Blue Jays add pitchers Ray and Stripling, infielder Villar at deadline

Buck Martinez, Jeff Blair and Jamie Campbell discuss how the Toronto Blue Jays made moves to their major league roster without taking away any key organizational depth pieces and what this means for the club moving forward.

TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays have added depth to their pitching staff and offence, acquiring left-hander Robbie Ray, right-hander Ross Stripling and infielder Jonathan Villar in a series of trades before Monday’s deadline.

"It was extremely productive," Jays general manager Ross Atkins said about the day. "We feel we made the Major League team better (and) we’ve added to the organization without subtracting too much."

The Blue Jays acquired Ray and cash considerations from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for lefty Travis Bergen.

Toronto then acquired Villar from the Miami Marlins in exchange for a player to be named later and Stripling from the Los Angeles Dodgers for two players to be named later.

"Spring training, we knew if this team played to their capability or even close to it we’d be in a good position to make the Major League group better… Had things in the win-loss record gone differently we may not have added as much," said Atkins.

The 28-year-old Ray was a 2017 all-star and finished seventh in the National League Cy Young Award voting that year after going 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA. He’s known for his big strikeout numbers and had a career-high 235 last season.

But Ray has struggled with his command so far this year. He has a 1-4 record with a 7.84 ERA. He’s walked 31 batters in 31 innings and given up nine homers while striking out 43. He will be a free agent at the end of the season.

"This is a guy that has been dominant. He’s going to get people out. If we can help him walk less people we’re going to have something really special," said Atkins.

The 26-year-old Bergen is in his second year in the big leagues. He played for the San Francisco Giants in 2019 and had a 5.49 ERA in 21 relief appearances. He pitched for the Blue Jays once in 2020, throwing 1 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out three.

If Ray can figure out his command issues, he could help the Blue Jays, who are pushing for a playoff spot in the expanded 16-team format. They have an 18-15 record and are 1.5 games behind the New York Yankees for second place in the AL East following their 4-3, 11-inning loss Tuesday against the Baltimore Orioles.

Stripling is another former all-star, making an appearance in 2018 when he went 8-6 with a 3.02 ERA and 136 strikeouts.

The 30-year-old has a 3-1 record with 27 strikeouts, 11 walks and a 5.61 ERA across seven starts for the Dodgers this season. The six-foot-three, 220-pound righty has a career 3.68 ERA across five seasons with Los Angeles.

"Stripling has been a guy who’s very reliable, really good weapons, incredible secondary options and he’s throwing hard this year," said Atkins."

Stripling is headed to Toronto to rejoin longtime Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, who left for an US$80 million free agent deal in the off-season. Although Stripling is a steady, dependable arm, the major league-leading Dodgers have a wealth of rotation candidates even after tremendous upheaval in their starting pitching since last season.

Behind stars Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler, the Dodgers will choose among Julio Urias, Alex Wood and promising youngsters Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin to make the starts in their playoff push.

The Blue Jays have been looking for pitching help with starters Nate Pearson, Matt Shoemaker and Trent Thornton all on the disabled list.

Toronto acquired Taijuan Walker from Seattle last week. The 28-year-old right-hander pitched six scoreless innings and picked up the win in his Blue Jays debut on Saturday.

Villar, 29, is batting .259 with four doubles, two home runs and nine runs batted in this season.

The native of La Vega, Dominican Republic, native has stolen a MLB-high nine bases this season and 211 over the course of his career.

"He has the ability to play shortstop on a very regular basis, ability to play outfield, play centrefield, can bounce around all the infield positions," said Atkins. "Versatility was attractive, switch-hitting was attractive, stealing a base was attractive. Very exciting piece."

— With files from The Associated Press.

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