The MLB non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone and, while the possibility of making trades is still out there, the Blue Jays’ roster right now is pretty close to how it will look until the end of the season. Now is the time to take a look at the roster, how it’s constructed and what things are going to look like for the rest of the year and beyond.
The Jays aren’t kidding anyone with the two trades they made. They didn’t go on a Fire Sale tirade and neither did they go out looking to address current needs. In trading Francisco Liriano for Norichika Aoki and Teoscar Hernandez and Joe Smith for Thomas Pannone and Samar Taylor, the Blue Jays weren’t going to get any better at the big league level this year.
These trades tell us that the Blue Jays’ front office is hoping for a turnaround with the players who are on the field and, in fact, they are making things a little more difficult by trading Liriano, who has the potential to eat some innings in the starting rotation, and Smith, who was probably their second or third best reliever. As you’ll see, the Blue Jays will likely have to rely on players with less big league experience the rest of the way, making a run for a playoff spot that much more unlikely.
If it wasn’t clear already, the two deadline-day trades are a signal to the fans to look towards competing for the playoffs in 2018 after this disappointing season runs its course through the final two months.
The current starting rotation for the Blue Jays features Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, and Marco Estrada plus whomever is goin to be around to fill in. This is the biggest gap between the pre-trade status and the post-trade status. It’s looking like the two pitchers following these three in the rotation are going to be Cesar Valdez and Brett Oberholtzer for the time being. With Aaron Sanchez on the DL (again), the rotation has gone from the team’s major strength to a major weakness, despite the fact that Marco Estrada has been finding his groove lately.
Of the pitchers in Buffalo, T.J. House would be an experienced addition while Luis Santos has been very good despite not having played in the majors yet. I’m also a big fan of Chris Rowley who, at the age of (almost) 27 and having missed a few seasons due to his military commitment, has been the best pitcher for the Bisons since his promotion in June.
Some fans might clamour for a promotion for Double-A prospects Conner Greene and Sean Reid-Foley but their inconsistency this season has made a late-season promotion doubtful. That said, The Fisher Cat who has the biggest outside chance to contributing to the Blue Jays this season is lefty Ryan Borucki who has made just two starts in Double-A. Borucki has the advantage of already being on the 40-man roster and has been dominant in Double-A work so far. I’d look for him to come up in September after the minor league seasons are finished and might work out of the bullpen.
The current bullpen is composed of Roberto Osuna, Joe Biagini, Ryan Tepera, Aaron Loup, J.P. Howell, Dominic Leone, Mike Bolsinger and Matt Dermody. Joe Smith’s departure, combined with injuries to Danny Barnes and Leonel Campos, have created opportunities but few experienced pitchers to fill them. Dermody and Leone are likely on short leashes and can be optioned to the minors easily while Bolsinger has been sent outright to Buffalo once and getting him off the 25-man roster is a little more complicated than for the other two.
Who’s waiting to come up, given the opportunity? Chris Smith is probably #1 on the list, being on the 40-man roster and Tim Mayza is another who would have to have room made for him on the 40-man. Jeff Beliveau has also been sent outright to Buffalo and would need to have a 40-man roster spot cleared. Leonel Campos is rehabbing an injury but is also on the 40-man roster.
With Justin Smoak rocking his career season, Josh Donaldson anchoring third base and Troy Tulowitzki’s $20 million-per-year contract acting as an anchor, there’s not much room for the Blue Jays to add starting level talent. The Jays did pick up Rob Refsnyder from the Yankees (trading the “McBoom” himself, Ryan McBroom) and he gives the Jays at least a little bit of offensive upside over what Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins offer, particularly since they’re both slated to start every day as long as both Devon Travis and Tulo are on the shelf. Chris Coghlan is also on the DL although his return doesn’t excite me. Kendrys Morales is having a decent season as the DH but his numbers certainly don’t pop out at you.
In Buffalo, the Jays have a couple of options if things come to it. Jason Leblebijian is having a solid offensive season although he’s cooled down quite a bit from his hot start that had folks clamouring for his call up. Jake Elmore has plenty of major league experience but hasn’t hit well this season. Rowdy Tellez, who was going to replace Justin Smoak by midseason, has struggled on the field and with personal issues this season, taking himself out of the conversation as to who may help the big club.
Richard Urena, on the 40-man roster, could get some late-inning defensive replacement time in September but, like Tellez, has struggled at the plate. With Lourdes Gurriel on a big league contract, he is almost assured of coming up to the Jays in September. How much he plays is a big question but he’s been playing shortstop and second base in the minors and could easily get some big league at bats, particularly if Devon Travis is still out and the Blue Jays are out of it.
This is the area where the Blue Jays did the most to help their chances this year. Still, with Jose Bautista entrenched in right field, playing mediocre offense and worse defense, and Kevin Pillar in center doing the whole Superman thing, there’s not much room for Norichika Aoki to improve the club. Steven Pearce has been hitting extremely well over the last 28 days (to the tune of a .280/.349/.480 slash line) and Aoki, who generally puts up a line in the .280/.350/.380 area, is vastly inferior at the plate.
Teoscar Hernandez has been sent to Buffalo and could offer some upside at the plate in September, and is known to have a strong arm in right field. I’m almost looking at this move as being one to replace Jose Bautista for 2018.
On the DL are Darrell Ceciliani and Dalton Pompey with Pompey offering the most upside but without having him played much this year, it’s hard to tell where he’s going to be once he gets regular playing time. We’ve already seen Dwight Smith Jr. this season and Michael Saunders is also lurking in Buffalo, giving the Blue Jays some depth in Buffalo while Roemon Fields is quietly having a very good season at the plate with excellent speed and defense.
Anthony Alford is going to get a call up to Toronto come September as a member of the 40-man roster. He’s just getting his groove back after his hand injury and will likely stay with Double-A New Hampshire until the end of the minor league season. Harold Ramirez is also on the 40-man roster in the New Hampshire outfield but he stands less of a chance to come up to the major leagues in September. While I wouldn’t call his season poor by any means (.364/.306/.371), he hasn’t stood out in the way you’d like to see from a player who was a highly touted prospect just a couple of seasons ago and who already has a complete year of Double-A under his belt before this year.
That’s how we think things look in the Blue Jays’ organization. There’s not much help coming from within the organization with only the returns of Aaron Sanchez, Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis that stand to make any impact on the outcome of this season and even then, it’s hard to see them moving the needle enough to make a serious playoff run.
What do you think about the Jays and their trades?
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