Jays GM's pre-deadline moves improve club in short-term | Baseball | CBC Sports

MLBJays GM's pre-deadline moves improve club in short-term

Posted: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 | 05:35 PM

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With Seattle this season, new Blue Jays relief pitcher Steve Delabar struck out 47 batters in 37 2/3 innings. More importantly, he's not eligible for arbitration until 2015 or for free agency until 2018. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) With Seattle this season, new Blue Jays relief pitcher Steve Delabar struck out 47 batters in 37 2/3 innings. More importantly, he's not eligible for arbitration until 2015 or for free agency until 2018. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

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Toronto Blue Jays fans eager to see the team in the post-season need to be realistic and appreciate that GM Alex Anthopoulos addressed the club's most glaring need (pitching) with his pre-deadline trades for a pair of relievers, and has improved the team for the short-term.

You can never have enough pitching.

Or, in the case of Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, you can never have enough controllable, young pitching.

In three deals prior to Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET trade deadline, the Canadian GM added four pitchers to the Jays' injury ravaged bullpen.

And the fact that three of these hurlers - J.A. Happ, Brad Lincoln and Steve Delabar - will be under team control beyond this season, is a clear indication that Anthopoulos is thinking past the final two months of the 2012 campaign. 

With the Jays just five games out of the final American League wild-card spot, many of the team's playoff-starved fans were disappointed in the deadline deals. They wanted Anthopoulos to land a top-of-the-rotation starter like Josh Johnson, Zack Greinke or Matt Garza.

These fans need to be reminded, however, that the price for an ace at the trade deadline is astronomical and that the Jays are one game below .500. They will also have to leapfrog five teams to claim that final wild-card position - a daunting task when you consider that after Wednesday's contest, they will play 36 consecutive games against teams ahead of them in the standings.

So, while fans are understandably eager to see the Jays in the post-season, they need to be realistic and appreciate that Anthopoulos has addressed the club's most glaring need (pitching) and has improved the team for the short-term.

Here's a review of the Jays' deadline transactions:

1. July 20, 2012: Blue Jays deal Francisco Cordero, Ben Francisco and four prospects to the Houston Astros for J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter.

Happ, a starter with the Astros, should be in the Jays' rotation, but aside from one bad inning, the 29-year-old lefty has looked good out of the bullpen. Lyon, a free agent after the season, has struck out six batters in three innings in three late-game appearances. Carpenter has tossed 5-2/3 scoreless innings for AAA Las Vegas.

Few Jays fans lamented the loss of Cordero or Francisco, but the four prospects - Asher Wojciechowski, Joe Musgrove, David Rollins and Carlos Perez - weren't just throw-ins. Ranked the Jays' No. 10 prospect by Baseball America, Wojciechowski, a six-foot-four right-hander, is the most likely to develop into a solid big leaguer.

2. July 31, 2012: Blue Jays trade Travis Snider to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Brad Lincoln.

Shuttled back and forth between the minors and the big league club since 2008, Snider, who had three homers in 10 games with the Jays this season, is still just 24 and many believe that with the opportunity to play every day, he'll blossom into a middle-of-the-order power threat.

With his velocity up across the board, the six-foot, 210-pound Lincoln has made five starts and 23 relief appearances and owns a solid 2.73 ERA this season. Not eligible for arbitration until 2015 or for free agency until 2018, Lincoln, who will pitch out of the Jays bullpen, is the type of promising and controllable hurler that Anthopoulos adores. Don't be surprised if Lincoln becomes a starter in the future.

3. July 31, 2012: Blue Jays trade Eric Thames to the Seattle Mariners for Steve Delabar.

Thames's paltry .243 batting average, combined with his defensive ineptitude, in 46 games to start the season, earned him a demotion to AAA Las Vegas on May 29.

Originally drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2003, Delbar was out of baseball in 2010 after sustaining an elbow injury. But after a year on the sidelines, the six-foot-five right-hander signed with the Mariners in 2011. This season he has struck out 47 batters in 37 2/3 innings. Like Lincoln, he's not eligible for arbitration until 2015 or for free agency until 2018.

With these deals, the Jays have added valuable arms that should help them in the short-term. Prior to the 2011 campaign, I predicted Snider would club 30 home runs that season. I still believe he's capable of this. So the Jays paid a high price for Lincoln, but the deal illustrates the premium that clubs have to pay for promising, pre-arbitration pitchers.

That said, with these transactions, the Jays have addressed some of their pitching inadequacies and have improved their team. The million-dollar question is, are they improved enough to claim one of the AL wild-card spots?

The answer is, probably not. Prior to the season, I forecast that the Los Angeles Angels and Tampa Bay Rays would be in the playoffs and I still anticipate this will be the case.
Already favourites to nab one of the wild-card positions, the Angels landed former Cy Young Award winner Greinke before the deadline.

And by acquiring Francisco Liriano, Brett Myers and Kevin Youkilis, Chicago White Sox general manager Ken Williams also dramatically improved his AL Central-leading club. By the end of the season, however, the Detroit Tigers - who shipped their top pitching prospect Jacob Turner to Miami for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante - will likely overtake the White Sox.

But the White Sox, Tigers and Red Sox will all be factors in the wild-card race, while it's doubtful that the Oakland A's and Baltimore Orioles, who did little to improve their clubs prior to the deadline, will continue to contend.

With 29 of their remaining 59 contests against teams ahead of them in the wild-card standings - plus four games against the AL Central-leading White Sox - the Jays will have plenty of opportunities to make up ground. But passing five teams is a daunting task, even with slugger Jose Bautista and starter Brandon Morrow slated to return in August.

Over the season's final two months, Jays fans should witness an improved club. But given the team's record and place in the wild-card standings, the Rogers Centre faithful will likely have to be content with watching the Jays play meaningful games in September for the first time since 1993 and in the knowledge that their beloved club will be better in 2013.

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