth.
It might seem odd to be talking about the July 31st Trade Deadline a couple of weeks beforehand. Or, it might not. Many of the major outlets, and those who represent them, have already begun their assessment of the market and sharing at will. By now, teams will have been identified as ‘buyers’ or ‘sellers’ and storylines will evolve accordingly. Assessing a club two weeks ahead of the deadline can be difficult given that so much can change. Losing a key player shifts priorities in an unexpected way. A sudden hot (or cold) streak changes which label you enter the dance with.
With that said, the Toronto Blue Jays can be expected to be looking to make deals to bolster their already strong roster in an attempt at repeating their playoff appearance from a year ago. At the All Star break, the club is 2 games out of the division lead and hold a Wild Card spot. We can expect that they will not be content with keeping status quo while the Orioles and Red Sox look to make improvements. So, they’ll seek out opportunities. They will not repeat last season’s flurry of deals, but they will try and add.
There are several areas teams look to improve at this time of year. For the Blue Jays, pitching depth has to be at the top of the list. That is not to say that the pitching they have is not good enough. Nope. But, if they are going to compete, they are going to need some help.
Recently, I wrote about the workhorses that make up the Blue Jays rotation. Without having thrown a single complete game, the starters have combined to lead the league in innings pitched. So far, the team has been lucky to avoid prolonged injuries and extreme failures. It wasn’t until recently that a starter went on the DL. Marco Estrada had to be shelved to deal with some lower back issues. Up until that point, the rotation was healthy. Add to that, the consistent performances and you have a rotation that has been a bright spot. The Blue Jays have been lucky. But, how long can that last?
The DL stint for Estrada goes to show that injuries happen. It is inevitable. When they do, depth is required so the team can continue on without much of a drop in production. Ideally, when a starter like Estrada goes down, you’d have someone of approximately equal skill to fill in for him. But, that would be too easy. Instead, teams end up reaching down to the minors for help.
Injuries are not the only thing the Toronto Blue Jays need to worry about. Apparently, the plan is still to move Aaron Sanchez to the bullpen to protect the long term health of his arm. While Sanchez has used 2016 to prove to everyone that he belongs in the rotation, his workload has piled up to the point where we should probably expect the team to stick with their plan. They could not have banked on his dominating the way he has; they could not have expected an All Star.
So, now the Toronto Blue Jays are in a position where they need to add pitching depth to get them to the post season. They cannot expect that removing Sanchez and spraying Injury Bug repellent is enough to lead them to glory.
This is where the challenge lies. A quick look at the AAA roster suggests that internal options are scarce. Drew Hutchison is the logical choice for promotion. He’s had a good season in Buffalo, going 6-3 with a 2.87 ERA. However, it is not immediately clear that the current management has enough confidence in him to hand him a rotation spot. After Hutch, the choices are even less inspiring. Going outside the organization is likely the only way to significantly improve the rotation.
This year’s Trade Deadline has very little in the way of “top shelf, get me over the hump aces” to offer. It is a shallow pool to swim in, which is the first problem for the Blue Jays. The second, more immediate, problem is that when making trades at this time of year, clubs tend to want returns that offer as close to MLB ready talent as possible. That is something that the Blue Jays don’t really have an excessive amount of. They have a lot of talent, to be sure. But, it mostly resides in lower levels of the minor leagues. Whether teams are willing to accept that kind of package is questionable. If they are willing, they may require more of those pieces. And, do you really want to do that for the fish that swim in this shallow deadline pool?
The Blue Jays will have a very challenging Trade Deadline period coming up. They will need to address their starting pitching depth and do so in a way that a) nets them quality pieces and b) fits with their current minor league situation. This Trade Deadline will be much different than last year’s. Where Alex Anthopoulos was able to run roughshod through the process, this year will require much more creativity. It will be interesting to see if the Blue Jays have what it takes.
*Featured Image Credit: C Stem- JFtC
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.