In this regular Sportsnet.ca feature, Blue Jays talk host Scott MacArthur answers some frequently-asked Blue Jays questions.
As we sit here on Tuesday, the Toronto Blue Jays have three games remaining in the month – Tuesday and Wednesday in Tampa Bay and Friday in Colorado following a day off on Thursday – meaning they must win one of their final two games against the Rays to give themselves an opportunity to avoid a second consecutive May without so much as back-to-back wins.
The club is 7-18 in May; not that it much matters, big league wins aren’t relevant at this point in the process. Eventually they will be, I can assure you, because process is pointless without results and anything less is failure.
Let’s get on with the week’s most popular questions from Blue Jays Talk!
Q: If Vladdy and Cavan Biggio are here, why not call up the other kids, including some of the double-A starters, and let them get their feet wet at the big league level in a pressure-free environment?
A: Firstly, Major League Baseball is not a pressure-free environment. Do not conflate the absence of a win-loss expectation with a lack of pressure. Yes, we’re starting to hear more about the starting rotation at double-A New Hampshire. Nate Pearson, who can pitch a baseball as fast as 104 m.p.h., has been dominant in four starts since his promotion from Dunedin; Andrew Sopko is working a 2.34 ERA over six starts; Patrick Murphy, Yennsy Diaz and Zach Logue each have ERAs below 3.75 over at least eight starts. Sopko, 24, is the oldest of the bunch.
Each is on his own developmental track. Some are adding to or refining their repertoires while others are working on consistently locating their pitches. Big league hitters figure a young pitcher out quickly; “the book” gets out and he needs to be able to adjust. There is no service done to any of these young men by fast-tracking them to the big leagues to get knocked around. It’s a mistake to believe there’s nothing to be learned at the minor league levels. Could one or more of these names get a spot start as a call-up later in the season? Maybe, but that requires the pitcher being added to the 40-man roster and once he’s on the 40-man he’s not coming off. Roster flexibility is always a factor in these decisions.
Q: (From Sunday) Do you believe Cavan Biggio’s big day and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s performance this weekend are signs of what we can expect in the future?
A: In short, yes! I’ve been asked a few times, by listeners, what it is they’re supposed to look forward to or to watch for this season. There may be more Saturday-like experiences (19-4 loss to San Diego) than Sunday-like thrills (10-1 win over the Padres featuring 10 hits combined from Vladdy, Gurriel Jr. and Biggio) but, in an otherwise lost year, it’s those games and those moments you can choose to relish. Manager Charlie Montoyo described having tears in his eyes when he saw Biggio hit his first home run, a towering blast into a 400-level suite, because it gave him a glimpse of what’s ahead.
The emotion is understandable coming from Montoyo, who’d been through another hellish week of bad baseball which began with the skipper being unfairly and erroneously blamed for an organizational decision not to play Guerrero Jr., in front of a larger-than-usual crowd, in the Victoria Day matinee against Boston. You think you’re looking for happy moments? So is Montoyo.
Q: What, if anything, can we learn from a team like the Padres, which seems to be emerging from the depths of its rebuild?
A: Rebuilds are centred on development. You draft players – or sign them if they’re international free agents – and get them into your system and hope they turn into productive big leaguers down the road. Padres GM A.J. Preller has done this but he’s also been a shrewd dealer. He acquired young right-hander Chris Paddack, who’s at the top of San Diego’s starting rotation, in a trade with Miami for reliever Fernando Rodney a month before the trade deadline in 2016. Three weeks prior, he spun James Shields to the White Sox for a return which included top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr., then 17, whose big-league career is just underway. Then, in late July 2016, Preller traded Andrew Cashner to the Marlins in a deal which netted him Mississauga’s Josh Naylor.
Since then Preller has made significant free agent signings, including Eric Hosmer and more recently, the 10-year, $300-million deal he gave to Manny Machado.
The Blue Jays are approaching the point where significant decisions must be made with the likes of Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez. If GM Ross Atkins chooses to deal one or both, like Preller he’ll have to hit on the return.
The day to significantly dip into free agency to add to the core or to supplement the core isn’t yet here. But if the draft/develop and trade routes bear fruit, the day will arrive.