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.
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…