Blue Jays Paid The Price for Playoff Push

(Courtesy of Sportsnet.ca)

(Courtesy of Sportsnet.ca)

TORONTO- The Toronto Blue Jays finally got pitching help. More importantly, they got their ace they’ve been looking for since Roy Halladay.

Just days after trading for Troy Tulowitzki, the Blue Jays have acquired LHP David Price from Detroit Tigers for LHP Prospects Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman was the first to report it. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal confirmed the deal.

Price was the top starter available on the trade market and will become a free agent following the 2015 season. It’s the second time in two years that Price has been traded prior to the deadline. Of course, he’s a pure rental with one function, driving his new team to end their 22-year playoff drought.

The 2012 AL CY Young Award winner pitched to a 2.53 ERA and striking out 138 over 146 innings this season. His salary is at $19.75 million, which approximately $6.6 million remains now that he is traded.

Price immediate improve the Blue Jays’ starting rotation, which have the 8th worst ERA at 4.32. The 5-time all star will the ace of the staff that includes R.A. Dickey, Marco Estrada, Drew Hutchison and Mark Buehrle. Price is slated to make his Blue Jays debut either Sunday or Monday.

Last Tuesday, Alex Anthopoulos said that he’d prefer to acquire controllable players when possible. But when he heard that Price was available, he immediate called Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski and made this deal done.

The centerpiece of the deal is Norris. The Tigers had been in the market for Major-League ready starting pitching and were really high on Norris.  Norris’ stock slightly dropped this year because of command issues but has a bright future.

Boyd made his Major League debut earlier this season but didn’t pitch well. He appeared in two games for Toronto and in his final start he allowed seven runs on six hits and a walk while retiring just two batters. Boyd spend this season in Buffalo and New Hampshire and projects to be a back-of-the-rotation starter.

Labourt is a little farther away from the Majors. He was Toronto’s only representative at this year’s Futures Game and went 2-7 with a 4.59 ERA for Class-A Dunedin.

The Jays did pay a heavy price for a rental, but Anthopoulos felt that it was a rare opportunity to acquire one of the leagues’ best starters. Price is probably going to pitch for two or three months

Signing Price to an extension could be possible but the Blue Jays will want their newly acquired ace to focus on the task at hand and make him feel good about the situation in Toronto before he hits the open market.

The only concern that the Blue Jays may have is the starting pitching depth within the organization. By removing Norris and Boyd from Buffalo, that leaves Randy Wolf, Scott Copeland and Jeff Francis as the top depth guys in their system. With Aaron Sanchez now locked into the bullpen, they are an injury away from being in a pickle.

The Blue Jays gotten a lot better and they may not be done just yet. Anthopoulos is still looking to add more arms in the rotation, bullpen and left field.

Price is not a gamble. This extremely talented Blue Jays team will finally hit its stride. Hanging around the .500 mark, they will go down fighting and win a lot of ballgames. Remember, the Kansas City Royals were 50-50 after 100 games last season and made it to the World Series. Anything can happen in baseball.

Anthopoulos has done his job. Now it is up to the players to their part. The next 60 games is going to be very excited to watch for the remainder of the season. Let’s see if they can finally end their playoff drought.

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Trading for Tulowitzki Helps The Blue Jays Now and Future

( Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

( Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

TORONTO- Once again, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos struck another stunning deal. According to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Blue Jays acquired SS Troy Tulowitzki and RHP LaTroy Hawkins from the Colorado Rockies for SS Jose Reyes, RHP prospects Miguel Castro, RHP Jeff Hoffman and RHP Jesus Tinoco. This move may have establish as one of the most stunning deals made prior to the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline.

While pitching has been the Blue Jays’ top priority leading up to the deadline, Tulowitzki is a major upgrade at shortstop over Reyes. Adding another impact bat to already potent lineup and provides better defence. Anthopoulos bolstered an offence that already leads MLB in runs scored by 72. Reyes continues to be solid with his bat and speed, but struggles to make routine plays at shortstop, making 13 errors. Both have been injury prone, but Tulowitzki is a better fit for the Blue Jays right now and in the future.

The financial impact of this trade impacts the Blue Jays short-term and long-term. In the short-term, Reyes was making $22 million and Tulowitzki is earning $20 million and will receive a $2-million payout for being traded. Hawkins has roughly $900,000 remaining on his $2.25-million salary.

In the long-term, Tulowitzki is under control from 2016-2020 with a team option for 2021. He will make $20 million in each of the 2016-19 seasons. Will make another $14 million in 2020 and has a $15-million option or $4-million buyout in 2021. Reyes is set to make $22 million for 2016-2017 with a club option for 2018 with $4 million buyout.

The one major concern about Tulowitzki is his health. Since joining the Rockies as a full-time major leaguer in 2007, he only averaged just 114 games a season. He dealt with several back injuries, cracked ribs and underwent hip surgery in August 2014. That can be said the same about Reyes, who missed half of the 2013 season with a severe ankle injury, dealt with hamstring problems last season and suffered a cracked rib this season. It will be interesting to see Tulowitzki playing on artificial turf.

By adding the 5-time All Star shortstop, this give the Blue Jays a trio of cornerstone players with Russell Martin, who signed as a free agent through 2019, and Josh Donaldson, who under club control through 2018. It also protect themselves if Jose Bautista and/or Edwin Encarnacion doesn’t sign an extension beyond the 2016 season.

Imagine Donaldson and Tulowitzki at the left side of the infield? That is going to be fun to watch.

The price tag that Anthopoulos paid was very high. Hoffman has the potential to be an ace. Castro can be a elite late-inning reliever and Tinoco proves to be a solid back-end starter. All three young righties have the potential to be solid arms, but to acquire the best all-around shortstop in baseball wasn’t going to come cheap. They gave up a lot of young talent but it was a rare opportunity to acquire one of the league best players.

Even though Tulowitzki helps bolster the Blue Jays’ league-best offence and improve their defense, he doesn’t help their pitching. Look for Anthopoulos to make another move to improve the rotation or bullpen.

The Blue Jays are a much better team with Tulowitzki, and they’re going to continue to get better. Knowing Anthopoulos, he won’t stop in making deals. A.A. the ninja is back and dealing right now.

Everybody Loves Josh Donaldson

(Aaron Vincent Elkaim/CP)

(Aaron Vincent Elkaim/CP)

TORONTO- Last Tuesday was an emotional homecoming for Josh Donaldson when he returned to the Coliseum and faced off against his former team, Oakland Athletics. He went 5-13 with a home run and three RBI during the 3-game series and the Blue Jays won two of the three games.

Donaldson felt some jitterbugs during his first at bat. It is clear that Donaldson still has an emotional attachment to his former teammates and the fans in Oakland. A’s fans gave their former MVP candidate a nice ovation as they continue to show their appreciation and love for Donaldson.

The two-time all star was acquired by the Blue Jays for Brett Lawrie, Franklin Barreto, Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin in last November. Donaldson’s departure has been arguably the most questionable trade that Billy Beane made. The price was steep, but the Blue Jays got a player who by all rights should never even have been available.

During Donaldson’s first season with the Blue Jays, he is hitting .292/.353/.538 with 23 home runs and 65 RBI. He also been playing gold glove defence at the hot corner. Led the 2015 MLB All Star Voting with a MLB record of 14,090,188 (thanks to Don Cherry). Once again, Donaldson is on pace for career year and is a candidate for the American League MVP this season.

But what makes Donaldson so unique is that he is a game changer. His leadership is a commodity the Blue Jays loves as much as his production. He influence the clubhouse and showing up everyday to help win ball games. Donaldson one of those players who can lead by example.

Donaldson is a superstar and still in his prime of his career. Blue Jays fans can see why A’s fans were upset to see Donaldson leave. They love his bat. They love his glove. They love him in general. He isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2018 season. So Blue Jays fans, Donaldson isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The Blue Jays are very fortunate to have Donaldson. He is one of those players that can do it all. It is so rare to find a player who can present above average skill set in hitting, power and defence. He is one of those player that many GM’s would love to build around.  Imagine what they would do without him?

Aaron Sanchez to The Bullpen Is The Right Move For The Blue Jays

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

TORONTO- After the Blue Jays took a 4-0 victory against the Tampa Bay Rays, skipper John Gibbons announced that Aaron Sanchez will move to the bullpen once activated from the disabled list. Even though 23-year old righty is so valuable as a starter, moving him to the bullpen is the right move for the Blue Jays going forward.

Moving the Sanchez to the pen could solve a gapping hole at the back end of the bullpen. Roberto Osuna has being their best reliever all season and he’s only 20 years old. Gibbons hasn’t figure out how he will use his young right hander, but it’s possible that Sanchez and Osuna could share the closer role.

The Blue Jays could be looking to make a tandem in their bullpen with Sanchez, Osuna and Bo Schultz. Kind of what the Kansas City Royals have with their own big three with Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland.

Sanchez made his MLB debut as a late-inning reliever last season. He posted a 1.03 ERA and striking out 27 over 33 innings. His fastball touches at 97-99 mph and also threw an above average curveball and developing changeup.

During the 2015 spring training, there have been some discussions that Sanchez and Brett Cecil would battle for the closer role. However, Marcus Stroman (Sanchez’s BFF) suffered a devastating ACL injury and the Blue Jays had no choice but to put Sanchez in the rotation.

Sanchez pitched well enough to remain in the rotation, posting a 3.55 ERA over 11 outings. He has been one of the Blue Jays’ best starters before he suffered a lat strain.

With Sanchez back to the pen, the move can present options for the Blue Jays. It is possible that Gibbons want to manage Sanchez’s innings since he only pitched more than 100 innings once in his professional career. Sanchez could pitch multiple innings or just work in late innings. Sanchez can established the pen and take the pressure off of Cecil, Aaron Loup, Liam Hendricks and Steve Delabar.

It’s quite clear that general manager Alex Anthopoulos doesn’t want to spend a lot on relievers. With Sanchez in the pen, this can allow Anthopoulos to only upgrade the rotation at the trade deadline. The market for starting pitching is so deep with Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Cole Hamels and others available.

Moving Sanchez to the pen is the right move for the Blue Jays. If Sanchez can contribute the way he did out of the bullpen last year and Osuna continue his production, then the bullpen will be lot better and Anthopoulos could focus on improving the rotation.

Marco Estrada Solidifies The Blue Jays’ Rotation

(Courtesy of Toronto Sun)

(Courtesy of Toronto Sun)

TORONTO- Marco Estrada has been a pleasant surprise in the Blue Jays’ rotation. He may not an ace on paper, but he is sure pitching like one. Okay I’ll admit, I thought the fly-ball pitcher was going to get rough up all season long, especially pitching at a friendly-hitting ballpark like the Rogers Centre. But after watching him pitch last Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays, you couldn’t ask for a better performance.

Estrada was unhittable last Sunday as he silenced the Ray’s lineup. He pitched eight shutout innings, gave up three hits and striking out five. The Blue Jays gave him some support thanks to Chris Colabello and Jose Bautista’s 2-run home runs to help the team take a 4-0 victory.

(Courtesy of MLB.com)

Estrada’s fastball may not be overpowering, which only average around 88-90 mph, but he knows how to throw strikes. His changeup was biting late and shown some late movement. When his changeup is right, he can be very dangerous. He made the Rays looked silly yesterday with his fastball-changeup combination.

Whether or not if the Blue Jays make any additions at the trade deadline, Estrada definitely deserves to stick around in the rotation. Since joining the rotation in early May, he posted a 3.89 ERA in 13 starts. This makes him the club’s most reliable starting arm after Mark Buehrle. He pitched at least six innings of work in eight of his last eleven starts. Last Sunday was the sixth time that Estrada allowing two earned runs or less through six or more innings. Estrada is on pace to have one of his best season of his career, which may earn him a huge pay check as he’s a free agent after this season.

But the one thing that is so impressive with Estrada is that he haven’t give up a lot of home runs. Last season, he led the majors with twenty nine home runs allowed while pitching for the Milwaukee Brewers. This season, he only allowed ten dingers in 95 innings. In his seven starts at the Rogers Centre, he only allowed 5 home runs.

Now that manager John Gibbons announced that Aaron Sanchez will return to the bullpen once he is activated from disabled list, Estrada is likely going to remain in the rotation for the rest of the season.

Estrada has quietly been one of the surprises for the Blue Jays. Many people thought on what the Blue Jays would do without Josh Donaldson. Imagine if the Blue Jays didn’t have Estrada in their rotation? Estrada is serviceable and the Blue Jays are going to keep relying on him to provide quality starts as they continue their quest to end their 21-year playoff drought.

Will Alex Anthopoulos Make a Deal Before The Deadline?

alex-anthopoulos_940-8col

TORONTO- Now that the 86th MLB All Star Game is over, the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline is fast approaching. The Blue Jays have probably the best offense in franchise history, leading the majors in runs scored. But their pitching is one of their weakness.

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos knows his team needs pitching. But the big questions that every Blue Jays fans want to knows, “Will the hesitate GM make a deal at the trade deadline?”

According to Fox Sports, Jon Paul Morosi, Anthopoulos is currently active in trade talks with several teams, but not close to make a deal. This is something that many fans don’t want to hear. But there are three reasons why Anthopoulos isn’t quite ready to pull the trigger.

Reason #1: Some teams that aren’t ready to sell just yet.

Since that 2nd wild card is in place, many teams still believe that they are still in the race. We all know that the Philadelphia Phillies, Oakland Athletics and Milwaukee Brewers are going to be sellers. But maybe Anthopoulos is waiting to see if other teams like the San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds are willing to sell.

Now there are some interesting pitchers that can help the Blue Jays upgrade their pitching. Pitchers like Johnny Cueto or Jeff Samardzijia could all be good fits for the Blue Jays. However most of them are rental players and will acquired to take on more salary to their payroll. Which leads to the second reason.

Reason #2: Will the ownership, Rogers Communication add more salary to the payroll?

According to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, he noted that Anthopoulos is “believed to have about $5-6 million to work with in available payroll.” Obviously that is not a lot of money, especially for a GM who is trying to save his job.

However, President and CEO Paul Beeston mentioned numerous times that the payroll will go up in 2015. Right now their current payroll is at around $128 million (compared to $137 million last season). If there is a deal that make sense financially for both this season and in the next few years, then maybe Anthopoulos can have intriguing trade proposals to present to the ownership to add more money to their budget. Even if they add more money to the payroll, there is one more reason why Anthopoulos isn’t ready to deal.

Reason #3: Which players or prospects are the Blue Jays willing to part ways?

The Blue Jays’ farm system is not as deep as it was in the past. But they have a lot of young arms in the system. They don’t have the depth with positional players.  There are several teams are asking about pitching prospects Daniel Norris, Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro and catcher Max Pentecost. Now I’m one of those people saying that that shouldn’t give up too much of their future. But if the Blue Jays create a package deal surrounding one of Norris or Hoffman to get a highly established pitcher, then that something could intrigue the fan base. I don’t think they should give up both of them, especially for a rental player.

Some teams also asking about players on the major league roster like Marcus Stroman and Devon Travis. Though it is unlikely that both of them will get dealt. It is quite possible that Anthopoulos may have to be creative by trading some of their top bats like Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion (both have one year left of control before they became free agents after the 2016 season). It is also possible that Dioner Navarro can be dealt as well.

It isn’t easy to make these types of trades. The Blue Jays gave up a lot of their top prospect in the past like Noah Syndergaard (who dominated the Blue Jays last month), Travis D’Arnaud and more. So maybe Anthopoulos is a little hesitant about giving their future. It is always a dilemma, when it comes to making trade decisions.

In the end, Anthopoulos is going to have to make decision on what he’s going to do at the trade deadline. The one thing he can’t do is to stay pat like he did last season. Remember how Bautista and former Blue Jay Casey Janssen react? I’m pretty sure the players aren’t going to be please about that. The A.L. East division is  up for grabs and anything can happen in baseball. In my opinion, I think they will make a move or two to get upgrade their pitching  But the next two weeks are going to be very crucial for Canada’s only baseball team in MLB. We shall see what Anthopoulos have left on his sleeves.

Review of the First Half of the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays Season

(Courtesy of Fox Sports)

(Courtesy of Fox Sports)

TORONTO- The 2015 Toronto Blue Jays arrived at the all-star break as baseball’s wildest roller coaster ride at an amusement park. They entered the break with a 45-46 record, 4th in the A.L. East Division. If there is one word to describe the first half of the season is mediocrity. But first let’s get a look as to how the mediocre Blue Jays got where they are in the standings.

During last offseason, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos was able to make a splash in free agency by signing Canadian catcher Russell Martin to a 5-year contract worth $82 million. Anthopoulos also managed to make a huge blockbuster trade by acquiring third baseman Josh Donaldson from the Oakland Athletics for Brett Lawrie and three prospects. Both Martin and Donaldson are both two way players and have been the postseason before. Most importantly, they were brought in to improve the team’s culture in the clubhouse. Even though Anthopoulos upgraded that the roster, there are some concerns about the starting rotation and in the bullpen.

The Blue Jays were pretty confident and optimistic entering spring training. However, injuries with right-handed pitcher Marcus Stroman (torn ACL) and outfielder Michael Saunders (meniscus tear in left knee) were huge losses as both would have made significant impact if healthy.

The Blue Jays entered the season with six rookies on the opening day roster. A bold decision by skipper John Gibbons. Righties Aaron Sanchez, Roberto Osuna and Miguel Castro, lefty Daniel Norris, second baseman Devon Travis and outfielder Dalton Pompey (a Canadian native) are all 24 years or younger and have little to no experience in the big leagues. With this many youth on the roster, it clearly shown that they were clearly inexperience. In result, Castro, Norris, and Pompey were sent back to the minors to refine their skills. While Sanchez, Osuna and Travis managed to stick around.

Throughout the month April and May, the Blue Jays were very inconsistent. When they are hitting, they can’t pitch. When they pitch, they can’t hit. It wasn’t until June when things starting to clicked. They had an eleven game winning streak and finished the month with 18-9 record. But still the Jays are currently one game behind .500.

Throughout the season, the Blue Jays dominated on offence as they’re leading the majors with 486 runs scored and have a run differential with +77. Thanks to this powerful offence led by Donaldson and Jose Bautista. They also got a surprising performance by Chris Colabello, who was a waiver claim from the Minnesota Twins. Their defence is much improved thanks to Kevin Pillar and his highlight reel plays.

(Courtesy of MLB.com)

However, the pitching has not been there all season. Their starting rotation posted the 7th worst ERA at 4.46 and the bullpen blown 14 save opportunities. Not to mention that the bullpen has been overworked as the starters failed to go deep in ball games.

So if the Blue Jays have the best run differential in all of baseball, why on earth are they only a sub .500 team? It’s pretty oblivious, isn’t it? They’ve been nothing but a mediocre team. Their offence is legit, their pitching not so much.

In order for the Blue Jays to turn things around, they have to improve their pitching staff whether it’s within the organization. Or perhaps look at the trade market with pitchers like Johnny Cueto, Jonathan Papelbon and others available. After all, pitching does win ball games. Look at last year’s World Series Champs, San Francisco Giants.

Now the first half of the season is behind them, the Blue Jays are going to need to be dominant in the 2nd half of the season. Lucky for them, they are only 4.5 games back behind the New York Yankees in the A.L. East and there is plenty of time to turn things around with 71 games remaining. If their bats continue to dominant and improve their pitching, then this year could be the year that they can end this 21 year-playoff drought.

The clock is ticking for them to make magic happen. After all, they have an entire nation rooting for the only Canadian team playing in the MLB. Will they end their playoff drought or will they have to deal with another disappointed season? Guess we’ll have to see what happens.

About Trevor

Trevor's Headshot

Hi! My name is Trevor Fujioka and I love sports. To me, sports is all about bringing the community together. My blog is all about covering Toronto sports teams: the Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors. This is a place where I can share my thoughts and opinions about Toronto sports to all of the passionate and enthusiastic fans throughout not only the city of Toronto, but throughout the entire country of Canada. But first I’ll share to a little bit more about me.

I’m currently reside in Toronto. I graduated at Seneca College for Broadcast Journalism. I’ve played baseball and basketball since I was a child and coached for the boys and girls’ basketball teams at Langstaff Secondary School. Once I came to the harsh realization that I couldn’t make a career out of playing sports, I figured the next best thing would be writing about them.

During my time at Seneca, I found a passion for storytelling about sports. Being able to write, talk and share my knowledge of professional sports leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL), minor leagues (MILB, AHL), college sports and even high school sports. Being able to write and talk about my thoughts and opinions about sports is something I would like to bring to the community.

I am very passionate about writing and talking about sports. My ultimate goal is to become a sportscaster for Rogers Sportsnet or TSN.