Ah, yes. Brandon Drury. The New York Yankees traded two of their top 15 prospects in a three-team trade in February to land the 25-year-old third baseman from the Arizona Diamondbacks, and John Gibbons recalled Wednesday how impressive Drury was in the Toronto Blue Jays‘ season-opening series against the Yankees.
He’s playing in the minors now, Gibbons noted. “Migraines,” he said. Concussion. Wally Pipp’s name was mentioned in light of the fact that Miguel Andujar, who is now at third base for the Yankees and who hit a grand slam against the Blue Jays on Tuesday, has the third-most extra-base hits through his first 54 Yankees games behind Gary Sanchez and some guy named DiMaggio. He’s 23. Gleyber Torres, who was considered the better prospect, is playing, too and he’s 21. Aaron Judge … Sanchez … uh, you know about them.
It won’t come as a newsflash to anybody who has been paying attention that the Yankees are a better team than the Blue Jays. So, too, are the Boston Red Sox. The standings are clear. But here’s a neat trick: take a look at the Blue Jays lineup last night and ask yourself: which starting position player would be in the lineup for either of those two other teams? None, would be the correct answer. Zilch. Zippo. And even if Josh Donaldson is healthy … it’s tough to see anybody picking a 30ish third baseman over Andujar. The equation might change with the addition of Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., but he’s one (1) player.
The truth? The talent gap between the Yankees or Red Sox lineup and the Blue Jays lineup is massive; more massive than it’s been certainly since the Blue Jays started to become a post-season factor in 2015. And even before then, there were years where Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion would have made either team. You have to go back years to find this disparity. And while it’s true the Yankees have major pitching concerns and the Red Sox are probably built a little less for the long haul than the Yankees, the imminent loss of Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna – who I don’t believe will ever pitch again for this organization – and the strange developments surrounding Marcus Stroman’s health must surely make that one area of anticipated Blue Jays strength at least a minor concern.
How to put this delicately? Barring catastrophic injuries, the Blue Jays are going to spend the next four or five seasons likely praying for a shot at a one-game wild-card berth due to the strength of the American League East. Because neither of those two teams, certainly not the Yankees, are going away any time soon.
Summer hasn’t even heated up and it’s big picture time in Toronto — where our Shi Davidi notes you can hear the ‘beep, beep, beep’ of the truck backing up. The Blue Jays are a group of individuals waiting for something to happen: a firing or firings. Trades. Something. Anything but nothing. The Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles have become used to playing series in September with something on the line, with a fair amount of nastiness guaranteed. But the Orioles stink, and not even Buck Showalter’s presence for a four-game series beginning Thursday at the Rogers Centre can remove the feeling that this is going to be tepid, turgid stuff.
And we haven’t even discussed payrolls.
It was 2002 when then-Red Sox president and chief executive officer Larry Lucchino referred to the Yankees as ‘The Evil Empire.’ That was a period when the Bronx Bombers were in the middle of a run of success that would see them win three World Series and lose two others in the space of six seasons. In that time, the Yankees payrolls ranged between a low of $107,588,459 to a high of $184,133,950. The Red Sox weren’t exactly spendthrifts; they topped out at $127,298,500. The Blue Jays? Not even close: from a low of $46,363,322 to back-to-back seasons of just over $76 million. They were out-spent by the Yankees in 2004 by $134 million … and in 2006, when the Jays finished in second place in the East 10 games back of the Yankees, the Bombers’ payroll was $123 million larger.
Now? The Blue Jays payroll this season is $162,037,223, just a little more than $4 million below the Yankees. Think about that: the talent disparity has widened while the payroll gap has decreased. This is a true, nightmare scenario. Even with Jacoby Ellsbury’s non-productive $21,8578,143 due in each of the next three seasons, the Yankees are as of this moment $16.8 million under the luxury tax, with more youngsters on the way and this winter’s best free-agent class of all time beckoning. They have what amounts to a staggering amount of financial clout, and are cost-efficient. Evil Empire? Nah… this is the Cold, Calculating, Efficient Empire.
The Blue Jays, meanwhile, have to figure out a way to spend something like $400 million-$500 million to refurbish the Rogers Centre and pay for Troy Tulowitzki’s hiatus while keeping publicly-traded ownership comfortable. Woof.
The Yankees left Toronto and will return home, sort of, where they will open the Subway Series Friday against the New York Mets. This will be a first for manager Aaron Boone, just as the first series against the Red Sox was a first and just as having to call a first-round draft pick the other day to welcome him to the Yankees was a first. “He called me ‘sir,’ a lot, which was cool,” Boone said of his telephone call with Anthony Seigler.
Somebody asked Boone whether the separation between his team and the Red Sox and the rest of the division made it feel like he was already in a pennant race. Boone smiled.
“The reality is you are in a race,” he said. “But, I don’t even necessarily look at it that way. For us, it’s about consuming yourself on the day, focusing on what’s on your plate and what’s before you.
“You start thinking about what it all means and figuring it all out? You distract yourself.”
Yeah – and thank goodness for that.