31 July 2015

After acquiring David Price, how good are the Blue Jays now?

There is only a few more hours until today's MLB non-waiver trading deadline but we already know who the most aggressive club has been. Just days after pulling off a stunning trade for Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, the Toronto Blue Jays have now completed a trade for Detroit starter David Price. Now after acquiring the top position player and the top pitcher on the market, will this put Toronto over the top and into the postseason?

As I noted when discussing the Tulowitzki trade, acquiring a player like him did not fill an obvious need but it did make their team better. Tulowitzki, when healthy, is the best shortstop in baseball and certainly is such offensively so while Jose Reyes was having a nice season, Toronto upgraded offensively and defensively from him in this trade.

The thing was that the Blue Jays were already good offensively, really good in fact, as they lead the league in runs scored. But even with the best run differential in baseball, they still are barely above .500 at 52-51. Since Toronto had one of the weaker pitching rotations in the American League, it was a surprise that the team would make a big play in acquiring an offensive player. Therefore, one assumed that the Blue Jays were not done making moves.

And ultimately, we were right. The Jays sorely needed an impact pitcher at the top of their rotation as it has been led by largely middling options like Mark Buerhle and Marco Estrada, especially Marcus Stroman was lost for the season back in March. Price rightfully has a rotation of being one of the finest pitchers in baseball and he has been terrific this season with a career-low 2.53 ERA, striking out 8.5 batters and walking only 1.8 per nine innings, and he has the ninth-best FIP rating in the AL.

It is a big risk for the Blue Jays to take in this deal considering that Price can walk as a free agent. It also is a risk because Toronto gave up some talented pitching prospects in this trade including Daniel Norris, Baseball America's 18th best prospect.

Further risk comes in that the Blue Jays are no bet to make the playoffs. They sit tied for second in the AL East, six games back of the New York Yankees, and they are two games behind the Minnesota Twins for the second Wild Card position. Fangraphs gives them a 32.6% chance of making the Wild Card and a 16.6% chance of winning the division, while Baseball Prospectus gives them a 46.2% chance of simply getting to the postseason.

The Blue Jays may not be in the ideal position to go for broke but that is always easier said than done, particularly when you have the longest postseason drought in sports as well as a general manager in the last year of his contract. Acquiring Tulowitzki and Price may appear to help push Toronto over the top on paper, but you know that cliche by now.

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