TORONTO – Down to hours remaining before Monday’s 4 p.m. ET trade deadline arrives, an interesting question is how transformative do the Toronto Blue Jays want to get in bolstering their roster for a run at the post-season.
The obvious need, even after the acquisition of right-hander Taijuan Walker on Thursday, is for another starting pitcher, as there’s still one more hole in their rotation, set to be covered by a bullpen day on Tuesday.
But picking up another starter won’t be easy, as shown by Atlanta’s acquisition of lefty Tommy Milone from the Baltimore Orioles, who pulled the chute with a pair of subtraction trades before the Blue Jays rallied for a 6-5 walk-off win on Teoscar Hernandez’s two-run single.
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Milone is pitching well right now, but under normal circumstances is more of a depth/insurance type of add for a team seeking to bolster itself for the post-season. But as Alex Anthopoulos, Atlanta’s president of baseball operations, pointed out on a conference call, “there aren’t a lot of sellers. With the expanded playoffs, even those teams on the outside looking in, they’re close. There’s not a lot of inventory out there.”
Hence, there’s “a big market” for Texas Rangers starter Lance Lynn, according to one industry source, and while the Blue Jays have checked in on the righty, that doesn’t necessarily means there’s a fit.
The Rangers are said to like the Blue Jays’ young catchers, but subtracting from that duo wouldn’t make sense without another complement add, and Jason Castro, the best option out there, is reportedly headed from the Los Angeles Angels to the San Diego Padres.
A second source wondered if they might build a package around Lourdes Gurriel Jr., whose name was bandied about in trade talks over the winter, while a third source said the Blue Jays have shown some interest in Angels outfielder Brian Goodwin, a left-handed bat who can play all three outfield spots.
Lynn along with Dylan Bundy of the Angels, another trade candidate, both come with one additional year of contractual control, which obviously raises the acquisition cost, and then there’s the super-car possibility of Mike Clevinger, under control through the 2022 season with the requisite price tag.
Multiple top prospects in the Jordan Groshans/Simeon Woods Richardson vein, maybe with a big-league piece, too, would be needed to pull that off, and it’s reasonable to debate if now’s the time to make such a trade when they can add starters via free agency this winter.
At the same time, a case can be made that strengthening themselves up defensively might make more sense, as the expanded rosters make a month of bullpen games – Shun Yamaguchi is capable of serving as the bulk arm – more feasible.
Andrelton Simmons, another possibility from the stripping down Angels, was reported as a possibility Saturday, and Orioles shortstop Jose Iglesias would make some sense covering for Bo Bichette, who added grounders Sunday to his careful resumption of baseball activities.
Goodwin, who has been rated as an above average defender in advanced metrics during previous seasons although his results have been more mixed this year, would help the club’s outfield defence. But for impact in that regard, Jackie Bradley Jr. of the Boston Red Sox, who dealt Mitch Moreland to the aggressively pushing Padres, would be a game-changer.
The difference plus defenders can make was evident again Sunday, when Iglesias beat out a two-out soft chopper over Anthony Bass’s head in the ninth, allowing Rio Ruiz to score. A defender like Simmons or Iglesias wouldn’t necessarily have gotten the out, but would have had a better chance at it than Joe Panik.
That put the Blue Jays down 5-4 but Cole Sulser surrendered a walk-off hit for the second time in the series. After Panik’s leadoff walk, Reese McGuire’s sacrifice bunt and Cavan Biggio’s pop out, Randal Grichuk and Travis Shaw both walked before Hernandez ripped a groundball through the 5-6 hole to secure an 11th win for the Blue Jays in 14 outings.
The Blue Jays are 6-0 versus the Orioles this season, despite Tanner Roark surrendering a 3-1 lead during a three-run sixth capped by Ryan Mountcastle’s second homer of the game, a two-run job. Rowdy Tellez’s two-out RBI single in the eighth tied things up 4-4 before Gurriel stranded men on the corners.
Such resiliency has been a trademark for the Blue Jays, who shook off several late-game losses earlier in the season, something coach Dante Bichette says “usually takes the heart out of a team, especially a young team if there’s two or three in a row.”
“We did have those early, tight games where we lost them late. This team just amazingly showed up every day after those tough losses,” Bichette continued. “And that’s been the key to me. When you walk around in that clubhouse, it’s like we’re panicking way more than they are. They really believe in themselves and you’re like, wow, they really believe in themselves every day. So all those tight losses early never fazed them and that’s why we’re in a position we’re in.”