Whether Blue Jays Are Buyers Or Sellers, Starting Pitching Is Needed

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.


15 Responses to “Whether Blue Jays Are Buyers Or Sellers, Starting Pitching Is Needed”

  1. 1 wally July 20, 2012 at 12:03 am

    We new at the start of this season we needed pitching help. Now we have every reason to give up a couple of our kids to get help. That still leaves us with lots in the minors. I can’t believe we haven’t done anything to help this team. If we were to make the playoffs anything can happen. But if we do nothing as a fan I’m upset. We need help just to finish the season.

    • 2 budyzer13 July 20, 2012 at 12:12 am

      I think the unbelievably steep price is stalling any trades for pitching and every playoff “contender” is looking for arms. Not to mention the fact that the whole league knows we are in dire need of starters and are most likely asking for lots of top prospects from AA

  2. 3 DaJays78 July 6, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Good read, I agree. I’d definitely take Garza now but Greinke should be given a blank cheque.

    BTW I visit most Jays blogs, DJF, Tao, Sportsnet etc and I must say this blog is pretty tight most of the time.

    Keep it up.

  3. 4 budyzer13 July 6, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Hamels and greinke are for teams that are going for it this year, the jays are not in that mode. Garza is over hyped but his extra year of control is a bonus as is wandy Rodriguez. Guthrie is not a legitimate AL east pitcher maybe a number 5 guy but we have those. Morrow and possibly hutch will be back at the end of august so if the jays can pull of a deal or two then the wild card is possible. And that my friend would at least give us blue jay fans a wildcard game and a tasty appetizer to future playoff games. You are very right in saying the jays must sign a elite FA pitcher and greinke would be my first choice. If AA does nothing again this off season then he is hopelessly misguided in his ideology and the fan base will mutiny

    • 5 DaJays78 July 6, 2012 at 2:41 pm

      I agree, Hamels or Greinke’s pricetag for the deadline acquisition will be too much for AA but in the offseason Greinke has to be targetted aggresively.

      • 6 budyzer13 July 6, 2012 at 3:55 pm

        Fully! greinke is a young elite guy that could pitch in the east successfully. AA better be making his case to ownership and beeston all year long to sign this guy to whatever it takes and getting garza now will make us more attractive in the off-season.

  4. 7 the Feds July 6, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Signing free agent Shaun Marcum in the offseason would help stabilise the rotation.

    He’s very good, he knows the club well and he shouldn’t be too expensive. Yes, it means we are relying on both Morrow and Romero to pitch as co-aces to make the post-season in 2013 or ’14, but signing Marcum vs a Hamels or Greinke will likely represent much better value.

    • 8 budyzer13 July 6, 2012 at 2:40 pm

      I agree with giving marcum a look but I don’t agree with your Romero co-ace evaluation. Romero benefitted from a lot of luck on babip last year and had command issues his whole career people just don’t remember. I think next year you will see morrow separate himself and become the true ace of the staff with Romero being #3 behind whoever we sign or trade for. They better atlas get a number 2 type pitcher!

  5. 9 chief00 July 5, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Ack. Of course Guthrie and Blanton offer significantly more stamina than CV. Skills-wise, though, it may be a draw.

  6. 10 chief00 July 4, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    We’re driving ourselves crazy with speculation, aren’t we?

    I don’t think Guthrie or Blanton offer anything substantially better than (or even different from, for that matter) Carlos Villanueva. He’s thrown six innings of shutout ball (7 K, 0 BB) as I compose this, which is his third good start in a row. Laffey’s also done pretty well.

    There are two key questions as I see it. If the Jays do nothing, what happens? If the Jays do something, what do they do? The second is more complicated than the first, so let’s tackle them in order.

    If they do nothing, they falter. I don’t think the offense can continue at this rate, and I don’t think the staff fillers are good enough to maintain this level of effectiveness. So what, I say. Big deal, I say. Sure, I’d rather they win than lose but staying the course is more important than a quick fix. So, am I advocating a ‘stand pat’ position? Hardly. They needed to do something anyways, because this clearly wasn’t a playoff team even before the injuries. They still need to do something.

    So, what can TOR do in order to, (1) stay the course and (2) help both now and later? If they don’t/can’t do something now, it shifts the focus to the winter meetings and FA time. AA prefers to trade and develop within, which decreases the likelihood of FA moves. It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s now or then, but they run the risk of alienating a lot of fans if other teams do something while they do nothing. Hence AA’s statement. So a move now is both a good team move and a good PR move.

    They had Edwin Jackson and traded him for CF help. (I’d rather have Rasmus than EJax anyways, even with all the pitching woes.) They lost out on Mat Latos and Gio Gonzalez. They didn’t win the Yu Sweepstakes. They didn’t sign Buehrle or Wilson or anyone else, even though they needed pitching then. I infer that they deferred intentionally.

    There are plenty of pitchers who would be a good fit but let’s assume that not all of them are available. Several very good pitchers are/will be available (Greinke, Hamels, Wandy, and Garza are the focus of most conversations right now; more names will be added), but there are undoubtedly a number of pitchers whose availability will surprise most people. That said, almost every team is looking for pitching which drives up the price and thins the herd.

    Wandy’s 33. He might help now, but not so much later. Hamels will require a king’s ransom to acquire and then another king’s ransom to keep. Greinke’s a good possibility if they can sign him. Garza’s too costly for what he offers. Who does that leave? I don’t know, but AL East pitchers can be ruled out unless there’s a three-way deal. (AA’s brokerage of the Rasmus deal still impresses me.) I expect almost everyone else is fair game if the price is right.

    The original questions have given way to another: ‘What price is AA willing to pay to take the next step?’ The long and short of it is that AA needs to make a move or two, and he’ll probably need to break some of his own rules to do it.

    • 11 AL Eastbound (@ALEastbound) July 5, 2012 at 8:31 pm

      I have never hated seeing Villanueva in the rotation (as a 5th starter of course) as he seems to battle and can gut his way through 5 innings – more guts than stuff.

      Ha, I wish we had EJax AND Rasmus this season although Jackson is pitching WAY WAY above what his peripherals suggest and he has sort of always been an underachiever.

      Maybe it is possible AA brokers another trade this deadline to help us down the stretch without sacrificing much of the farm. Our schedule looks absolutely BRUTAL after the AS break. Something like 22 games against teams UNDER .500, the rest vs tough contenders.

      I don’t see it this year but the focus has to be 2013 and not beyond, we need the arms for next season.

      • 12 budyzer13 July 6, 2012 at 4:07 pm

        Effective pitching has to be the jays target and I think it is. if Alvarez and Hutchison were in New Hampshire and we had another established arm or two in the rotation it would eliminate the problem the jays are facing now no one to call up. Plus drabek will be gone for atleast half the year next season and more likely almost all of it. Why is there such a shortage of pitching it seems in MLB ?

    • 13 budyzer13 July 6, 2012 at 2:52 pm

      Even if this isn’t the year and it isn’t the jays still need pitching to bridge the gap between the guys in low A ball. And that’s hoping a few of them make it and don’t flame out. AA needs to figure out who he is going to run with out of our top pitching prospects and trade the rest for guys we need now. Or save prospects and sign elite FA pitchers which may be the reason he deferred on the FA’s last year to get to the guys on the market thus year.

      • 14 Goose July 6, 2012 at 4:40 pm

        as the article suggested, we are missing like a full crop (1-2 years) of major league caliber pitching.

        I’ll take the easy way out and blame JP Ricciardi!

  1. 1 Blue Jays Series Recap – Splitting With The Royals « AL Eastbound & Down Trackback on July 5, 2012 at 10:35 pm

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