TORONTO – The first American League East volley in the annual July fight for on-field reinforcements was fired by the Baltimore Orioles with their acquisition of Scott Feldman, and after Chien-Ming Wang’s implosion and subsequent DFA on Tuesday night, can the Toronto Blue Jays afford to wait long to reply?
Probably not, especially after Wang’s inability to bridge the gap to the return of Brandon Morrow and J.A. Happ with smoke and mirrors became exposed in a 7-6 loss to the Detroit Tigers.
Not only did the Blue Jays let an bonus victory slip away after banging Doug Fister around for six runs, they also had to wring 7.1 innings out of five relievers, a residue that can linger into games to come in terms of bullpen availability and effectiveness.
“That takes its toll on you,” lamented manager John Gibbons.
That’s one of many reasons why Alex Anthopoulos isn’t sitting on his hands, telling potential trade partners “that with certain players if they’re willing to move now, we’d do something now,” and that for a deal to happen, he’d have to “feel it’s a significant upgrade.”
Put simply, for the moment the GM is working on the timelines of others, and he’s not interested in taking on any projects. If he does pull off a deal, it will be for someone significant enough to stick in the rotation once Morrow and Happ return from injuries in roughly a month.
“If you’re making a deal you want to hopefully get an impact guy so it doesn’t really impact who’s coming back,” Anthopoulos explained.
Left-hander Cliff Lee, this summer’s trade deadline crown jewel, came to mind when Anthopoulos revealed “I had a club I talked to (Monday) night, they said another week to 10 days” before they’d consider making trades. And with Josh Johnson’s $13.75 million coming off the books next year, the Blue Jays certainly have some wiggle room to handle the financial outlay.
But other, perhaps more, realistic names to consider are Seattle Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, and Chicago White Sox right-hander Jake Peavy (who is currently on the DL), both of whom were targeted by the Blue Jays last off-season and are on teams a few miracles away from legitimate contention.
Ervin Santana makes some sense, too, although it’s difficult to believe the Kansas City Royals would be willing to pull the plug on their season so soon after the bold move to get James Shields last fall, and with the AL Central still within reach.
Either way, the Wang experiment is over as for the second straight start he failed to make it out of the second inning. While Thursday in Boston he buried the Blue Jays in a 5-0 hole, on Tuesday, he squandered a 4-0 lead built against Fister and left down 6-4.
Todd Redmond, slated to start for triple-A Buffalo on Wednesday, was recalled and before the move was announced manager John Gibbons said, “the guy we bring up will be to cover us tomorrow and unless he gets used up pretty good, he’ll start on Sunday.”
As for Wang, he has the right to become a free agent although the Blue Jays are hoping he accepts an assignment to triple-A Buffalo, “with a shot to come back,” said Gibbons.
“I’d love to have him around,” he added. “He’s a real pro.”
Wang plans to make a decision in the next day or two, and the Blue Jays have some thinking of their own to do over that span, as well.
The most obvious internal stop-gap, Chad Jenkins, isn’t in play after hitting the triple-A disabled list over the weekend with a right lat strain, and while Ricky Romero has made some gains at Buffalo, the left-hander pitched poorly in front of Anthopoulos last week, and the GM said he needs to see more consistency from the 28-year-old.
More intriguing is double-A prospect Marcus Stroman, who just happens to be on turn with Wang. The 2012 first-rounder allowed three runs on six hits and a walk over 6.2 innings in New Hampshire’s 3-1 loss to New Britain on Tuesday, but struck out 13 batters.
“We know what he’s doing,” said Gibbons. “Who knows what happens down the road. We want to give the young guys plenty of time, but we’re well aware of what he’s doing.”
A call up for him isn’t far-fetched, as the Blue Jays discussed bringing him up back in May when Romero was demoted while Johnson on the disabled list.
The negative experience of Sean Nolin, another double-A prospect who failed to make it out of the second inning in his big-league debut May 24, may give the Blue Jays some pause in perhaps bringing Stroman up before his time.
But with a bunch of quality internal arms needing more time – Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison are coming behind Morrow and Happ, while Romero progresses – the Blue Jays are essentially standing wounded on one side of a gorge, looking at help on the other side, unsure how best to get there.