The Blue Jays Made the Wrong Decision with Aaron Sanchez

Photo Credit: USA Today Sports

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez is one of the best young pitchers in baseball. In his first full season in the league, Sanchez sits at 11-1 and atop the American League in ERA (2.71). At just 24 years old, Sanchez could be one of the best pitchers in the game for many years to come. But, like many other things in baseball, there’s one catch:

Aaron Sanchez has never pitched this many innings in a season in his professional career.

His previous career high in innings pitched was 2014, a season that saw Sanchez toss 133.1 innings between AA New Hampshire, AAA Buffalo, and Toronto. This season, he’s already up to 139.1 innings, all of which came in starts. Sanchez had previously been shuffled back and forth between the starting rotation and this helped him limit his innings in the past couple of seasons. 2016, however, is his first full season as a starting pitcher, and even though he has performed extraordinarily well, many observers assumed that Sanchez would, at some point, either: 1) move to the bullpen or 2) be shut down by the organization completely. While Sanchez does not have a set “innings limit”, the Blue Jays and manager John Gibbons frequently discussed moving him to the bullpen at some point later in the season.

But that’s not the decision the Blue Jays decided to make. Instead of shutting down Sanchez completely or moving him to the bullpen to conserve his innings, the team announced Thursday that Sanchez would remain in the starting rotation through the rest of the season. While the Jays will go with a six-man rotation and closely monitor Sanchez for signs of fatigue, the decision marks a clear change of course for a franchise that seemed to want to protect Sanchez’s young arm even if the team had a chance to go to the playoffs. So, here comes the big question: is this the right decision for Sanchez and the Blue Jays?

First, to explain Toronto’s logic in making this decision, we need to examine the infamous “Strasburg Shutdown” of 2012. In that situation, Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who was fresh off Tommy John Surgery that forced him to miss the 2011 season, was approaching his team-imposed limit of 160 innings. Sure enough, Strasburg reached 159.1 innings with his start on September 5th of that season. After that start, the team informed Strasburg that he would not pitch again for the rest of the year, even as the team closed in on the franchise’s first playoff berth since 1981; the team was known as the Montreal Expos back then.

The Nationals took the NL East crown, and after winning 98 games, the team was widely considered a World Series favorite even without Strasburg’s services. However, Washington would get all it could handle against the St. Louis Cardinals in a series that went the distance. In Game 5, St. Louis rallied from a 6-0 deficit to win 9-7 and advance to the NLCS. Because Strasburg was not available for that series, the Nats were forced to start Edwin Jackson in a pivotal Game 3. Jackson struggled, allowing four runs in five innings; the Cardinals would win that game and take a 2-1 series lead. While nothing would have been assured if Strasburg had started the game, it is natural and fair to wonder if the Nationals would have won the series if Strasburg was available. He wasn’t, and the Nationals possibly blew their chance at a World Series because of their high-wire act centered around protecting their young star.

That’s the mistake the Blue Jays are trying to avoid. The problem is that overworking Sanchez is probably a mistake, as well. Just ask the New York Mets.

The Mets had the incredible, almost too-good-to-be-true luck of having four superstar pitchers (Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey) in the same rotation at the same time a year ago. The team was in a very similar position as the Nationals were in 2012, closing in on a playoff berth while trying to protect its star pitcher(s). Near the end of last season, the Mets were primarily concerned with protecting Harvey, who, just like Strasburg, was coming off Tommy John Surgery the year before.

Instead of going the way of the Nationals, the Mets decided to keep Harvey and the other young guns in a six-man rotation for the month of September. Harvey agreed to continue pitching, even after a protracted fight with the front office waged through the media. Unlike the Nationals, the Mets reached the World Series, eventually losing to the Kansas City Royals in five games. The wear and tear of the postseason took its toll on the Mets’ pitchers, though; Harvey, Syndergaard, and deGrom all threw well over 200 innings for the season (Syndergaard started the year in AAA). Matz avoided this distinction because of a lat injury he suffered in early July that cost him two months of the season.

The effects of being stretched out unexpectedly last season have made their presence felt on the Mets’ starters this season. Matz and Syndergaard have both pitched the second half of the season with bone spurs in their elbows while Harvey is out for the year after undergoing surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, an injury that has claimed the likes of Chris Carpenter, Chris Young, and Jaime Garcia. The Mets probably knew that the right decision would have been to limit the innings of their star pitchers, but with the team performing so well and the opportunity to win a championship firmly in their grasp, it was hard for the Mets to pull that trigger. But the team has a history of knowing what the right decision is and yet still making the wrong one; anyone remember Game 5 of the World Series?

This is the same position the Blue Jays find themselves in, but they only have one young pitcher to manage instead of four. The organization obviously thinks that going to a six-man rotation will help Sanchez and the rest of the rotation stay fresh for a potential playoff run. But as we saw with the Mets last season and now into this one, a six-man rotation is not a be-all, end-all cure for a young pitcher.

That’s why this decision is a mistake; while the Jays sit in a tie for first place in the AL East, the future of the franchise is much more important than just this season. It would be much better for the Jays to have a healthy and effective Aaron Sanchez for the next ten years instead of burning him out this year and having him never be the same again. It’s a difficult decision to make because the minds of many in the organization are clouded by the opportunity to win a championship this year. The decision becomes even more muddled when you consider that Sanchez is not coming off Tommy John Surgery or any other major operation (he’s never had Tommy John). But would the Blue Jays be willing to go down that road if wear and tear catch up to Sanchez at the end of this season?

There are a multitude of reasons why this could be considered both the right and the wrong decision. The one I keep coming back to is the fact that it’s just more important to have Sanchez healthy for the rest of his career rather than to burn him out going for a championship this year. Remember Stephen Strasburg? He’s one of the best pitchers in the league this year, sporting a 15-1 record and a 2.63 ERA. The Nationals are right back where they were four years ago, but this time there will be no limitations on Strasburg’s usage. The Nationals can go for a championship this season without the cloud of innings limits or the threat of major injury hanging over their heads.

That’s what could have awaited the Blue Jays if they made the smart decision with Sanchez. Unfortunately, it looks like they went in a very different direction, for better or worse.

The Toronto Blue Jays Turned the AL East on Its Head This Weekend… Or Did They?


The Toronto Blue Jays, bonkers trade deadline performance and all, still entered last weekend down 4.5 games to the AL East-leading Yankees.  But they had the chance to change that, with three games in the Bronx starting Friday.  And change that they did.

Friday saw a well-pitched game head into extra innings; starters R.A. Dickey and Nathan Eovaldi allowed one run each over seven and six and a third innings, respectively.  After nine, Yankees manager Joe Girardi turned to rookie reliever Branden Pinder, and Pinder rewarded his manager’s loyalty by promptly serving up a solo jack to Jose Bautista.  Toronto won.  3.5 back.

Saturday marked the second start in the Blue Jays career of David Price, acquired from the Tigers at the trade deadline.  He would be facing Ivan Nova, who had been dealing with arm fatigue in recent weeks.  The game was scoreless, until the sixth inning, that is, when Justin Smoak belted a grand slam to break the tie.

Two more Blue Jay runs would be added over the course of as many innnings, Price would pitch seven shutout innings, and the Blue Jays would win again.  2.5 back.

Sunday presented an opportunity for the Yankees to get some of their lead back, with consistent #2 pitcher Masahiro Tanaka hitting the mound.  The Blue Jays sent Marco Estrada to the hill.  Tanaka was plenty good enough to win, only allowing two runs on home runs to Bautista and Josh Donaldson.  But Estrada was better, going six and a third scoreless innings.  The combination of  LaTroy Hawkins, Aaron Sanchez, and Roberto Osuna would not allow a hit the rest of the way, and the Blue Jays completed the weekend sweep.  1.5 back.

Sunday afternoon’s game also featured this piece of abject stupidity, but whatever:

So the AL East looks drastically different today, the complexion of it flipped upside down.  One would assume.

While the Jays have trailed in the division for the majority of this season, numbers, and particularly win-loss records, can be very misleading.

This season, the team north of the border has had the best run differential in Major League Baseball, at +129.  That figure is even better than the one posted by baseball’s best squad, the St. Louis Cardinals.  The Cards are 71-40.  The Jays are 61-52.  Why?  One-run games.

While their run differential has been outstanding, their record in games decided by one run has been atrocious.  At 12-23, they have the second worst record in the sport in these games.  Something called expected win-loss record says the Blue Jays should have been 69-44, given their run differential.  That record would be second best in baseball, only behind St. Louis.  But their performance in one-run games has left them playing catch-up all year.

So what do we chalk the Blue Jays’ tough losses to this season? Straight, dumb luck.  The New York Times‘ Victor Mather explains:

Fans are often suspicious of such teams, contending that they lack “heart” or “clutchiness.” But records in one-run games are largely a matter of luck. Teams that fare poorly in close games are just as likely to fare well in them in the future. Teams that do well in blowouts are just good teams, period.

(There is a team worse than the Jays in one-run games this year: The Oakland A’s are 13-26. Though Oakland is an afterthought this season at 51-62, it has a respectable plus-35 run differential, better than the Rays, Rangers and Twins, all of whom are around .500.)
In their 11-1 run, the Jays have outscored their foes by 67-32, and their run differential now stands at 597 to 468, or plus 129, dwarfing the next best team in the league, the Astros, who are plus 78. The Yankees, who still lead the Jays by a game and a half, are plus 61.

Though they cannot match the Jays, the Yankees are having a much improved season in run differential. Over the last two seasons opponents outscored the Yankees. In 2014, the Yanks were 84-78 while posting a minus 31. In 2013, they were 85-77 and minus 21.

Manager Joe Girardi got a lot of credit for keeping an apparently underwhelming team in contention. Most notably, he managed the team to a 30-16 record in one-run games in 2013. But no such magic is needed this season; the Yankees have the numbers to back up their record.

For every team like the Jays whose true abilities were hidden by a poor record, there is a team that fashions a fine record despite a mediocre run differential.

This is exactly the point I’m trying to articulate: the Blue Jays’ “resurgence” really isn’t one; all there is to their recent success is their performing to their potential… and the trades they made.

At the time of Troy Tulowitzki’s first game with the team, Toronto was a mediocre 50-51.  They won their next two games, and on July 30, pulled their second blockbuster trade of the week, picking up David Price.  Today, they’re 61-52, and with the offense humming as usual and the rotation bolstered, the Jays are looking very, very dangerous.

And here’s the thing: Tulo hasn’t played that well for Toronto.  The career .298 hitter has batted just .244 for the Jays, albeit in a scarce 53 plate appearances; this shouldn’t be anything to worry about.  However, his addition has helped the other batters in Toronto’s ridiculous batting order, and this is partially the reason why the trade for him has been successful.  And Price, in just two starts, has allowed exactly one earned run and helped a pitching staff in desperate need of support.  He wasn’t a bad acquisition, either.

So what does all of this mean for the Yankees?  Jacob Shafer at Bleacher Report wrote about that yesterday:

Well, now it’s three games, but the point is taken. The Yankees, however, need to regroup in a hurry.

Beginning Tuesday, they embark on a six-game road trip that begins with a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians and concludes with a trio of contests north of the border against these same Blue Jays.

If Toronto sweeps, or even wins, that series, it’s probable we’ll have a new leader in the AL East. And the two clubs will meet for four more in New York beginning Sept. 10.

Any Yankees turnaround will begin with the offense, which ranks second in MLB in runs scored (yes, they trail Toronto).

But the starting rotation, which owns an ERA of 4.31, needs to pick up the slack. To that end, how huge would it have been for New York to grab Price from the Detroit Tigers at the deadline, adding him to its arsenal and keeping the stud southpaw away from Toronto?

So this is the one important question: are the Blue Jays the favorites in the AL East?

At this point in the season, I’d have to say yes.  They have enough pitching now, and when it gets combined with that crazy lineup of theirs, the Toronto Blue Jays may just be the scariest team in the American League.  They could make a deep run in October, and it is just about assured that their 22-year playoff drought is about to end.

But one thing is clear: their emergence shouldn’t be a surprise.

Winners and Losers: MLB Trade Deadline Edition


Johnny Cueto (pictured above), David Price, Troy Tulowitzki, and Yoenis Cespedes were all big names to change teams at trade deadline, just to name a few.  This year’s deadline saw an interesting trading climate, as teams that were expected to sell, like the Padres, didn’t, while teams that were not expected to sell did, like the Tigers. Interestingly enough, the main teams that were buyers on July 31 are all in the midst of long playoff droughts; the Blue Jays (since 1993), the Astros (since 2005), and the Mets (since 2006).

And while every year’s trade deadline has interesting deals and intrigue, the most fun part of analyzing the deals is figuring out who the winners and losers were.  So here it is, the MLB trade deadline, complete with winners and losers.

3. Winner: Kansas City Royals

The Royals made two separate deals in the week leading up to the deadline, acquiring pitcher Johnny Cueto from the Reds and second baseman Ben Zobrist from the A’s.  Kansas City and GM Dayton Moore are going all in this year, and no better indication exists of this fact than what they gave up to get Zobrist and Cueto.  Mike Axisa of CBS Sports explains:

In trading for Cueto and Zobrist, the Royals have given up two of their top three prospects (according to Baseball America). Kansas City has hung onto shortstop prospect Raul Mondesi Jr. Left-hander Sean Manaea is ranked by as the No. 56 prospect in the majors. He’s had injury issues with his hip and abdomen (nothing with his arm!) and just reached Class AA after being drafted 34th overall in 2013. Standing 6-foot-5, he can reach the upper 90s with his fastball and showed improved command overall in high A-ball. At 23, reaching the majors sometime in 2016 seems possible. Brooks hasn’t shown much in brief stints with the Royals this season and in 2014, but has averaged 6.9 strikeouts and 1.8 walks over 639 minor-league innings. The A’s could pop him into their rotation now for an extended look.

But these acquisitions are about what the Royals get this year.  In Cueto, they get a dominant starting pitcher (they didn’t have one before) and a major innings eater.  Even with the Royals’ lockdown bullpen, getting to the sixth inning had been a challenge for their starters this season; it won’t be with Cueto.  It’s so important to have good to commanding starting pitching, and having a pitcher of Cueto’s ilk should significantly help the Royals’ chances at their first championship since 1985.  But let’s just hope this doesn’t happen again.

What do the Royals get with Ben Zobrist?  A career .264 hitter who they can play just about anywhere except pitcher and catcher. Zobrist hit second in the lineup yesterday and hit two home runs, helping the Royals to a 7-6 win over the Blue Jays (more on them later).  Another good thing to have come playoff time is the ability to score runs, and when the pitching falls short, being able to still win games.  The Royals did that yesterday, and it will be important to their World Series aspirations to continue scoring runs, runs that will help them continue to win games, a division title, and even a pennant or championship.

3. Loser: Colorado Rockies

This one is pretty simple.  The Rox dealt star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki on July 27, which seems fair enough, considering that they are a struggling team unwilling to spend money.  The return for Tulo? Three pitching prospects… and Jose Reyes.

Reyes has been injury prone throughout his career, and this is only the first reason the move made zero sense for Colorado.  The other reason?  Reyes is making more money than Tulowitzki for each of the next three seasons.  The acquisition of the pitching prospects, namely Castro, was good, but taking on Reyes’ contract was not.

And when the Rockies got Reyes, why didn’t they try to trade him for more prospects?  You may laugh at this assertion in light of the Tulo deal, but Colorado needs more pitching, in the worst way; exactly one pitcher (Boone Logan) on the MLB roster has an ERA under four this year.  Instead, the Rox kept Jose, and will be tied to his contract until 2017.

2. Winner: Toronto Blue Jays

You may not have expected to see the Blue Jays this early in the countdown, but here they are.  However, they are assuredly a winner at the deadline.  Grantland’s Michael Baumann even argues that they are the winners:

I’ve said for years that if the Blue Jays ever realized they’re a big-market team, it could irrevocably change the landscape of the game. The Jays play in an extremely cosmopolitan metro area of more than 5.6 million people (comparable to Houston, Philadelphia, or Washington) and considering that they have 30 million more Canadians to themselves, that Toronto-specific number understates their true commercial and economic reach. Plus, the Jays are owned by Canadian media giant Rogers Communications (think Jonathan Pryce’s character in Tomorrow Never Dies). They could conquer and subjugate Red Sox Nation if they wanted to.

And for once, it’s finally starting to show, as the Jays went out and got the two best players on the market: David Price and Troy Tulowitzki. Even before adding Tulo, Toronto’s offense was already the best in the game, by far, and now the Jays are only two games out of a wild-card spot despite underperforming their run differential by nine games. And it’s not like they only upgraded the top of the lineup and rotation: Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins strengthen the bullpen, while Ben Revere, in addition to having a lovely smile, is a solid on-base guy to plug in left field, even if he has trouble identifying local food. This team is starting to remind me a lot of the 1993 Blue Jays.

Left-handed starter Daniel Norris, probably the best prospect to change hands at the deadline, is a lot of freight to pay for Price, particularly compared to what the Royals gave up for Johnny Cueto, but that’s offset by the degree to which the Blue Jays absolutely bamboozled Colorado for Tulowitzki. A lot of teams got better this week, but Toronto is the winner at the deadline.

They did get better.  You know what they did: they got the best hitter and the best pitcher on the market.  Other than that, they got Mariners reliever Mark Lowe and Phillies outfielder Ben Revere in separate deals.  This one is also easy; the Blue Jays are winners, going for it all this year and giving themselves a shot at their first postseason action in 22 years.

2. Loser: Cincinnati Reds

The Reds traded away Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake to contending teams this deadline (the Royals and the Giants, respectively) without getting too much back in return.  They acquired two prospects in the Cueto trade, and, namely, got Brandon Finnegan from Kansas City. Finnegan projects to be the best player the Reds got in the deal, as the other two prospects they acquired do not have great chances of panning out (one, a pitcher, had Tommy John surgery in 2011, is 25, and just getting back into form now, and the other is a 22-year old AA pitcher).

Then, they decided to deal pitcher Mike Leake to the Giants for prospects Adam Duvall and Keury Mella.  Duvall is almost 27 and has limited action in the majors.  He’s a power hitting first baseman who has hit 26 home runs for the Giants’ AAA team, the Sacramento River Cats, this season.  However, as a corner infielder, he is now stuck behind Todd Frazier and Joey Votto.  Mella is a hyped pitching prospect who, at just 21, has a good chance to be a solid big-league pitcher.

But here’s the issue; they could’ve dealt Aroldis Chapman and/or Jay Bruce, and they didn’t.  While they got five prospects from two different teams, there is a good chance only one or two of them pan out.  They could’ve gotten more by trading more major league talent, but they didn’t.  They lost the deadline.

1. Winner: Houston Astros

The Astros did everything right at this year’s deadline.  They got help where they needed it most, starting pitching, by acquiring Scott Kazmir from the A’s.  They weren’t done there, though, as they picked up outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitcher Mike Fiers from the Brewers for multiple prospects.  While Houston gave up quite a bit in the way of these prospects, they are able to allow themselves to part with them because of the depth they have accumulated on the farm.

Let Joon Lee of SB Nation explain:

The Astros lost and lost and lost for so many years to accumulate seemingly endless depth in the farm system. While a lot of that prospect depth is now finally culminating in major league success for players such as Dallas Keuchel and Carlos Correa, the team’s minor league depth gave the organization the personnel flexibility to acquire big assets to prime themselves for a competitive run at the playoffs. Even after the team’s trades for Gomez, Kazmir and Fiers, the Astros still possess 14 prospects graded 50 or better (on a 20-80 prospect scale) according to The Astros’ prospect depth allowed them to not only position themselves to succeed in the short term, but also to continue to build towards the future.

But Houston is not in the position to buy at the deadline without the team’s moves in the offseason: the signings of Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek and Colby Rasmus, the trades for Evan Gattis and Hank Conger and the waiver claim of Will Harris. The moves allowed Luhnow to balance future financial flexibility while positioning the team to compete in 2015. While many did not recognize it at the time, the Houston Astros had one of the best offseasons in years.

He’s right: the Astros can give up prospects.  They’ll still have plenty more.

1. Loser: San Diego Padres

Duh; the Pods didn’t do anything.  They could have dealt either Justin or Melvin Upton; they didn’t.  They could’ve traded star closer Craig Kimbrel; they didn’t.  They could have moved starters Tyson Ross and/or James Shields and/or Andrew Cashner; they didn’t.  They could have re-stacked their farm system; they didn’t.

However, the most hilarious train of thought that any GM had at this year’s deadline came from theirs, A.J. Preller.  Ken Rosenthal reports:

Yes, he actually thinks that.  San Diego is 7 games back of the second Wild Card spot in the National League as of today, August 2.  They also happen to be 10.5 games ahead of the Phillies.  They aren’t making the playoffs.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments section.

(c) 2015

How Much Can Troy Tulowitzki Really Help the Blue Jays?

Late last night, the Toronto Blue Jays pulled off the blockbuster of the trade season by acquiring Troy Tulowitzki, as first reported by Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal:

Later, Rosenthal also reported the full terms of the deal, including who the Rockies would be acquiring in the agreement:

Those three prospects were right-handed pitchers Miguel Castro, Jeff Hoffman, and Jesus Tinoco.

Tulowitzki has had a very solid season for the Rockies, hitting .300 and making the National League All-Star team.  The Rockies had been looking to trade him for the last couple of seasons, but they were unable to find the value they wanted.  They also wanted to trade Tulo to a team he wanted to play for; this explains, at least partially, why he was never traded to a team like the Mets.  However, according to Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan, the Rockies notified Tulowitzki (and his teammates) of the trade in a rather dishonorable fashion:

There was always an agreement between Colorado Rockies owner Dick Monfort and his star shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki, spoken out loud so as to be abundantly clear: If the Rockies were to trade Tulowitzki, they were going to ask for his blessing first. Then came the blockbuster deal that sent him to the Toronto Blue Jays late Monday night, and Tulowitzki, according to sources inside the Rockies’ clubhouse, found out not via a phone call but when teary-eyed manager Walt Weiss yanked him from their game in the ninth inning.

The story of how Tulowitzki was treated, relayed by people aggrieved with his departure and how the Rockies broke their word to the longtime face of their franchise, is actually a fitting end to a multiyear trade-him-or-don’t saga that wound up with Tulowitzki fetching his passport and heading to Canada along with LaTroy Hawkins for shortstop Jose Reyes and a trio of right-handed pitching prospects: Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco.

Fearful Tulowitzki requesting a trade publicly would make the Rockies look weak, the team asked him to play good soldier, which he obliged, according to club sources. The organization’s dysfunction, from the power struggles between former co-GMs Dan O’Dowd and Bill Geivett to a hands-on owner in Monfort whose public comments about players often rubbed them the wrong way, was all too evident, not just to Tulowitzki but the team’s young core of Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, D.J. Lemahieu and Corey Dickerson.

The stunned silence of players early Tuesday morning, when word of the trade came down, spoke to the disappointment of losing Tulowitzki. As the Rockies stashed him in Weiss’ office to keep him from addressing a deal that early Tuesday remained unconfirmed by either team, the truth of Tulowitzki’s exit filtered into the clubhouse and left the players even more gobsmacked, according to sources.

So what can Tulowitzki do for the Blue Jays that Jose Reyes couldn’t?  Let’s find out.

Invariably, the first aspect of this trade that arises given the players involved is health.  Interestingly enough, in each player’s full seasons, Reyes has averaged more games played (121) than Tulowitzki (114). Also, Tulo hasn’t played the last three seasons on artificial turf, like Reyes has in Toronto.  Moreover, Tulowitzki has had multiple lower-body related injuries in the past, such as a torn quadriceps tendon in 2008 and a left hip injury in 2014.  The artificial turf north of the border won’t help matters.

However, Tulowitzki adds yet another home run hitting presence to the already stacked Blue Jays lineup.  I’ve put together a projected lineup for the Blue Jays, with the addition of Tulowitzki and the subtraction of Reyes.  Here it is:

  1. Kevin Pillar- 7 HR
  2. Josh Donaldson- 24 HR
  3. Troy Tulowitzki- 12 HR
  4. Jose Bautista- 21 HR
  5. Edwin Encarnacion- 19 HR
  6. Justin Smoak- 9 HR
  7. Russell Martin- 14 HR
  8. Ezequiel Carrera- 3 HR
  9. Devon Travis- 7 HR

So, except for the 8-hole, there is at least a decent home run threat at every spot in the lineup.  And the Blue Jays even have the option of taking Carrera, their starting left fielder, out and putting Chris Colabello into that spot; Colabello has hit nine home runs this season. While Tulowitzki has spent his career in the ultimate home run hitter’s ballpark (Coors Field), Rogers Centre should not be much, if any, of a deterrent; only six less home runs have been hit there than at Coors.

However, they will lose the stolen base threat of Reyes.  Other than Kevin Pillar, Jose was the only threat the Blue Jays had to swipe a bag. The Blue Jays will miss this, but losing him does not mean the team will stop scoring runs; the opposite is the case.  As of July 28, Toronto led all of baseball with 528 runs scored, a whole 72 more than the second place team, the Yankees.  They will most likely expand upon this margin with Tulowitzki, provided he stays healthy and in the lineup.

I still don’t think this was a great move.  Why?  The Blue Jays simply do not need hitting.  They need pitching, as their staff ERA is the eighth highest in baseball.  NBC HardballTalk’s Matthew Pouliot agrees with me:

And if the Blue Jays did go get a bat, it figured to be an outfielder. Preferably one who hits left-handed. 111 of the Jays’ 130 homers this year have come from right-handed hitters, and while they’ve gotten solid production from every spot, the positions on the team with the lowest OPSs to date are left field and center field.

Then there are the Rockies. The Rockies always need pitching. Their most effective starter this year has been 28-year-old Chris Rusin, a Cubs castoff with a 3-4 record and a 4.13 ERA in 65 1/3 innings. Overall, their starters have a 5.12 ERA, which ranks 29th in MLB ahead of only the Phillies. They’re dead last with a 1.52 WHIP and a 1.8 K:BB ratio.

The other thing the Rockies always seem to need to do is to get cheaper. They don’t really like spending money. They’re not very good at it when they do.

None of this would seem to be a likely recipe for a Troy Tulowitzki-for-Jose Reyes trade. To say this one came out of nowhere would be an understatement. No one would have guessed the Blue Jays were in the market for a shortstop. And no one would have imagined that when the Rockies finally traded Tulo, it would be for a player who has a higher annual salary.

While I completely agree with this viewpoint, we must be fair to the other players in the deal.  While the Blue Jays gave up three pitching prospects, they did get Rockies’ reliever LaTroy Hawkins in the deal. Hawkins has had experience closing out games, as he did in stints with the 2013 Mets and last year’s Colorado team.  And he will probably be the closer, as the Blue Jays have had many this season (one of their closers this year was Miguel Castro; he plays for the Rockies now).  Roberto Osuna has been the 9th inning man of late and has performed capably, but Hawkins has been effective over a longer period of time. He should get the nod to finish games.

So what does this all mean?  We won’t know until the Blue Jays are done dealing.  The Tulo move probably means that they will also look to get a starting pitcher, as they have already fortified their bullpen and lineup.  Trading for the best hitting shortstop in the game makes an already-stacked starting lineup that much more difficult to face. It’s a “rich get richer” type of move, and it’s one that will probably lead to other moves as well.

Finally, let’s not forget another, more far-fetched possibility: the Blue Jays trading Tulowitzki.  It’s not completely out of the question, and while it’s unlikely, it isn’t impossible.  The Rockies are thinking of flipping him to get other assets (probably minor leaguers), and the Blue Jays could do the same with Tulo.  But if they don’t, they get one of the best hitters in the game, in his prime, in a home run hitting ball park.

If he can stay healthy, that is.



MLB Season Preview

NL East

Team W L
Washington Nationals 96 66
Miami Marlins 86 76
New York Mets 84 78
Atlanta Braves 78 84
Philadelphia Phillies 64 98


Discussion: The Nats win this division easily due to the ridiculous starting rotation and their above-average line-up.  The Marlins take a leap forward as Jose Fernandez returns from his Tommy John surgery to put forth a solid second-half of the season.  The Mets improve over last year with the solid addition of Michael Cuddyer and improvements to the bullpen as well.  The Braves stay around the same as they finished last year because their key gains match their key losses.  They are very similar to how they were last year.  And the Phillies are just going to be really, really bad and that’s that.  Their rotation, lineup, and bullpen are all terrible.  They will be the worst team in baseball.

NL Central

Team W L
Pittsburgh Pirates 89 73
St. Louis Cardinals 87 75
Chicago Cubs 81 81
Milwaukee Brewers 81 81
Cincinnati Reds 69 93


Discussion: The Pirates bring back many of the same players from last year, but the addition of Francisco Cervelli behind the plate will help its pitching staff take the next step.  Pedro Alvarez rebounds from a poor season in 2014, leading the Bucs to their first division title since 1992.  The Cardinals will be there; they always are.  They haven’t gotten much better, however, and the division around them has.  They will fall slightly.  The Cubs had a very solid offseason, and look for prospects Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant (when he comes up) to have good campaigns.  The Brewers stay where they were last season, and Jonathan Lucroy has an MVP-caliber season.  Finally, the Reds have a poor season, suffering as the division pushes forward around them.

NL West

Team W L
San Diego Padres 88 74
Los Angeles Dodgers 84 78
San Francisco Giants 81 81
Colorado Rockies 72 90
Arizona Diamondbacks 69 93


Discussion:  The Padres take a leap forward this season, as the additions of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, James Shields and others catapult the Pods to the division pennant.  The Dodgers take a step back with the losses of Hanley Ramirez and Dan Haren.  The Giants, in an odd-numbered year, take a step back as they lose Pablo Sandoval and, for the beginning of the season, Hunter Pence.  The Rockies and Diamondbacks, two rebuilding teams, round out the division basement, each losing at least 90 games.

AL East

Team W L
Baltimore Orioles 85 77
New York Yankees 82 80
Toronto Blue Jays 81 81
Boston Red Sox 80 82
Tampa Bay Rays 69 93


Discussion: This division only features one sure-fire basement team (the Rays).  The Red Sox improve off of last year, but weaknesses at pitcher and catcher will serve to hold them back.  The Blue Jays, besides the addition of Russell Martin, are not as strong as last year with the losses of Juan Francisco and Melky Cabrera.  The Yankees; who knows?  They could be anywhere from 60 to 90 wins, but on paper, they are an around .500 team.  And the Orioles, this year’s weakest division winner, will have just enough to win the division, along with the comeback of Manny Machado.

AL Central

Team W L
Cleveland Indians 89 73
Detroit Tigers 87 75
Kansas City Royals 83 79
Chicago White Sox 81 81
Minnesota Twins 69 93


Discussion: The Twins carry the bottom of this division, as they are still awaiting the development of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, who are starting the season at class AA.  The White Sox improve off of last year’s showing with additions of Melky Cabrera, David Robertson and Jeff Samardzija help improve the team, but they are still weak at second base, right field and in the bullpen.  The Royals lose pieces from last year’s team, namely DH Billy Butler and ace James Shields; they take a small step back.  Finally, the Indians take a leap of faith to the top of the division, needing all-around solid seasons from Michael Brantley and Michael Bourn to do so.  The Tigers finish second, and have to be concerned over the plight of Justin Verlander.

AL West

Team W L
Seattle Mariners 95 67
Oakland A’s 86 76
Los Angeles Angels 84 78
Houston Astros 83 79
Texas Rangers 67 95


Discussion: The Mariners lead this division, as the addition of Nelson Cruz helps alleviate the pressure of Robinson Cano to produce.  Also, Felix Hernandez wins his second Cy Young leading one of baseball’s best pitching staffs.  The A’s are a mystery, but they will most likely be good enough for second in this division.  The Angels are also a mystery, but I have them behind the A’s because it remains to be seen if Josh Hamilton can figure himself out and if Albert Pujols can have another good season.  The Astros will be a surprise; they take a leap forward this year with the additions of Jed Lowrie and Evan Gattis.  Finally, the Rangers will easily finish last in the division after the season-ending injury to Yu Darvish.






Wild Card Game: Cardinals over Marlins





Wild Card Game: Tigers over A’s


(2)Pirates vs (3)Padres: Pirates in 5

(1)Nationals vs (4)Cardinals: Nationals in 4

(1)Nationals) vs (2)Pirates: Pirates in 7

Explanation: The Nationals easily dispose of the Cardinals in the first round, and the Pirates and Padres play a tightly contested series that goes the distance.  In a  7-game series, the pitching of the Pirates catches up to that of the Nats.  Also, their outfield (Marte, Polanco, and McCutchen) will be this year’s version of the Royals’ outfield last year.  The Pirates win the NL.


(1)Mariners vs (4)Tigers: Mariners in 4

(2)Indians vs (3)Orioles: Orioles in 5

(1)Mariners vs (3)Orioles: Mariners in 6

Explanation: The Mariners’ pitching coupled with enough offense gets them past the experienced Tigers.  The experience of the Orioles, along with the return of Manny Machado, leads them past the Indians.  Then, the Mariners defeat the Orioles in a solid championship series.  They take the pennant.

World Series: (2)Pirates vs (1)Mariners: This series will be tight.  However, the Mariners’ pitching, especially in a three or four-man rotation, allows few runs.  Also, Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano have sold series, and the talent on each side in too much for the Bucs.  Mariners win in 6.

Most importantly, this season will be fun.  Your guess is as good as mine as to who wins.