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The Blue Jays are playing .500 baseball after 26 of their 60 games in the 2020 regular season and there have been some things we need to catch up on as we near the August 31 trading deadline.
The first big topic is injuries. The Blue Jays’ starting pitching has been getting creamed lately as Trent Thornton became another victim yesterday, coming out of the game after one inning with elbow inflammation. Anthony Kay gave the Jays three innings of two-run relief but only allowed a hit (and walked two) while Jacob Waguespack allowed two more runs in the Jays’ 5-4 loss to first-place Tampa Bay.
Thornton becomes the third Blue Jay starter to have injury issues in the past week as he follows Nate Pearson (also elbow issues) and Matt Shoemaker (shoulder inflammation), both of whom are already on the injured list. The Blue Jays have recalled Sam Gavilio and Waguespack.
The big question now is where it leaves the Jays’ starting rotation. The Jays have Chase Anderson, Tanner Roark and Hyun-jin Ryu as bonafide starters while Anthony Kay, Ryan Borucki, Thomas Hatch and Julian Merryweather are the likeliest guys to step in to the empty spots, although we might see a bit of piggybacking with them, since none are really stretched out to start. Merryweather could be an interesting guy to watch because he’s been excellent so far in his big league career. That said, he’s coming off a couple of years in which he barely pitched because of recovery and complications from Tommy John surgery and the Blue Jays probably want to limit his innings.
This is, of course, after Bo Bichette went on the injured list, leaving the Jays scrambling to find effective infielders. Or, at least, infielders who are effective at the plate. So far, Brandon Drury has a .400 OPS in 44 plate appearances, Joe Panik has a .418 OPS in 42 plate appearances and Santiago Espinal has a .401 OPS in 29 plate appearances but looks like he plays the best defense at shortstop. It’s quite a let down from the 1.063 OPS that Bichette had, leading the team.
The Jays are also scrambling to find effective offense at DH (Rowdy Tellez has a .742 OPS, four percent below league average), third base (Travis Shaw has a .679 OPS) and behind the plate (Danny Jansen has a .577 OPS and Reese McGuire has a .321 OPS). Teoscar Hernandez continues to be the team’s home run leader with 10 (after hitting another one last night) and Randal Grichuk is hitting well with an .874 OPS. Lourdes Gurriel has had a slow start but is picking things up, hitting his third home run of the season last night and pushing towards a league-average OPS at .721 right now.
UPDATE: Thornton has been officially placed on the injured list with Travis Bergen having his contract selected and Thomas Pannone designated for assignment.
ROSTER MOVES:— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) August 24, 2020
🔹 RHP Trent Thornton (right elbow inflammation) has been placed on the 10-day IL
🔹 LHP Travis Bergen's contract has been selected. He will be active for this afternoon's game
🔹 LHP Thomas Pannone has been designated for assignment pic.twitter.com/eqXcnkzFDS
Also in the transaction category is the fact that the Blue Jays designated Anthony Alford for assignment. Alford had hit just .188/.188/.562 this season with seven strikeouts in just 16 plate appearances, and whenever I had a chance to see him hit, he looked like he just didn’t have a clue what was going on at the plate. I had been expecting a move like this for a while.
The Blue Jays have been pretty decent so far, but they’ve also been finding that they haven’t been able to win close games. So while they’re 13-13, there are several games that many believer were eminently winnable. The injuries to their pitching and Bichette (and the offensive struggles of a number of regulars) really put a damper in the Jays’ post-season hopes.
As the August 31 trade deadline nears, the Blue Jays made a move, acquiring 2019 All-Star Daniel Vogelbach for cash considerations. Vogelbach had a break-out first half in 2019, earning an All-Star appearance with the Mariners, but really cooled off in the second half, finishing with a .208/.341/.439 slash line, but he did hit 30 home runs and walked 92 times (despite striking out 149 times).
Vogelbach reportedly came to summer camp 20 pounds heavier than spring training (and he’s an already big boy) and struggled to start the season, hitting .094/.250/.226.
The fact that Vogelbach was performing so poorly is likely the reason why the Blue Jays were able to get him so cheaply, but the question remains where he fits in. He’s not performing nearly as well as Rowdy Tellez or even Travis Shaw and the only reasonable expectation could be the one that our friend Shaun Doyle at Jays from the Couch has expressed on Twitter: that the Blue Jays could be trading Rowdy Tellez for pitching help and Vogelbach would take over for him, since they’re both lefthanded hitting sluggers who don’t have much value in the field.
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