Friday, July 31, 2015

Blue Jays Big Winners at Trade Deadline

The Blue Jays hope Price can pitch them into the postseason (NY Daily News)
When you trade for the best shortstop in baseball and one of your league's best pitchers in the span of 48 hours, you're having a pretty good week.

Unlike the Royals, with whom Toronto has shared the spotlight this week, the Blue Jays have made their share of headlines over the past few years. They traded for the first edition of the Miami Marlins (Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle), a reigning Cy Young winner (R.A. Dickey), and a legit MVP candidate (Josh Donaldson). They haven't been shy on the free agent market either, bringing on post-PED suspension Melky Cabrera and Russell Martin--one of the best catchers in baseball.

And yet for all their activity, the Blue Jays have nothing to show for it. Every year, it seems, Toronto is the dark-horse candidate to win the AL East, and every year they flop--usually because they don't have enough starting pitching. It's hard to believe that team, with all its talent, has lost more games than they've won over the past two and a half seasons, especially given the lackluster quality of their division these days. The AL East has been wide open the past couple of years but it's been the Orioles, not the Jays, who've taken advantage. Toronto's merely toiled in mediocrity, watching its playoff drought--the longest in American professional sports--grow longer by the day.

This year, with the Blue Jays again hovering around .500, GM Alex Anthopoulos pushed all his chips into the pile. He had already committed to going for it this year when he traded for Donaldson and gave $82 million to Martin last winter. Now, with his team in the hunt for the second wild card and still within striking distance of the Yankees, Anthopoulos made his move. First he went out and got Troy Tulowitzki, which seemed a bit puzzling given that he already had a really good, albeit injury-prone, shortstop in Jose Reyes, who went to Colorado along with two minor leaguers and Miguel Castro.

But Anthopoulos wasn't done. Yesterday, just two days after acquiring Tulo, he sent three players, including his organization's most promising young starter (Daniel Norris), to Detroit for David Price.

No disrespect to Tulo, but Price is the bigger get here. Toronto hasn't had a pitcher of his caliber since Roy Halladay, and Halladay hasn't thrown a pitch for the Jays since 2009. Like the Royals, they were a team in desperate need of an ace, and now they have one.

Price, who was dealt on deadline day last year, fits the bill. Dominant as ever, his stats this year are right in line with those from his Cy Young season of 2012. Furthermore, the one-time Tampa Bay Ray is not only comfortable pitching in the AL East, but also has postseason experience. The big lefty is exactly the kind of guy you want at the front of your rotation, even if it's only for a few months (Price will be a free agent this winter).

As for Tulowitzki, there's no doubt he's one of the best players in baseball whenever he takes the field. Taking the field isn't something he does all that often, but he's been healthy this year and makes the best lineup in baseball even better (but also impossibly right-handed). He's also under contract for five years beyond this one, which means Toronto's set at shortstop for a while.

Just two games out of the second wild card and with Price and Tulowitzki now on board, the Blue Jays are poised for a run that could result in their first postseason berth since 1993. Given all they've invested in this year's team and all the talent they just surrendered, however, anything less would be a colossal failure.

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