The Jays are on a roll. This might an understatement. They are on absolute fire. Everything on this team is clicking right now. When you have Ryan Goins belting three-run homeruns in key times you know things are going just a little too smoothly. Up and down this lineup everything is firing on all cylinders. You know at some point that this has to slow down. They have holes on this team that will hopefully be filled before the gravy train of runs out of steam.
What do the Jays require to make a real run at a division title? They need a top level starter, a closer, and a utility player. Reyes is injury prone. Bautista still doesn’t look right throwing. Colabello is a sore spot in the field. There is a team in the American League that have all of these things, and could be selling at the deadline. The Oakland A’s.
Scott Kazmir, Tyler Clippard, and Ben Zobrist all in the final year of their contracts. The A’s are a miserable 13 games under .500 and could be looking to deal. Kazmir would instantly become the Jays ace. He has been extremely reliable over his time in Oakland, and can match-up with any pitcher in the AL East currently. Clippard is a solid closer. He throws strikes, and has had a history of closing over the past two years in Oakland and Washington. Zobrist is an ultimate utility player. He can play nearly every position on the field. Having a high on-base percentage and can hit in every part of the lineup. Best part about it. You don’t have to take on that much salary. Reasonable contracts without any term.
What do the Jays have to give up? Well, these are three valuable pieces. This would be a costly trade. It wouldn’t cost them Stroman or Sanchez. But it might cost them Norris, Pompey, and Hoffman. I know that’s a huge return. But look at last year’s deadline and what yielded Lester, Price, and Samardzija? Addison Russell was one of the top prospects in baseball. Drew Smyly is going to be a top of the rotation pitcher, and Yoenis Cespedes was a proven all-star. This is an awful lot to give up though. Especially if they end up not making the playoffs. What’s the alternative though? Aaron Harang from Philadelphia? Kyle Lohse from Milwaukee? How much better are these guys then what you already have? Then there are Cole Hamels and Johnny Cueto. They would cost the Jays two to three top prospects on their own.
Say this trade does go down and they end up losing all three players to free agency. What do they receive? The Jays would receive compensatory picks. It could be 3 first round picks. Or 2 first round picks, and a second. Regardless, it’s not all for nothing if you don’t make the playoffs. Is this worth the investment? Hoffman could be a potential ace. Pompey a starting outfielder, and Norris a middle of the rotation guy. I am not sure if I would make this deal. But it’s what it would take to get those 3 players out of Oakland. With so many teams having a shot at post season play it becomes more and more difficult to find rental players. Which is why they have become so expensive. The one thing that I do know is that Scott Kazmir versus David Price sounds a lot more appetizing than Drew Hutchison versus David Price as a Jays fan.
Bottom of the ninth, runners on 1st and 2nd with one out. 0-2 count, Colabello has looked lost at the plate, and in the field the whole day. The runners take off, the pitch is in the dirt, blocked by Conger. No play at either base. This isn’t the Jays that I am use to. The well-executed double steal on a 0-2 pitch that you know Gregerson was going to bury to try to get Colabello to strike out. What happens after this? What does this create? Sacrifice fly or wild pitch ties the game, and a single or better wins it. Knowing that Gregerson isn’t a dominating closer by any means, Gibbons played the odds, and won. If I was watching this game a month ago it would have gone like this. Colabello strikes out on a pitch in the dirt. Reyes and Bautista are still at first and second.
This isn’t the John Gibbons that I am usually writing about. The guy that I am usually watching is the laid-back manager that is waiting for the long ball to get the win. In the Astros series I witnessed a change in these Jays. Sacrifice bunts, steals, and hit and runs were key to a lot of the victories over the weekend. Sweeping a first place Houston club out of Toronto. It was exciting baseball to watch. The fans were engaged, and so were the players.
Toronto was able to overcome a key error by Donaldson, and multiple walks in key situations by the pitching staff yesterday. This is rare to say about the Jays, but they are learning how to win. Sometimes you need to go after runs. You need to press the defense of the opposing team. Keep on manufacturing runs, and do not stop until the game is over. It’s complacency that has gotten the Jays into trouble before. They know they have a great offense with an abundance of power. It was the record that was just being put on over and over again by Gibbons. Things will turn around. These players will get hot. This weekend showed that they are not going to wait around anymore. Bautista is red-hot. Other than him we have players doing what they have always done. What’s the difference than? Timely hitting, decent pitching, and smart managing. During the games over the last two days there have been multiple times that I have said to myself. “Smart move or gutsy call.” All of Gibbons moves have produced, catching teams off-guard.
It’s nice to see the Jays playing this way. At the start of last year you were seeing a team that couldn’t maintain what they were doing. They were hitting home-runs at an outrageous pace, and Beurhle was looking like a Cy Young candidate. Everybody was playing at the top of their game. You just knew that the bottom was going to fall out once a few players cooled down, and injuries would happen to key pieces. This team is still a few games under .500, but you can see the tide turning.
It’s easy to go back to bad habits. If they get thrown out a couple of times in key areas, or hit into outs while trying to start a hit and run. They could just go back to what we are accustomed to watching. Big swings in key areas, when all they need is a single. Hopefully they realize that this isn’t a fluke. This is an exciting team when things are in motion. I have to give credit to Gibbons. He has made all the right moves recently. Maybe we are seeing an enlightened man that is managing to the style that is required to win? Or maybe we are seeing a man managing for his job? Either way, it looks like this team has been woken out of its slumber. Let’s see if they can continue this streak against a couple of very beatable teams in the Marlins and Mets. Is this a new Jays team? Doing whatever it takes to get the win. Let’s hope so. If this is the new brand of baseball in Toronto, I am completely on-board.