BY WES ARMSTRONG – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
After an off-season that brought so much joy and excitement to the city of Toronto, Blue Jays fans are sitting at the All-Star break wondering where the keys to the Delorean are. The Jays sit four games under .500 and 11.5 games back of the Boston Red Sox. If this were a baseball simulation game, you would definitely be looking for the reset button. The lacklustre (to be kind) starting pitching that the Jays have received this year is hardly what was advertised to us in the winter and despite flashes of brilliance (see the 11 game winning streak) the Jays have yet to demonstrate that they are the dominant team we all believe them to be. It is time, however, to become excited once again. The reason, Alex Anthopoulos is going to make some moves. And if the trade rumour baseball sites are any indication, there are some pretty good third basemen to be had.
Who should the Jays deal?
The most obvious sell-high asset that the Jays have is their deep bullpen. Contending teams are going to be shopping around the MLB for good quality middle/late-inning relief help, and there’s no denying the Jays have a surplus of it. Whether it’s Casey Janssen, Brett Cecil, Steve Delabar, or Darren Oliver, someone needs to go so that the Jays can cash in on their incredible play.
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Another, not-so-obvious, asset the Blue Jays should entertain offers for is R.A. Dickey. Many of us think that he has yet to dominate the American League East like we believe him capable, but he is only a year removed from a masterful Cy Young season, he's signed to a decent, team-friendly contract, and his clock-cleaning of the National League was such a short time ago, that he would not be that hard of a sell for teams looking to bolster their starting staff.
The Jays could net a pretty good haul for Dickey if they send him to the right team. Also, it would end the constant, boring commentary about how hard it is to pitch/catch a knuckleball. Considering he captains a staff that ranks 24th in the MLB in team ERA (that's including the help of the dominating bullpen), and that has surrendered the seventh most walks, sending Dickey packing would not mean that the season is over.
It's true. The Jays need starting pitching. But if the Orioles trade for Scott Feldman is any indication, the cost of acquiring someone like Cliff Lee, Mat Garza, or Yovani Gallardo is going to be hard for us all to digest. Therefore, I think the Jays should focus on giving Marcus Stroman and other young arms some big league exposure in the second half. Call up Ricky Romero, lock up Josh Johnson for a year or two at a team-friendly rate, and try to bolster the offence. If Anthopoulos is targeting a starter, here's hoping he trusts his wizardry, and finds an under-appreciated starter or converts a middle-reliever into a starter, rather than another big-hype guy. With the kind of offensive potential the Jays have, even acceptable starting pitching would lead to more wins (see the Baltimore Orioles).
Who should the Jays target?
My first, and favourite trade target is Michael Young. It would not surprise me at all if Michael Young sports a Jays uniform before the end of the season. The 36-year-old would provide a lot of stability to the bottom half of the order (.344 OBP this season and a career .301 hitter) and he plays an acceptable third base (this may be why Lawrie is playing second now). It remains to be seen whether or not Ruben Amaro will be unloading a lot of big contract players from the Phillies, but if he is, don't be surprised if Michael Young is one of them. Young could be had for a reasonable haul of unproven talent.
Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres is younger and coming off of a fantastic season. The Padres could be looking to deal their third baseman before he walks at the end of the year. This move would cost the Jays more talent, but if he can rediscover his 2012 form in the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre, it could be a fantastic fit.
Mike Olt and Nick Castellanos are two fantastic prospects who have been mentioned on different trade rumour sites and blogs. It's possible that they could be had for the right package of Major/Minor League talent. Acquiring either player would ignite the tiring debate of whether the Jays are looking to win this year, or in the future, but depending on the asking price (a reliever plus a few prospects) they may be worth kicking the tires on.
Regardless of the move(s) that Anthopoulos makes this month, I am confident the spirit behind the move will be to make the team better. The debate about buying and selling at the deadline is just a whole lot of harangue. The Jays are not out of it yet, but a move (even a surprising or unpopular one) may be just the thing the team needs to take their play to another level.
Want more from Wes Armstrong? Follow him on twitter at @WesOnSports