They are a team with one of the weakest rotations, locked in the throes of the American League East, with a general manager unafraid to make a move in-season.
They are not the Toronto Blue Jays, but the Baltimore Orioles, who made a value-conscious move Tuesday by acquiring starter Scott Feldman from the Chicago Cubs for pitchers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop and $380,000 (U.S.) in international signing bonus money.
It’s the kind of transaction that makes sense to Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, a proponent of making moves ahead of the hurly-burly of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. To a point.
Yet, here is Anthopoulos, whose team has one of the strongest bullpens in the AL and one of its worst rotations, in a strange kind of limbo: Knowing J.A. Happ (head) and maybe even Brandon Morrow (forearm) could be back just after the deadline; holding out hope Ricky Romero might still be a factor if he can put a run of games together at Triple-A.
His team has come off a blistering-hot June, yet is still in last place in a division where everybody started Tuesday at .500 or better.
Telephone calls? Yeah, he’s made a few.
“A few clubs I’ve talked to, I’ve asked about their timelines,” Anthopoulos said before Chien-Ming Wang couldn’t make it out of the second inning on Tuesday for his second consecutive start. “Some teams want to wait and see where they are in two weeks. One club I talked to wants to wait a week to 10 days, thinking about its fan base and ownership before it trades players away.
“It depends on how guys here are doing,” he said. “We need a lot of guys to improve internally, and we need guys to go on runs. Hopefully, we don’t need to make any changes and before we know it, Happ and Morrow are back. The fact we do have guys coming back … we have to feel confident it’s a significant upgrade.”
A cursory look at the standings suggests that “one club” might be the Philadelphia Phillies. Or Chicago White Sox. Or Milwaukee Brewers. Or Kansas City Royals. Or even the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
The Houston Astros, Cubs and Miami Marlins would seem to already have crossed that particular Rubicon. The rumour mill has been churning out names such as Ricky Nolasco, Bud Norris, Matt Garza, and they will soon be joined by Cliff Lee, Yovani Gallardo, Ervin Santana and Jake Peavy.
The Blue Jays were close to signing Peavy as a free agent last off-season. The White Sox made a last-second move after Jays owner Rogers Communications Inc. signed off on the money to land Peavy, and Anthopoulos took that money and instead turned his attention to a 12-player trade with the Marlins.
Peavy is recovering from a fractured rib and won’t be back until after the All-Star Game, and the Blue Jays will be especially interested if, as some suspect, the White Sox are prepared to pick up a portion of next year’s $14.5-million salary.
Peavy has a $15-million vesting option for 2015, which kicks in if he has 400 innings pitched in 2013-14 – with a minimum 190 in 2014 – and doesn’t finish the 2014 season on the disabled list. But the potential added payroll is less onerous if the Blue Jays decide to let Josh Johnson walk at the end of the season. Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison (both recovering from elbow-ligament replacement surgery) should be ready for spring training, which only adds to the options.
The Blue Jays have lineup issues at second and third base that are best solved in the off-season. Besides, one of those spots will go to Brett Lawrie – unless he’s traded.
It’s starting pitching that will determine whether the Blue Jays are in the playoff hunt in 2013, and the bar has been lowered as to what constitutes a “significant upgrade” over Morrow, Johnson and Romero.
Besides, you know what they say about never having enough starting pitching.