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Photo Credit: Bluejays.com

Looking Ahead From 6-16 (To 2018)

Welp. Yesterday’s optimism feels pretty fucking quaint now, doesn’t it? Substantially, little has changed, but hoo boy, that was a gut punch.

Looking at the Latos and Lawrence versus Martinez and Wainwright matchups, it didn’t exactly feel like it was going to be the Blue Jays’ day. And yet, in spite of that, it should have been. Or game one at least should have been.

Now, instead, just in case we weren’t previously convinced something was wrong, we get to add Roberto Osuna’s name to the list of indi-fucking-spensable Blue Jays players either injured or not right. Donaldson. Sanchez. Tulowitzki. Happ. Osuna.

Woof.

The Jays are now 5-7 since their 1-9 start. Anything is still possible, and it would be ridiculous of me to take a vastly different tone than I did yesterday, but oh man. Even just to tread water with such key players injured isn’t an easy task.

Over the last seven days Ryan Goins has a 123 wRC+ in 25 PA, Ezequiel Carrera is at 125 over 29 PA, and Justin Smoak is at 132 in 25 PA. With that kind of secondary production, these Jays should be humming along.

Shit, over the last seven days, José Bautista and Russell Martin have been doing even better than that group. Kevin Pillar has contributed (mostly because of home runs, as his average and OBP have stunk) to the tune of a 108 wRC+, as well.

On one hand, at least they’re not useless! So maybe they can hang on until Josh Donaldson returns without deepening the hole. On that same hand, it goes to show how a team can actually be playing reasonably well — Kendrys Morales and Devon Travis are the only two Blue Jays with more than 12 PA and a wRC+ below 95 over that span — and still not piling up the wins. It’s a funny game that way sometimes, and we can take some solace in the fact that it will surely be funny in the other way for the Jays at some point, as they pick up wins in games where they’re not quite at their best (difficult as that may be to believe at the moment).

But on the other hand (finally!), uggggggggh. Time is not this team’s friend right now.

The day of the trade deadline is Monday, July 31st. On that day the Jays will playing the first game of a series against the White Sox in Chicago. It will be their 106th game of the season.

In an ideal world the Jays by then will have established themselves as a true threat, money to take on an expensive contract will be available, and the front office will have seen enough gains made by some existing prospects, and added enough talent through the draft and the international amateur pool, to feel comfortable making deals to reinforce the club’s positions of weakness — quite obviously left field, the bullpen, and perhaps even first base (or right field, which would enable the current right fielder to move to first). Now they have 84 games — realistically less, because it’s not like the team will wake up on July 31st and decide then whether they’re sellers or buyers — in which to claw their way back to being good enough to justify, at the very least, not dealing away free-agents-to-be like Bautista, Estrada, Liriano, Grilli, Howell, and Barney.

Missing the playoffs and getting nothing in return for those players is all but untenable. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if they keep them, go for it, and then go down to the wire and just miss. But damn close to it. And it would mark a huge missed opportunity, too.

The Jays in 2018 can be good, but really only two ways: with a big infusion of playoff revenue shovelled straight back into payroll next winter, or at the expense of 2017.

Right now the 2018 Blue Jays have $76 million in payroll commitments. To that, however, we need to add something like $25 million for Josh Donaldson, and $5 million for Marcus Stroman, as they’ll both be due arbitration raises. And with Sanchez, Travis, Osuna, and Pillar hitting arbitration for the first time, the club is looking at another $10 million or more from that group.

Assuming payroll stays in the $160 million range, that leaves them with only about $45 million to spend on free agents. It seems like a lot of money (because it fucking well is), but to replace a middle-of-the-lineup bat and two starters, it really isn’t. Especially since that only gets the team back to the not-good-enough level of this foul fucking year (so far!).

However, if they can deal their rentals and get some big league pieces for 2018 — package ’em, say you’ll eat all the salary left on their deals, then stand back and watch as teams fight each other to trade with you! — they’re looking quite a bit better. Especially if some of the players already in the upper minors, like Tellez, Reid-Foley, Greene, and Alford, make strides enough this year to, if not put themselves in position to break camp with the club in 2018, at least be realistic options to help the 2018 club at some point. And if someone like Gurriel moves quick, or Pompey gets healthy and starts really knocking on the door.

There will be plenty of time to look at what might realistically be the return for these kind of rental players (or, y’know, ideally we don’t have to do it at all!), but there is the foundation for what could be a very strong team in the fruits of such deals, plus what they’ve already got, plus $45 million to spend. (Never you mind that third-base-playing elephant in this room!)

Now let’s hope to fuck none of this actually happens and they turn this goddamn thing around.

That felt possible yesterday. It felt especially possible after the seventh inning of the first game yesterday. It still felt possible with two outs in the ninth inning of that first game. And, by all rights, it should feel possible today, too. But Jesus…

  • The Humungus

    Things are baseballing as hard right now for the Jays as they did in the opposite direction for those fucking lucky ass Rangers last year.

    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  • Jeff2sayshi

    I think a question worth thinking about is how much more can you get if you put somebody in the market now, vs waiting until July. How much are an extra 15 starts from Estrada/Liriano worth to a team instead of the 10 you’d get by trading at the trade deadline? Having Joe Smith for almost a full season vs. 2 months?

    I’m not saying that this season is fully over, can’t be done, but it’s getting highly unlikely, even if they play to their best selves the rest of the way.

    • Tom Flawless

      I’m assuming that early sell-offs don’t happen for at least four reasons. 1) Ownership groups haven’t offered up extra budget for their teams’ front offices just yet, 2) you don’t get more than you would later for these players because there’s no competition between teams, irrational pitches to owners (“This is the year, boss!”), or rushes to get something done in a hurry, 3) injury replacements are less of a thing this early, and 4) front offices and ownership groups don’t want to look like they’re giving up on their teams this early.

      • Jeff2sayshi

        Just to be contrarian on your points:

        1) If extra budget is assumed to be there, it could be moved forward if the correct opportunity was there. You make a plan, but adjust it for unexpected developments.
        2) I don’t think there’s any empirical evidence to support you’d get the same in April as in July for a rental, because it just doesn’t happen. I find it hard to believe, however, that a team like Houston wouldn’t pay more for what amounts to almost a full season of a starter like Estrada vs. 2 months of him. It strengthens your likelihood of making the playoffs. Otherwise you have to be in position in July, this helps you get there.
        3) This is true, but teams still know their areas of weakness.
        4) Not much to argue on this point. It sends the wrong message. But if we can say it in Dec regarding free agent signings, it should hold true in April. “If you manage to make your fans happy, you’ll be out of a job quickly.”

  • Tom Flawless

    I’m not gonna lie; a selloff is almost more fun to consider + it doesn’t require the players to play downright magically over the next 80 games. I also feel like the Jays’ front office could be great at identifying and securing young talent.

    I keep thinking of the potential inverse scenario of the Oakland A’s in 2014. They shipped out Addison Russell, Dan Straily, etc. for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Addison Russell basically came as advertised and the Cubs then packaged Straily off for… Dexter Fowler. Aaaaand they got a year and a half of Cespedes for a half year of Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes. The possibility of Shapiro and Atkins combining the expiring deals of talented starting pitchers allows me to dream on the prospect lists of teams like the Dodgers. And, I mean, I realllly don’t want the Jays to trade Donaldson, but if they do, trading him to a big market / big budget NL team with future stars at the AAA level is the best worst option. Maybe all of this is obvious.

  • Rob Ray

    I’m willing to give it to the 40 game mark and if they haven’t improved to say 17 or 18 wins by then, then I believe the handwriting is on the wall. There will be lots of interesting players available at the deadline and that one player could put you in a great position come playoff time. Derek Holland of the White Sox is a good example. You know the ChiSox are going nowhere. Holland will almost certainly be available in July. He’s 2-0 against the Indians this year and 7-1 lifetime. Put him in Boston with Chris Sale in a playoff series against the Tribe and the Indians would be in trouble. If Houston added him to go with Kuechel, that too would be rather daunting for the Tribe. The Jays would have plenty of interesting pieces available for teams trying to win it all now. After all, flags fly forever.

  • niveb

    This team was put together over the winter. It was consciously decided not to replace the left fielder, not to keep Encarnacion, not to offer Cecil more, not to bid for any of the free agents (eg Chapman) etc etc. The roster is what it it was planned to be. There have been injuries, there always are, though this year they have come unusually soon.
    But the team is, warts and all, the Atkins Shapiro team. How do they account for it? How do they explain the bullpen? How do they explain the record?