Thoughts from the booth: Timing of latest Blue Jays rumours frustrating

Sportsnet analyst Stephen Brunt joins the Starting Lineup to explain a couple of issues the Blue Jays face by trading Stroman and Sanchez, but says it's a no-brainer if they could get a return similar to the Rays' Chris Archer trade to Pittsburgh.

Every Friday, Blue Jays Talk host Scott MacArthur will weigh in with his observations on the Blue Jays from the past week.

Thud.

Use whichever descriptor you wish to describe the hard landing the Toronto Blue Jays experienced in that ugly three-game series sweep at Anaheim, which doused cold water on the 9-3 12-game run that preceded it but also left moods appropriately soured in the clubhouse.

The offence was 0-for-27 with a walk, combined, in the first three innings of the three games. The Blue Jays have been held hitless the first turn through the order in 13 of their first 31 games. Of those 13 games, nine times have the Blue Jays been held hitless through the first four innings of a game.

The defence was bad, making five errors in the series while misplaying fly balls into extra-base hits and, in one case, over-running a ground ball single into a two-base error which permitted an additional run to score on the play.

This, likely, has as much to do with the current state of the team, certain players, as anything else which may be going on.

It was frustrating, however, to hear more chatter about the uncertain futures of Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Justin Smoak. I understand this will be a pertinent topic over the weeks leading up to the July 31 trade deadline, and I’m certainly not being critical of Ken Rosenthal, who’s as credible a media voice as there is in the sport and whose job it is to report on and to discuss what he’s hearing, which is exactly what he did with his comments on MLB Network.

That said, the timing, following a second sweep of Oakland in a week, a two-week run of excellent baseball and amid the excitement of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s long-awaited call-up to the big leagues, was maddening.

Sure enough, Stroman and Sanchez were decidedly mediocre in their ensuing starts, hindered, certainly, by the poor play around them. But how could they not be distracted when they’re constantly being reminded, one way or the other, they’re not part of the future of this team?

Let’s remember these guys aren’t a couple of 33-year-olds entering the twilight of their pro careers. Stroman just turned 28 and Sanchez won’t be 27 until Canada Day. They seem perfectly suited to help the next wave of prospects contend; particularly Stroman, who’s back to pitching like an ace. If there’s one criticism of Sanchez, whose stuff will never be questioned, it’s that he needs to start throwing more pitches in the sixth inning and beyond. In fact, the next pitch he throws in the seventh inning of a game this season will be his first. Front-end of the rotation pitchers log a larger quantity of quality innings.

The Blue Jays take pride in discussing “culture,” to the point it sometimes feels like a buzzword, and talk up the desire to “maximize each player’s performance,” which should be a baseline expectation for any professional sports franchise. Therefore, one hopes these rumblings are nothing more than industry chatter because they serve to erode internal culture and impede players’ abilities to maximize daily performance.

The Blue Jays are a better team with Stroman and Sanchez. Bottom line. And the only – let me repeat, the only – appropriate judgment of this rebuild will be the number of big-league victories it produces in the years ahead. Is there consistent playoff contention? Are there post-season games being played at Rogers Centre? The only acceptable answer to these questions is “yes.”

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

Other items:

• Let’s give Vlad Jr. a little time to breathe. I think we’ve been reasonable about his performance to date. He’ll get his feet underneath him, get back to recognizing spin to force pitchers into the strike zone and then he’ll get to doing damage. The error he made and the other booted ground ball, on which he recorded an out but negated the opportunity for a double play, is to be expected. He’s not going to be a plus defender at third base.

• Congratulations to flame-throwing right-hander Nate Pearson and catcher Riley Adams on their promotions to double-A New Hampshire from High-A Dunedin.

• Let me close by saying this: As a lifelong baseball fan, I’m trying to be better about appreciating greatness as I see it, which seems to be more difficult to do than to reflect after someone has retired. With that, let me add to the chorus of those who say it’s a privilege to watch Mike Trout play. He is the Mickey Mantle of our generation.

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