The Toronto Blue Jays have been knocked off of their perch atop the American League East after a weekend series with the Oakland A’s, which took out June’s Player of the Month Edwin Encarnacion, forced them to face their one-time could-be arm Jeff Samardzija and left slugger Jose Bautista slamming MLB’s instant replay review system by calling it “a joke.” They now have lost 20 of their last 29 games, leaving their remaining 71 completely up in the air. As the All-Star break and non-waiver trade deadline approach, it looks like Alex Anthopoulos needs to leave the mound as is (unfortunately) and point the club’s priorities in another direction as the Blue Jays review trade options: to their battered, bruised and error-filled line-up.
Who would have thought this would have been the case a few weeks ago?
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Jose Reyes is the only one still standing in July from the domino-effect that is the infield. Whether it’s injury sending third and second baseman Brett Lawrie to the disabled list (which also claimed Encarnacion with a right quadriceps strain) or poor performance on second by fan favorite Munenori Kawasaki, Steve Tolleson and whoever else mans the position (it’s hard to keep track), as well as Juan Francisco’s less-than-stellar skills on third when the Jays are facing a righty, something needs to be done beyond pitching to keep the club in contention.
The problem, though, is that same double-edged sword which showed itself when trade rumors were heating up about Samardzija and David Price, who would require names like Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris and Dalton Pompey to get a green light.
Ben Zobrist or Adrian Beltre could get the boys in blue back on track for October, as well as boost their chances in the 2014-15 postseason, but how many top prospects, who could make a huge impact in a few years, would Anthopoulos have to dangle in front of the Rays and Rangers to make that happen? Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca suggests that if the Blue Jays aim lower, then Chicago White Sox’s Gordon Beckham and Chicago Cubs’ Luis Valbuena could be interesting options.
These days, the outfield also has seen just about as many faces as second base. Brad Glenn, Darin Mastroianni and Cole Gillespie have all fit the bill as right-handed hitters, but have left little impact defensively. With Bautista stepping up and helping out at first base when Adam Lind is not in the line-up, the Jays acquired Nolan Reimold off waivers from the Orioles for additional support. This surely is not a permanent solution as he has come from double-A, but he could kill some time in the outfield until Anthopoulos considers names like Justin Ruggiano of the Cubs or Chris Denorfia from the Padres, who both should be available.
Another concern the Blue Jays need to start taking seriously is behind the plate. Changing catchers midseason could be a challenge for the pitching staff, well, really for R.A. Dickey, regardless if it’s done in house.
Promoting Erik Kratz permanently as back-up to Dioner Navarro (something that should have been taken care of in spring training, in my opinion) would give the Blue Jays a major upgrade at the plate in two ways. Kratz, who seems to bring out the best in starter J.A. Happ, has a strong throwing arm and much better offensive abilities when compared to Dickey’s personal catcher Josh Thole’s batting average of .095 since the beginning of June.
The fact is, if Dickey was not with the organization or not so adamant that Thole needs to be his guy, Kratz would be permanent piece of the 25-man roster – no questions asked.