We’ll let the amateur psychologists decide whether a likely last-place finish in the American League East suggests there’s something dysfunctional about the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse.
Those who know the truth aren’t telling. They seldom do until the end of the season (much like Omar Vizquel in 2012).
The greater question approaching Wednesday’s non-waiver trade deadline is what general manager Alex Anthopoulos can do to make this team function properly on the field in 2014 and 2015, because there is a nightmare scenario developing for him.
Leave aside the age of the team and that it is ill equipped to play on artificial turf. R.A. Dickey has two more years at least at a minimum of $25-million (U.S.) guaranteed and hasn’t been able to pitch at the homer-haven Rogers Centre (his earned-run average at home is 5.97 with a 1.354 WHIP, compared to a 3.58/1.240 line on the road); Mark Buehrle has two more years at $19-million and $20-million, respectively, and has ugly career splits against teams the Blue Jays need to beat (Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees); and we haven’t even analyzed Josh Johnson (can’t pitch from the stretch), Brandon Morrow (nerve damage) and Ricky Romero (who knows what).
Jose Bautista is in the middle of the type of season that has only reinforced the notion he isn’t the hitter he used to be – second place in the batting order becomes him, frankly – and Brett Lawrie, while making hard contact, won’t know his position in the field in 2014 until the Blue Jays find a second or third baseman. Right now, he’ll be the default something or another – if he hits.
The offence has come and gone; the starting pitching has never been here. Manager John Gibbons was asked half-seriously if the Blue Jays ought to move the fences back at the Rogers Centre. He gave a half-serious answer: “Some of those homers … I don’t know if you can move the fences back far enough to keep them in this park.”
Welcome, then, to The Summer of Esmil.
Anthopoulos spoke recently about anticipating a kind of Red Sox-like resurgence next season, of bouncebacks galore.
That has led to a sense the GM will keep his power dry until the off-season, waiting to get a better read on returning injured pitchers Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek and Morrow and maybe even Romero, while hoping Lawrie’s days of shuttling down to the minors are over.
Anthopoulos has been clear: He will deal if and only if he is getting a core player or pitcher under control for next season and preferably beyond. There is heavy lifting ahead, not mere tinkering, and that’s better done in the winter as payroll will likely need to go up because of a lack of young prospects and easily tradeable veterans. The good news is Anthopoulos and team president Paul Beeston have shown they can get money from ownership.
Anthopoulos surely recognizes he needs another front-of-the-rotation arm in what will be Year 2 of a three-year window, because prudence suggests he look at the lame and halt as bonuses in 2014. But what does he have to land that commodity?
The Blue Jays have some prospects in the lower ranks of the minors, some usable bullpen arms (although one of the teams interested in Steve Delabar as a closer, the Detroit Tigers, traded for Jose Veras from the Astros on Monday) and sources believe Anthopoulos would have to eat $10-million of Buehrle’s contract to move him.
Darren Oliver and Emilio Bonifacio won’t bring much, and it would be a bold move indeed to build a package around Bautista. The right fielder remains a cost-effective performer, but this will be the sixth consecutive season in which the Blue Jays haven’t finished higher than fourth in the division and he has been a regular for many of them.
Far too often this season the Blue Jays have looked even more star-crossed and ham-handed than they did when John Farrell was managing the team in 2012 with one eye on the Boston Red Sox job. So perhaps the time has come to look beyond underperforming newcomers and ask hard questions of some of the holdovers. Perhaps that time was last winter.
2 yr/$7.8-million (11-12) + 13 club option, 2 yr/$25-million
1 yr/$3.7-million (13), 1 yr/$5.4-million
3 yr/$10-million (13-15) + 16 club option
3 yr/$8.25-million (12-14) + 15-17 club option
3 yr/$4.1-million (12-14) + 15 option
2 yr/$2.5-million (13-14) + 15 option