Building a competitive baseball team is never easy, especially one that is supposed to compete in the extremely tough AL East. Heading towards the July 31 trade deadline the Toronto Blue Jays find themselves in a very awkward position.
Winning the division is out of the question as surpassing four teams and making up six plus games in the standings isn’t happening. The Wild Card chase looks a bit better but again there are as many as three or four teams to climb over making that task look fairly daunting as well.
Alex Anthopoulos has recently gone on record that his attention and efforts are focused around improving the current 2012 roster. But really what else was he supposed to say? Let’s say we went on a magical run riding our explosive offense to the playoffs, who would we throw at the opposition in an actual series?
Our starting pitching is decimated, plain and simple.
The best option is Brandon Morrow and he is injured, Ricky Romero has lost complete confidence as well as the ability to consistently locate his fastball. Drew Hutchison was beginning to pitch extremely well prior to suffering an elbow injury and the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation have been mostly filled by minor leaguers.
The Blue Jays are loaded with pitching talent in the minor leagues and in two to three years the issue of pitching depth at the major league level shouldn’t be a concern with Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino, Asher Wojciechowski and Daniel Norris (among many other intriguing options) making their way through the ranks.
But unfortunately there isn’t that type of talent ready at the Double-A or Triple-A levels meaning none of the above mentioned arms can be reasonably expected to even debut in the major leagues for at least a couple years, if at all.
Given the attrition and injury rate of young pitchers you’d also have to expect a few of them to stumble or flame out and possibly never contribute to the big club. Which leads us to the dilemma facing the current Blue Jays front, one we have discussed quite often, is this the correct time to buy?
There is no doubt the Blue Jays offense would be feared by any team in baseball and if the Blue Jays had a healthy Morrow and Hutchison to go with an effective Romero I would give the go ahead to sacrifice a top prospect or two if it meant the team could add a Zack Greinke, Matt Garza and/or Cole Hamels.
But as it stands now with the state of our starting rotation we would literally need to add all three of those established arms to stand any chance in the American League playoff race. All due respect but adding a Jeremy Guthrie or Joe Blanton to our current group would barely make a difference.
However, and this might sound contradictory, I would still kick the tires on Greinke, Garza or Hamels and possibly give up an asset or two to add a proven arm. Why? Look forward to next season, when we are supposedly going to be more competitive and what do you see?
Brandon Morrow, if healthy, that’s about it.
Our incumbent number one starter heading into this season was Ricky Romero but how much confidence can we have that he will turn it around after pitching so terribly so far this season? None of our top pitching prospects are even close and there are question marks among a group of Drew Hutchison, Brett Cecil, Kyle Drabek, Deck McGuire and Chad Jenkins.
In short, we are missing a much needed ‘cycle’ or infusion of young pitching talent for arms aged approximately 23-25, players expected to actually contribute to the major league team. We either had bad luck or drafted poorly but there is nothing in the cupboard in Double-A or higher that the team can count upon or be excited about for this or next season.
We need major league ready arms and preferably one (or two) that can pitch at an all-star level. Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke are the big free agent prizes heading into the offseason and I’d say the chances of signing either are fairly slim. Actually, I give the Jays 0% chance of signing Cole Hamels.
There has been talk that Greinke would prefer a less pressure packed environment and would consider Toronto but that has just been pure speculation. Perhaps if we open up the cheque book and overpay (think AJ Burnett) we have an outside shot I guess.
So if we are looking towards next season we need at least two solid starting pitchers. Adding Matt Garza via trade would be an excellent start, trading for Greinke would only happen if he agreed to a contract extension (unlikely) with the Jays but giving him a monster contract to come pitch for us in the offseason has to be discussed seriously.
To a possible free agent would a rotation of Brandon Morrow, Matt Garza, Ricky Romero and Drew Hutchison not look fairly solid when one is considering where to sign? Add that to a solid offense (with minor league help on the way) and suddenly Toronto looks like a legitimate contender in my opinion.
This season is probably lost and if the front office wants to maximize the values of a couple bullpen pieces and possibly the underachieving Yunel Escobar than I am ok with that. If they aren’t also aggressive in trying to add a legitimate quality major league starting pitcher that can help for the couple seasons I would be disappointed.
When you have a ridiculously loaded farm system like the Blue Jays at your disposal you are only a quick phone call from adding a quality player or two, if one is so inclined.