A couple of weeks ago, the Blue Jays got swept by the Yankees and dipped below .500 for the first time since April.
Fortunately, the team immediately embarked on a light part of their schedule, playing 12 games against the Orioles, Marlins, and Mariners. Over that stretch, the team went 8-4, a good but not great result considering their opponents. Losing two of three to Seattle was bleh.
Here we are now. The Blue Jays are 41-38, a half-game up on the Yankees, eight-and-a-half games back of a Red Sox team that won’t die, and five games back of the Rays in the wild card standings. Up next, the Blue Jays will host the Rays for three and then they’ll hit the road for three in Baltimore and three in Tampa before the All-Star break.
Those six head-to-head games against the Rays are obviously massive. Doing well against Tampa with a series against the Orioles sandwiched in-between and riding hot into the All-Star break puts the team in a nice position to leapfrog the Rays in the second half of the season. Of course, doing poorly here just means more distance between Toronto and Tampa in the standings.
On the bright side, the Rays are limping right now. They’ve won just five of their last 10 games, are coming off a two-game sweep by the mediocre Nationals, and suffered a four-game sweep a couple of weeks ago to the Mariners. This is a great time to see Tampa, it appears.
Anyways! Despite being outside of the playoffs looking in, the Blue Jays have more starters in this year’s All-Star game than anyone in baseball.
Vladdy, unsurprisingly, led everyone in votes and will start at first base. Marcus Semien, who just smashed his 20th homer of the season on Thursday afternoon and is building cash on his next contract on a daily basis, will start at second. And then there’s Teoscar Hernandez, who earned one of the three outfield positions.
Hernandez really is the great story here. It doesn’t feel like all that long ago that Teoscar had to go down to Triple-A Buffalo because he was such a mess at the plate.
After spending a couple of weeks with the Bisons in 2019, Teoscar slashed a .248/.325/.548 line over the final 86 games of the season. He carried that into 2020 and was easily the Blue Jays’ most valuable position player, slashing a .289/.340/.579 line. Given the shortened season, many were still skeptical about his breakout showing, but this year pretty clearly indicates that Teoscar isn’t a fluke. He’s a damn good hitter.
He has two more years of team control left before he can hit the open market and it’ll be interesting to see if the team leans in and signs him to a long-term deal this winter.
The Blue Jays made their first trade of 2021 earlier this week, acquiring Adam Cimber to help fix the mess they have in the bullpen. Cimber is certainly a nice start but there’s obviously a ways to go before this bullpen can be good enough to go on a playoff run.
Another name the Blue Jays are connected to is Richard Rodriguez of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Rodriguez has been a very good reliever on a very bad team for a few years now, so it makes all kinds of sense for the Pirates to sell and recoup some futures for their closer. It also makes all kinds of sense why the Pirates and Blue Jays would link up for a trade. Pirates general manager Ben Cherington knows the Blue Jays’ farm system better than anybody outside of the organization given he spent a few years here as the vice president of baseball operations.
But the challenge with making trades for pitchers right now is we don’t have enough data on how guys are performing since Major League Baseball cracked down on foreign substances. A very good reliever can quickly turn into a pumpkin at the best of times, and not being able to use sticky stuff will surely result in multiple quality arms being less effective.
Might Rodriguez be one of those guys?
As Josh Howsam points out above, Rodriguez has seen his spin rate drop on both his four-seam fastball and his slider since MLB cracked down on sticky stuff. Also, he just recently had his worst outing of the season, as the Brewers tagged him for three runs on four hits on Thursday.
Something to keep an eye on!
And then we have some injury updates…
As Shi Davidi reports, the Blue Jays could have both Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk ready to join the team this weekend when they play the Rays. Jansen has played one game at Triple-A and he went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks while Kirk is 2-for-5 with three walks over a pair of games.
Coming out of spring training, the Blue Jays opted to roll with Jansen and Kirk as their catching duo and Reese McGuire was designated for assignment. He cleared through waivers and re-joined the team after Kirk went on the shelf.
How will the team approach this situation now? I mean, it’s difficult to imagine that McGuire will pass through waivers again given the heater he’s been on lately. To be honest, it was sort of surprising he passed through the first time around given the fact he’s a quality defensive catcher.
Finally, here’s something interesting…
Simeon Woods Richardson will pitch for the United States at the
2021 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The team is managed by Mike Scioscia and features random veteran names such as Todd Frazier, David Robertson, Scott Kazmir, and Blue Jays Legends Edwin Jackson and Anthony Gose. Shane Baz, one of Tampa Bay’s top prospects, is also on the team.