Monday, July 20, 2015

Breaking down the Blue Jays barricade

*Before  I get started, the NHL previews will certainly continue although the timeline may not be as prompt as it was during my Western Hockey League team previews.*

The trade deadline is fastly approaching, July 31st to be exact, and a team that is in a very precarious position is none other then a team trying to snap a twenty two year playoff drought, the Toronto Blue Jays.  As of this writing, the Jays sit at 47-47, good enough, or poor enough for a T-3rd showing in the American League East. The question, theorized by so many media pundants, is what can the Blue Jays possibly do to narrow the gap the lies between them and the Yankees and the Twins, two teams that are currently standing in their way of a playoff appearance.

The Blue Jays biggest need(s) consist of starting pitching, relief pitching, and perhaps a contributable outfielder. Some, who are far more pessimistic with this team then even I am may argue that other team needs are infield depth, managerial competence, and some outlandish anti Jay fans may even bring up a beef with the broadcasting, but if you're against Sportsnet Buck Martinez you best stop reading this blog. Back to reality, something that a lot of "fans" struggle with when analyzing the Jays, is the reality that certain moves/players aren't attainable and we have to set our sights on pieces that can not only help the Blue Jays in their 2015 push, but well beyond. This whole talk and fascination about potentially Cincinatti Red and fantasy baseball standout Johnny Cueto coming to the Blue Jays is a pipe dream as a team that is a .500 ball club acquiring a rental would be more foolish then experts that actually thought  Dustin Johnson had a chance of holding on at this past British Open. Cueto is not coming to the Blue Jays, and by some oft chance he does this should be cause for instant termination on Alex Anthopoulos'. Let's begin to ascertain which players are coming north of the border.

We'll first delve into the starting pitching conundrum. News broke yesterday that after the emergence of Aaron Sanchez which has been decided that he will spend the second half in the bull-pen, the consensus is that by sacrificing Sanchez's starting rotation spot they will be bringing in a starter.An interesting name popped out today, although it was later revealed the said team isn't crazy about dealing him away is Mike Fiers from the Milwaukee Brewers. The initial tweet was sent out by FOX Sports Ken Rosenthal which essentially says that the Blue Jays are pushing hard but as it always goes, it takes two to tango.  From my viewings of Fiers, I've been impressed as on more than one occasion he's snapped my streak on "Beat the Streak", but what actually gets me jiggy with the imagination of Fiers landing in Toronto is that Mike possesses a lot of qualities similar to those of Mark Buerhle. He's not a fireballer by any means, as his fast ball tops out at ninety MPH, but his ability to just constantly throw strikes is reminiscent of what Buerhle provides and more importantly he's an innings cruncher something that this organization has lacked especially when staring at Oakland Athletics south paw Scott Kazmir. All of this banter about Cueto, Hamels, Ian Kennedy etc etc has led to Kazmir being the forgotten man in the trade pool and as a lefty, would balance out the righty-lefty imbalance in the rotation.  Kazmir has had an interesting story to tell in Major League Baseball as when he jolted in the league with the Tampa Bay Rays at the tender age of twenty-two, he was virtually unhittable at times and during that time frame was drawing comparisons to another lefty, Cliff Lee. Early in his Tampa Bay tenure, he was a strike out machine accumulating two hundred and thirty nine strikeouts which led the league in 2007.  He was on the verge of greatness, but then as it so often does he got a case of Dontrelle Willisitis which mainly stemmed from unfortunate injuries and over work. With his current ball club, the Oakland Athletics he's starting to refill the cupboard with that promise that was so prevalent during his TB stay. What would Toronto give it up for him, and perhaps tied in to the same logic, what SHOULD the Jays give up for him. To me, if I'm being offered the services of Daniel Norris for Scott Kazmir, I think you have to consider taking the offer if you're Anthopoulos because you're full well knowing going into next year you'll retain the services of Marcus Stromas who has been sorely missed this year so in my eyes Norris becomes an expendable commodity. A rotation with Kazmir, Buerhle, Estrada, Dickey, and Hutchinson is at the very worst serviceable for the remainder of the year.

The bullpen is in a state of flux, or maybe was before we heard the aforementioned news about moving Aaron Sanchez moving down to the bullpen. Sanchez providing relief soothes the cut that has continued to bleed throughout the regular season. To be frank, and sometimes I throw comparisons in my pieces to get a cordial laugh but I'm completely serious when I stipulate that I'd have more confidence seeing former Arizona Diamondback closer back in 2001 Byung-hyun Kim come in relief then I do with Brett Cecil and Steve Delabar who unbelievably were former all-stars back in 2013. Unless the Blue Jays hold a four run or more lead heading into the eight inning, the general fans begins to cringe because no lead has proven to be safe. Assuming Sanchez becomes you're eighth inning guy over time with Osuna still holding the closing realms, John Gibbons can comfortably move Bo Schultz back to a middle of relief role, something that in this stage of career he is better suited for. During writing this, I was watching Bob McCown of Sportsnet's Prime Time Sports, a show that I find very informative, and Bob was taking calls in the first hour as he always does, and primarily every other call that wasn't spent focusing on the Pan Am games was spent from a Blue Jays supporter getting in their two cents on how they felt the team could be improved and the majority were harping on the bullpen being upgraded but the hard truth is the priority is a starter with the slight possibility of a middle of the pack reliever being included in such a deal. Sanchez  being a member of the Bullpen's society has prudently ruled out any trade focusing on relief help.

The acquisition of an outfielder for the Blue Jays doesn't get a lot of buzz with the media, but quite honestly I view this as a bigger priority than the pen. Right now, our outfield consists on a nightly basis of Kevin Pillar-Jose Bautista and a combination of Danny Valencia/Ezequil Carrera/Chris Colabello. Pillar and Bautista, Pillar for his speed and defence, and Bautista for reasons that don't need stating are locks and their spot is uncontested. The battery of three mentioned in Left Field all of have more cons then pros which makes it imperative that we bring in another body. Colabello, fine hitter who is cooling off has the tendencies of Manny Ramirez playing defence. Valencia, a very bland player if there ever was one, doesn't do one thing fantastically, although he brings some pop to the lineup. Carrera, I'm not sure who I'd rather have throwing the baseball, him or Moises Alou, but in all respect to Carrera with his speed I view him as a better candidate to be a pinch runner late in the game. Is there a player out there that they can bring in to be that third every day outfielder whilst platooning Justin Smoak and Colabello as the designated hitter? There always in, and I'll throw out a realistic fit in Ben Revere of the Phillies. Word out there is that the Phils are shopping this speedster. Doesn't have a lot of power but the Jays could more than afford that with Bautista/Encarnacion and Donaldson being able to hit the homer at will but what Revere would improve the fortunes with is his defence. A career .293 hitter who I could foresee being inserted to back second, with Reyes, Revere, Bautista, Encarnacion, and Donaldson as your top five.  The common thought I'm sure you readers will have is why the hell would you want to move Donaldson out of the two hole.  Understandable inquiry, with the answer being increased R.B.I opportunities. Get Reyes and Revere get on base and let the big guns get to work.

So to summarize, my ways to break open the flood gates for Toronto baseball is to insert Kazmir as your rotation ace, show steady patience in welcoming Aaron Sanchez as the new set-up man, whilst acquiring Ben Revere from the city of Brotherly Love to man the outfield.

Hope you enjoyed!

Brett Murray

twitter: @bretzky26

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