The hot stove has been set to a low simmer for the Blue Jays all summer long, as the club has been in no rush to either buy or sell. But the day of reckoning is now almost upon us, and you have to think that they’re about to at least do something. None of us can be quite sure yet how much they’ll be able to, as the market for guys having dogshit seasons isn’t exactly aflame, complicating what should be no-brainer deals involving free-agents-to-be like Marco Estrada, Francisco Liriano, and José Bautista.
In MLBTR’s piece on the top 25 deadline day trade candidates, Bautista doesn’t even make the grade, while Estrada and Liriano as a pair rank just seventeenth. “Teams destined for the postseason likely won’t view these pitchers as likely playoff rotation pieces, but more marginal contenders could roll the dice on the talented hurlers,” is about the nicest thing authors Jeff Todd and Steve Adams can muster about the two struggling starters.
Joe Smith, however, is another story.
Smith is back healthy after a trip to the DL, he’s on a cheap contract, is a rental, and so far has picked up where he left off, striking out batters like never before. There should be an actual market for him, especially if teams really believe that his spike in strikeout rate is real (it’s at 35.4%, as compared to a career rate of 21.0%). “He should go to a contender in need of setup help,” the MLBTR piece says, as they rank him sixth.
One such team may be the St. Louis Cardinals…
Toronto has been watching Memphis — and could be where #cardinals shop for their standard reliever addition. Joe Smith fits that profile.
— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) July 31, 2017
Goold here doesn’t imply he has any inside information, he’s simply connecting some dots. But as far as I’m concerned, this line of thinking is good as Goold.
So… what might Memphis have that would interest the Jays? Well, one name that certainly jumps out is the Cardinals’ former All-Star shortstop, Aledmys Diaz.
The Cardinals have perhaps soured a little on the 26-year-old who put up 2.7 WAR as a rookie last season and made the All-Star game in San Diego. Diaz was sent packing for Memphis after slashing .260/.293/.396 through the first 71 games of this season, and the Cards haven’t missed a beat with his replacement, Paul DeJong. That doesn’t mean that St. Louis would just give away an actually decent player for a rental reliever, but maybe a deal could be expanded somehow. Or maybe they would!
Or maybe they’re not looking at Diaz at all. Or maybe this isn’t about Smith, but about one of the Jays’ decent relievers with control left that’s similar to what Diaz has — a Ryan Tepera, perhaps. Or maybe it’s not about relievers! Or… who the hell even knows?
But if the Cardinals feel that Diaz is surplus to requirements, he certainly would check off some boxes for the Jays. He’s primarily a shortstop (for now), but he played a little bit of second base this year, as well as left field. He’s in the last season of the four year, $8 million deal he signed coming out of Cuba, but is still arbitration eligible beyond this season. At the very least he would be in the mix, with Rob Refsnyder and perhaps Lourdes Gurriel, to take over Darwin Barney’s role on the Jays next year (and maybe even Ryan Goins’, depending on what the club thinks of his apparently not-so-great glove). But with what he showed in 2016, if he could get back to something closer to that, he’d be a potential left field candidate, a legit second base insurance candidate. Or maybe even a guy who could be your stopgap third baseman between the Donaldson and Guerrero eras, if we want to get real ridiculous about it. Which we do! It’s a ridiculous time of year! As clearly evidenced by the fact that these are far too many words about a guy who I have to believe isn’t gettable for the price of Joe Smith.
But I dunno. Maybe there’s something to this. Maybe the Jays were looking at pitching, or someone else on the field. Dakota Hudson was on the hill for Memphis here on Sunday, for example — he was the Cardinals’ second pick in last year’s draft, and Keith Law ranked him their tenth best prospect back before the season began, suggesting he’d end up a fourth starter but has some upside beyond that — or if they’d been on Memphis for a while, someone like Luke Weaver (Law’s 11th ranked pre-season prospect for St. Louis, though currently MLB Pipeline’s number two) surely would have caught their attention as well.
Would these kinds of players be an astronomical price to pay for a couple months of Joe Smith? I tend to think so. I think a Cardinals fan would say so, too. But, again, Smith’s been pretty good! If you forget who he is, that that he’s a known commodity and has had a long career that doesn’t very much resemble this season, and simply look at the numbers, there’s genuine appeal. In 35.2 innings over 38 appearances he’s struck out 51, walked 10, and allowed 30 hits. One blown save to 13 holds. His FIP, and xFIP, and SIERA have all been better than his ERA — good defence, Jays! — plus he e’s kept the ball in the ballpark, he’s had 19 shutdowns to 2 meltdowns, he’s 13th of 166 relievers in WPA, and in the top third by WPA/LI and RE24.
We’re not talking about an Aroldis Chapman type rental reliever, but we’re also not talking about getting Gleyber Torres in return, either. So I don’t know! I mean, if you’ve made it this far, be prepared to be disappointed as compared to some of these ideas. But maybe not! Maybe he’ll land them something good. Maybe from St. Louis, even.