KANSAS CITY – In an ideal world, games like this would have meant something more for the Toronto Blue Jays. A couple of veterans step up, the Blue Jays defeat a rather dreadful Royals team and gain some ground in the standings.
But the Blue Jays are just 55-65, even after their 6-5 win at Kauffman Stadium, and so their version of scoreboard watching doesn’t involve the Yankees or Red Sox these days. Instead, the intrigue exists at minor-league affiliates in Dunedin, where Aaron Sanchez pitched 3.2 innings in a rehab start Wednesday, and Charlotte, where Vladimir Guerrero Jr. went hitless in a Bisons road game.
At the big-league level, the contributions of Marco Estrada and Curtis Granderson were essential in Wednesday’s win, and for that very reason contending teams could take note as the Aug. 31 deadline for adding playoff-eligible players approaches.
Estrada completed 6.2 innings while allowing four runs on six hits, including two homers to Salvador Perez. He struck out three while walking one in an outing that showcased his ability to generate weak contact in the air.
“Marco was good other than Perez,” manager John Gibbons said. “I thought he looked very good. It was a tough night to pitch — hot and muggy here — but he held up pretty good. He can always exploit young hitters that don’t know him. That’s when he’s really, really tough.”
Should a contending team develop a need for starting pitching this month, Estrada could be an appealing option given that the blister and glute issues that bothered him earlier in the summer have given way to better health — at least relatively speaking.
“I’m out there,” he said. “I can pitch and I’ll keep working on my stuff and try to get better.”
As for Granderson, he hit his 10th career grand slam in the fourth inning, showcasing his ability to provide power against right-handed pitching.
“It’s awesome,” Granderson said. “Any time you can do that and score that many runs with one swing is really cool.”
The left-handed hitting outfielder entered play Wednesday with a .262/.354/.495 batting line when facing right-handers this season, giving him a clear skill that could appeal to contenders.
“He came with that great reputation, and everything is true and maybe more,” Gibbons said. “But the bottom line in this business is production and he’s done a very good job of that for us in a platoon role. He’s gotten some big hits, and tonight obviously was another big one.”
“He’s the whole package, put it that way, and he’s still got something left.”
Granderson has reportedly cleared trade waivers, meaning he can now be traded to any team. On paper, he looks like a useful piece for September, when expanded bullpens allow managers to make even more pitching changes than usual. A bench bat like Granderson would be an ideal way to counter that parade of relievers.
“What (clearing waivers) means is not too much except that there are possibilities,” Granderson said. “At the same time (they’re) all out of my control. I still come to the ballpark every day. We get a chance to win this series tomorrow. I’m a Blue Jay. I’m excited to be here and continue to win as many ballgames as we can.”
The Blue Jays fielded some calls on Granderson before the July 31 deadline, and it’s conceivable that they could revisit those talks this month. For example, the Cleveland Indians acquired Leonys Martin who’s on the disabled list recovering from a life-threatening bacterial infection. Should Cleveland look to replace Martin with another left-handed hitting outfielder, Granderson would be a logical choice, and his $5 million salary wouldn’t be prohibitive.
Given that Granderson was traded for a player to be named later last summer, it’s hard to imagine that the Blue Jays would obtain a substantial return. Estrada’s market value would likely be similarly modest.
Still, there’s no harm in adding to the farm system on a small scale, especially if it puts veteran players in pennant races and opens up playing time for players with a chance to play on Toronto’s next contending teams.