For too long, it seemed when the Blue Jays made moves that caused people to shake their heads, the reason was mysterious to all. Often “senseless” would have been a better word. To show that this year is different, a couple of recent transactions by the team have surprised, and possibly upset some casual fans. However, they are far from senseless. They are an indication that this time the team is indeed, “all in” and realize every game is important. Alex Anthopoulos is displaying a newfound attention to strategy in order to win them.
Since yesterday’s win over the Yankees we’ve seen well-established and liked pitchers Aaron Loup and Drew Hutchison demoted to the minors, with Buffalo first baseman Matt Hague called up to the big show. Another roster move, to replace Loup on the roster is expected before tomorrow’s game in Philadelphia.
Loup has been ineffective most of the year, so it shouldn’t be difficult to upgrade the late-inning pitching by replacing him. Best bets would probably be either long-time QEW commuter (back and forth between Toronto and Buffalo) Chad Jenkins, or much-traveled reliever Ben Rowen. Jenkins is transitioning to a reliever and has been good this year at AAA; 8-3 with a 2.32 ERA over 37 games (29 relief appearances.) Rowen, who spent part of last season with Texas, has spent time with a total of four teams at different levels this year but has a 1.66 ERA over a collective 40 games. He’s not allowed an earned run in his last ten games.
Both of them are right-handed; if the Jays decided to stick with two lefties in the bullpen, they could call upon Colt Hynes, a southpaw who began the year at AA and has a 3.38 ERA at both that level and AAA. He’s hot lately, having nine straight scoreless appearances. Any of the trio would likely be more reliable for Toronto right now than Loup has been.
Hutchison’s demotion actually made headline news on Yahoo. After all, he is co-leader in winning percentage among AL pitchers (12-2 for a .857 pct.) and just pitched a solid game yesterday for the only win of the weekend series against New York. Furthermore, at first glance, adding another first baseman to the mix when the big league team already has Edwin Encarnacion, Chris Colabello and Justin Smoak battling for time there is odd.
The moves make perfect sense however. The team has a surprisingly light schedule this week with today and Thursday off. They don’t really need five starting pitchers for a little while and are embarking on an 8-game road trip. Hutchison is the obvious odd man out, given the extreme split between his home and road performance commented on here before . (Currently he’s sitting at 10-1 , with a 2.57 ERA , averaging about 6 1/3 innings an outing at Rogers Centre; and while only 2-1 on the road he sports a dreadful 9.00 ERA , lets opponents tee off with a .372 average and logs well under 5 innings a game there.) By sending him to Buffalo,he can make starts on his regular days on the 21st and 26th, pick up a pointer or two from a new pitching coach and return to Toronto to start on the 31st- at home!
Calling up Hague too, is wise. Matt made a splash at spring training and hasn’t missed a beat at AAA since. He currently leads the International League with a .348 average and has a robust 83 RBI, .482 slugging percentage. With a couple of games in an NL park coming up, the chances are the team will utilize more pinch hitters and Hague will wield a hefty bat off the bench, or else provide a new decent-fielding 1B while Encarnacion recuperates his injured finger and have Colabello provide a big bat on the bench to unnerve opposition pitchers in the late innings. I’d personally opt for the latter, and if Hague excels , keep him up while sending hot-and-cold Smoak down to the minors for the rest of the month. (In September, of course, rosters expand and all of the above mentioned could be on the Toronto bench.)
Demoting a pitcher with a winning record. Calling up a big-hitting infielder possibly just to be available as a pinch hitter for two days. The 2015 Blue Jays are indeed looking to win this time!
Interesting fine print notes today in the player transactions . Former Blue Jay Travis Snider was released outright by Baltimore while over in Chicago, Emilio Bonifacio seems destined for the same fate , being designated for assignment. This should put to rest any whining about them being let go by Toronto . Not that I’ve heard a lot of that lately. Snider, for the record, since being shuttled off to Pittsburgh in 2012, has played in 370 games, hitting a feeble .220 with 22 HR and 92 RBI in that time. His OPS with the Orioles this year had been a dismal .659; not quite the replacement for Nelson Cruz they were hoping for.
Bonifacio, one of the biggest disappointments in recent Blue Jays history, after a brief flourish with KC in 2013, has slid into total baseball irrelevance. In 47 games with the Sox this season, he’d hit .167 with a measly 4 RBI and his once impressive base-stealing had yielded only one base in five tries.