Here we are sitting middle of June, and the Jays are still pacing the AL East with a 41-30 record, they have a 4.5 game lead over both the New York Yankees, and Baltimore Orioles so with the trade deadline 45 days away of course its time to start speculating what the team will do. Most baseball pundits have the Jays pegged as buyers at the deadline believing they will still be in contention, and I have to agree with that assessment. Most Jays fans are waiting for this team to crash back to earth, but there offense is the real deal, and there pitching is doing what it needs putting up quality starts, and eating innings. Take a look back at the standings today in 2013 and you will see the Red Sox in first with a 42-29 record, they would finish the season at 97-65 and a World Series. Now I don’t want to get to far ahead of myself by saying the Jays are going to win it all, but a berth in the postseason doesn’t seem out of the question.
There has been a lot of talk about the Jays going out to try and land one of Jeff Samardzija, or David Price as they need a true ace in the rotation, but do they really? The Jays have the second best starters ERA in the AL currently tied with the Los Angeles Angels at 3.67, which has been more than serviceable to this point so why the need to pay the exorbitant price that a top line starter. The Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians qualified for the post season last year with a starters ERA of 3.99, and 3.92 respectively so it looks like the Jays are in good shape but will it hold up, most likely not. Not that I believe the Jays are in for a giant regression to the norm, Beurhle is really the only outlier here but his career ERA is in line with the rest of the team, the concern lies in Hutchinson never having pitched close to 180 innings (career high 149.1 innings in 2011) he’s on pace to throw 176 this season while coming off Tommy John surgery, and Marcus Stroman only having three big league starts under his belt.
For those reasons alone the Jays need to add another number 2-3 starter in the rotation, someone who will eat up innings and pitch to a mid three ERA. With that in mind I also think it will be hard for the Jays to find a willing partner with the assets they need in the American League, teams that will be sellers are already featuring younger starting pitching which they would be unwilling to part with, or teams will be clinging on to contention. Taking a look at the NL is a different story however, there will be several sellers with pitchers entering the final year of there contract, will be a free agent in 2016. Looking at this I found five pitchers who the Jays should look at, Jason Hammel, AJ Burnett, Ian Kennedy, Bartolo Colon, and Bronson Arroyo. All five of these guys will give you innings through the rest of the season pitching to an ERA in the mid 3’s to 4.00, have pitched in the AL, and more importantly have pitched in the postseason. While none of these are the sexy trade that fans may want they make the most sense for the Jays, all of them are either free agents at the end of this year, or under control for next season. The Jays will not have to give up the farm or part ways with some of there top prospects to land one of these players and that is what really is key here. If the Jays are able to land a starter at the deadline without having to lose any of Sanchez, Stroman, or Norris they will come out winning. If I were AA my first target would be Bartolo Colon, he’s one year removed pitching for Oakland, and you have done business with the Mets before, AA might be able to land Colon with a package of Liam Hendricks and Deck McGuire.
I know fans want them to go all in this year and land a David Price but you would be sacrificing the future and the chance at continued success. The Rangers, Athletics, Rays, Cardinals, and more have continued to win by developing young starters year in and year out and a trade for an “Ace” that isn’t a free agent at the end of the year will cost the Jays 4 of there top 15 prospects. Remember what Kansas gave up for Shields and he is half of what David Price is, the starting point for Samardzija was Hutchinson and one of Stroman/Sanchez. Is one chance at a World Series this year worth another 15 years of waiting? Not to me it isn’t the idea of losing Stroman, Sanchez, Norris, or Davis is more than the Jays farm could recover from. Also the idea of seeing the starting rotation in 2016 on opening day read Hutchinson, Stroman, Sanchez, Hoffman, Norris could be something more special than one year of David Price.