Melvin Upton Jr. adds flexibility for the Blue Jays.

(Courtesy of Andy Hayt)

(Courtesy of Andy Hayt)

TORONTO- It seems that the Toronto Blue Jays have already started their shopping spree prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline. The Blue Jays acquired OF Melvin Upton Jr. from the San Diego Padres for RHP prospect Hansel Rodriguez and cash considerations. The Padres will pay $17 million of the $22 million remaining of Upton’s current contract through 2017.

Obviously when evaluating this type of deal, many would look at the production and value of players like Upton and the projectivity of the non-proven prospects. Looking at this trade, Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins took an intelligent approach with this deal. This trade doesn’t necessarly mean that Upton is going be a star like Josh Donaldson, but he does add a lot of value in depth, speed and defense going forward. Plus the Padres have to eat up most of Upton’s salary and only gave up one prospect. That is a huge bonus for the Blue Jays.

It’s been an up and down rollercoaster ride for Upton, but he is having a bounce back season in 2016 with a .256 average with 16 homers and 45 RBIs. The 31-year old outfielder is now the team’s leader in steals (20) and outfield assists (8).

Upton is a decent addition for the Blue Jays in many ways. He’s a tremendous defensive player who can play all three outfield positions. Upton also brings flexibility in the lineup when Jose Bautista need some time as their designated hitter. Upton also adds speed to the roster with 20 stolen base. Upton gives the Blue Jays another bat who can excel well against left-handed pitching, as he has a .913 OPS against lefties this season. Although Upton has been playing everyday throughout his career, he is expected to play a complementary role.

Upton could also add some insurance in case Bautista and Michael Saunders walk away as free agents. Kevin Pillar was the remaining outfielder under control for the Blue Jays, but with the addition of Upton, this means that Atkins only have to fill out one spot in the outfield.

The Blue Jays are not done yet. Now that the offence and defense is set, Atkins can now focus on pitching help. According to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, the Blue Jays are going to be in on everybody. Although the market for starting pitching is really high, there are a lot of relievers available that caught Atkins’ eyes. After all pitching is the key to success.

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Aaron Sanchez should remain a starter

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

TORONTO- Let’s face it, Aaron Sanchez has been the best starting pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays this season. The 24-year old All Star has been the story about whether Sanchez should remain in the rotation or be put in the bullpen.

Sanchez continues to impress as he went 7 innings, allowing just one earned run and striking out 5 during last Tuesday’s 5-1 victory against the Arizona Diamondbacks. With his recent outing, Sanchez has already pitch 125.1 innings, which is eight shy of his career high (133.1 innings in 2014). Now that the young righty is 10-1 with a 2.87 ERA, his dominating season complex John Gibbon’s plans to manage his young all star’s workload.

http://m.mlb.com/video/v947110983/?query=Aaron%2BSanchez

Sanchez’s innings limit has been a dilemma for the Blue Jays going forward as the Aug 1. non-waiver trade deadline is more than a week away. There has been some internal discuss about whether or not if Sanchez should indeed go back to the bullpen. If Sanchez remains in the rotation, the Blue Jays may have one of the best starting rotation, who leading the majors with 602.2 innings pitch. If Sanchez is back in the bullpen, he does fill one hole in their back end of their relief core. Either way, the Blue Jays need to add an arm or two at the trade deadline.

Sanchez should remain as a starter. His stuff is just too good to be put back to the pen with his hard sinker that can tough 98 at times. His curveball is just nasty. And his changeup has been his much improve pitch. His mechanics and delivery looks so much cleaner and consistent. The one aspect that is so impressive is his command. He only allowed 37 walks in 125.1 innings.

Sure Gibbons wants to protect his young starter’s arm as many baseball fans saw New York Mets’ Matt Harvey needed season-ending shoulder surgery and Noah Syndergaard is currently dealing a bone spur in his right elbow. There has been a increase total of pitchers needing Tommy John Surgery in the last five seasons.

In the end, Sanchez already proved that he belongs in the rotation and should continue to pitch until he does feel fatigue. Maybe he could skip a couple of starts to not put alot of stress in his arm. Plus you never know if Sanchez is more effective as a reliever than he is as a starter. Though he does have a good track record pitching out of the pen over the past two seasons.

In the end, Sanchez is viewed as a starter and should remain as a starter. A potential CY Young Award candidate has the potential to be the next Roy Halladay and his future is looking very bright going forward.

Blue Jays looking for upgrades at the MLB Trade Deadline.

(Courtesy of Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

(Courtesy of Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

TORONTO- The Mid-summer Classic may be over, but now the MLB is going to be busier than ever as the Aug 1st Non-Waiver Trade Deadline is fast approaching. General Managers in MLB are either going to be buying to fill out their needs to improve their respective teams or sellers to build up their farm system, trying to rebuild and develop their younger players.

The Toronto Blue Jays are in very well position for a playoff spot as they enter the All-Star break with a record of 51-40, two games behind the division-leading Baltimore Orioles and tied with the Boston Red Sox.

Yes, the Blue Jays are playing very well as of late, but there are some areas that President Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins need to address prior to the trade deadline.

Starting Rotation

Now everyone is asking, “Why would the Blue Jays need starting pitching if they are leading the A.L. with a 3.64 ERA and 569.1 innings pitched?” Well first of all, Marco Estrada is pitching his lights our with a 2.93 ERA, however he is currently on a 15-day disabled with a back injury. And we all know that back injuries can flare up here and there. Second of all, Aaron Sanchez is pitching like Roy Halladay, but there are so much discussion with his innings limit and Manager John Gibbons did admit that Sanchez could move back to the bullpen to fill the set-up role for their depleted bullpen. That leaves Marcus Stroman, R.A. Dickey and J.A. Happ as locks in their rotation. Good news is that Estrada is expected to return once they Jays return to the north of the border to face off against the Seattle Mariners on July 22. However if Sanchez does end up back to the bullpen and if the Blue Jays are not convince that Drew Hutchinson can step up, then they need address the starting rotation for not only this season but for many years to come. Keep in mind too that R.A. Dickey is going to be a free agent after this season. Given his age, the Blue Jays may want to look for another starter with multiple years of control.

Some names available for the Blue Jays are:

Sonny Gray, RHP, Oakland Athletics

Julio Teahran, RHP Atlanta Braves

Drew Pomeranz, LHP, San Diego Padres

Ervin Sanatana, Minnesota Twins

Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

Tyson Ross, RHP, San Diego Padres

Jon Niese, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

Hector Santiago, LHP, L.A. Angels of Anaheim

Dan Straily, LHP, Cincinnati Reds

Rich Hill, LHP, Oakland Atletics

Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

Andrew Cashner, RHP, San Diego Padres

Jorge De La Rosa, LHP, Colorado Rockies

Bullpen

The Blue Jays’ bullpen has been awful all season long. Blowing up leads, lost a lot of close ball game and mixing guys here and there. It’s just a nightmare for Gibbons to manage. Out of all those guys in the pen, Roberto Osuna has been their most consistent pitcher and he’s only 20 years old. But they need the other guys to step up and do their roles. Now the good news is that Brett Cecil is back from his injury and that should help as Cecil is their only reliable lefty in the pen. The bad news is that Drew Stroen, who the Jays gave up Ben Revere for, has been a huge disappointment. And Jason Grilli, Jesse Chavez and Joe Biagini have been alright but not spectacular. The bullpen is a huge need that they need to address. Not saying that they need to go after a Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman type of pitchers. But maybe they need to go after a LaTroy Hawkins or Mark Lowe type of arms.

Names that could help in the bullpen:

Andrew Miller, LHP, New York Yankees (highly unlikely)

Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Atlanta Braves

Tyler Clippard, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

Huston Street, RHP, L.A. Angels of Anaheim ($8M)

Jeremy Jeffress, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers

Jake McGee, LHP, Colorado Rockies

Will Smith, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers

Tyler Thornburg, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers

Aroldis Chapman, LHP, New York Yankees (also unlikely)

Marc Rzepczynski, LHP, Oakland Athletics

Outfielder

If only Jose Bautista was 10 years younger, then this conversation wouldn’t happen. But the reality is that once Bautista comes back from a turf toe, it is quite possible that Gibbons may need to shift Bautista at DH or play some 1st base. Plus Bautista and Michael Saunders are both free agents at the end of the season. It is likely that they may need to add some help in the long haul with Kevin Pillar anchoring at centre. Trading away Bautista is not the smart thing to do. Bautista can void any trade thanks to his 10-5 rights. His defense in right field has declined over the past year. They only way they can trade Bautista is to a contender. But why would they do that if Joey Bats can add more thump in the Blue Jays lineup? They still have Dalton Pompey, who could make an impact as a September call up. But if Pompey still need some work, they could look for some help in the outfield at the corners.

Names like:

Carlos Gonzalez, LF, Colorado Rockies

Charlie Blackman, CF, Colorado, Rockies

Jay Bruce, RF, Cincinnati Reds

Yasiel Puig, OF, L.A. Dodgers

Cole Calhoun, RF, L.A. Angels of Anaheim

Peter Bourjos, OF, Philadelphia Philles

Josh Reddick, RF, Oakland Athletics

Mark Trumbo, OF/1B, Baltimore Orioles

Carlos Gomez, OF, Houston Astros

Jon Jay, OF, San Diego Padres

The Blue Jays may have diminished their farm system to acquired Troy Tulowikzki and David Price last season. But they still have some intriguing names that they can use to make some upgrades this season. It is highly unlikely that the Blue Jays would trade their high upside propsects like Anthony Alford and Vladimir Guererro Jr. But they have some interesting arms like Conner Greene, Sean Reid-Foley and Jon Harris that could pop into some eyes for GMs. They also have some position players in Max Pentecost, Rowdy Tellez and Richard Urena that can be use in some package deals as well. Not sure if the Blue Jays will be able to acquire an all star caliber player, but look for them to look for some upgrades for their pitching and outfield.

2016 Blue Jays First Half Review

(Courtesy of The Province)

(Courtesy of The Province)

TORONTO- The Toronto Blue Jays enter the All-Star break at 51-40, two games behind the division-leading Baltimore Orioles and tied with the Boston Red Sox. Last season at the break, they were 45-46, fourth within their division and 4.5 games back.

The 1st half of the franchise 40th season for the Blue Jays have been passable despite having a depleted bullpen and sluggish start offensively. Fans were satisfied while others felt pain and anxiety at times. Manager John Gibbons should be pleased on how well his team performed so far. The Blue Jays managed to be eleven games over .500 for the first time since 1993.

Here is a first half analysis for the 2016 Toronto Blue Jays:

Catcher:

Its has been a disappointed start for Russell Martin. Only hitting .222 with 7 home runs and 36 RBIs. What’s really disappointed about the Canadian backstop has been his glove behind the plate. He only caught 6 base stealers in 43 attempts, that’s 14 percent this season compared with 44% last season. Martin has been more patient and discipline as of late, but the Jays need more from him. Especially when playing at a premium position. Josh Thole has been R.A. Dickey’s special assistant. The backup catcher had his best game during the 6-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers with a 2-run single. Overall, his .141 batting average is not suitable to be a reliable backup for Martin. Grade: C

Infielders/DH:

Josh Donaldson is on pace to have another MVP caliber season, hitting .302 with 23 homers and 63 RBIs with an on-base percentage of .418. The reigning AL MVP became the sixth player to scored more than 80 runs and homered at least 20 times in MLB history. Troy Tulowitzki started off slow with his bat and dealt with a hamstring injury. However, he’s been hitting .312, 7 home runs and 20 since being activated from the disabled list on June 18. Tulowitzki seemed to be the same type of player like he was in Colorado. Devon Travis has been a hitting machine since he came back from season shoulder surgery, hitting .262 with 6 home runs and 21 RBIs. Looke for Travis to be a x-factor going forward. Justin Smoak has been solid with his glove at first base and hit for power. But Smoak continues to struggle to hit for average with a .231 average. Darwin Barney has been a great utility player for the Blue Jays off the bench with a .296 batting average. What more you can ask for Edwin Encarnacion? When you are hitting bombs and leading the majors with 80 RBIs on a contract year, EE is due for a huge payday when he reach free agency. Their defense has been tremendous thanks to Tulowitzki’s presence in the middle of the infield. They infield has been a solid group (or maybe the new infield dirt at the Rogers Centre may help them a lot). Grade: A-

Outfielders:

Jose Bautista is on his contract year. The face of the franchise was suppose to prove that he was worthy of his contract demand (5 years, 150 million). However, the longest member of the Blue Jays was hitting .230 with 12 home runs and 41 RBI. Worse of all, Bautista suffered from a turf toe on June 17 against the Philadelphia Phillies. Good news is that Bautista is expected to return to the lineup at the end of July, but he may have to serve some time as a DH to ease up his workload. Michael Saunders have bounced back from a injury-riddled 2015 season. Captain Canada is having a breakout season, hitting .298, 16 home runs and 42 RBIs. He won the Final Man Voting for the final spot for the American League All Star team with more than 17 million votes. Saunders is a strong candidate for Comeback Player of the Year. Kevin Pillar continues to shine in the outfield with his highlight reel plays. Pillar should win a Gold Glove for his outstanding catches he made from time to time. Ezequiel Carrera has done an outstanding job filling for the 4th outfielder role and taking over for the injured Bautista in right field. Grades: B

Starting Rotation:

The starting rotations was supposed to be a weakness prior towards the 2016 season. Instead, the Blue Jays’ rotation have been a pleasant surprise, leading the AL in ERA (3.64) and innings pitched (569.1). Marco Estrada proved that his 2015 breakout season was no fluke. Despite dealing with a back injury, Estrada has a 2.93 ERA and earned his first trip to the mid-summer classic. Aaron Sanchez beat out Gavin Floyd for the final spot in the rotation and it certainly paid off for the Blue Jays. The 24-year old righty pitched like an ace with a 2.97 ERA in 118.1 innings, earning his first trip to the All Star Game as well. There have so much discussion about Sanchez’s workload and innings limits, but Sanchez prove that he can stick into the rotation with his hard-sinking fastball and improved secondary pitches. Knuckled ball specialist R.A. Dickey continues to be reliable to eat up innings and have pitched better as of late. J.A. Happ has been solid during his second stint with the Blue Jays. The team needs a bit more from Marcus Stroman who dealt with a early slump. The opening day starter need to harness his command and slider to be an effective starter for the start of the second half. Drew Hutchison could see more time in the rotation in the second if Sanchez does go back to the bullpen. Grades: A

Bullpen:

The bullpen struggled enormously since the start of the season. With a 4.05 ERA, the Blue Jays lost so many close ball games and could have won a lot more games. Roberto Osuna has been their most reliable reliever. The twenty-one year old established himself as one of the games’ best closer in the game and was snubbed to be an All Star. He converted 18 saves in 20 attempts and shutdown opposing hitters with a 2.27 ERA. Jason Grilli was acquired from the Atlanta Braves last May. The 39-year old pitched better with the Blue Jays with a 2.63 ERA. Brett Cecil and Drew Storen struggled to fill out the set up roles. Jesse Chavez and Joe Biagini has been solid in the middle of relief. The bullpen needs to pitch a lot better in order for the Blue Jays to stay in the playoff race. Grades: D

Overall:

The Blue Jays may not currently hold the top spot in their division, but they should feel pleased that they are in much better position in the playoff race than they were a year ago. Getting Bautista back should give the Blue Jays a huge boost. Look for the offensive to continue to be explosive with Donaldson, Encarnacion and company. The Bullpen needs to improve and the rotation need to continue to be solid as it is. With their red hot bats and reliable pitching staff, look for the Blue Jays to be the team to beat and win a trip to the World Series.