BOSTON – Forget all that Jon Lester to the Toronto Blue Jays nonsense – it was never real.
Don’t hold your breath on Asdrubal Cabrera, either, or any other high-priced short-term rental. All you need to do is look at the track record of Alex Anthopoulos as general manager to realize spending top prospect capital on glitzy top-end but temporary help isn’t his style.
Players with ample contractual control remaining are more his thing, which is why a reliever who can help both now and in the future is the club’s priority in the lead-up to Thursday’s 4 p.m. ET trade deadline. A starter to build depth behind the current group is an aim, too. Something bigger may still fall into the Blue Jays’ lap, sure, but a deal or deals similar to Anthopoulos’ work back in 2012 when he acquired Steve Delabar and Brad Lincoln is the most likely possibility should he get another trade done.
Barring that, Monday’s acquisition of infielder Danny Valencia may very well be all the Blue Jays have to show from a month of frenzied speculation.
"For baseball in general it’s kind of an exciting time," manager John Gibbons said of the deadline Wednesday. "I follow it pretty closely. I’ve got no idea if we’re going to do anything else, so I don’t get caught up too much in that. Alex asks me about different guys, I give my blessing on most of them, whether that happens or not, I don’t know."
While big-name relievers like Joaquin Benoit and Chad Qualls are floating around, a comparison to the type of arm they’re seeking is Addison Reed of Arizona Diamondbacks, a hard-throwing right-hander with two years of control remaining, although he apparently isn’t someone they’re after. They’ve also checked in on Neal Cotts of the Texas Rangers, but that may be nothing more than due diligence.
Adding a reliever, at minimum, makes lots of sense for the Blue Jays, whose bullpen depth has been badly depleted by the struggles of Sergio Santos and Steve Delabar, both currently at triple-A Buffalo. Without them Aaron Loup and Dustin McGowan have become closer Casey Janssen’s top set-up men and should something happen to Janssen, Loup is probably next in line to take over the ninth.
Bigger picture, there’s no real succession plan for Janssen, a free agent at season’s end, either, making someone who could grow into the role in the future particularly helpful.
Loup’s unflappable nature, steely demeanour and steady performance make him a good choice as a short-term fix, but like Janssen he’s far from the prototype teams seek in a closer.
"I wouldn’t mind (eventually) being a closer but being a sidearm left-hander I don’t necessarily see it ever happening," said Loup. "It could happen, but it’s not something I’m striving to do. I definitely wouldn’t turn it down if the chance was there, but for me I’m happy pitching any time. You want to be in the more meaningful innings late in the game, whether it be the set-up guy, seventh, eighth or being the closer, but for me just pitching in general I’m happy."
As potentially worrying as the bullpen’s lack of depth is, the same goes for the rotation, which right now has long man Todd Redmond as the projected sixth starter if needed and no obvious choices beyond him. The Blue Jays have enjoyed remarkably good health on their staff but one or two injuries could send the team into crisis, and let’s remember that Drew Hutchison and Marcus Stroman have never pitched six months before.
Finding depth for the rotation is far more complicated, however, and landing an ace may be too tall an order for Anthopoulos without parting with the type of young arms he’s worked so hard to draft and develop.
Now that they’re in the big-leagues and contributing, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Drew Hutchison aren’t going anywhere.
"Everybody always gets excited about trades, but they don’t always pan out, you know? … There are no guarantees," said Gibbons. "I haven’t been told anything but look at Stroman, he’s done so much, you’d be crazy to get rid of him right now. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say crazy. I’d be surprised if he got moved, put it that way."