Well if nothing else, these are interesting times for the Blue Jays and their fans. Whether or not you subscribe to the idea of the saying “may you live in interesting times” being a wicked curse is up to you.
Of course Toronto, on the positive side, called up their top-rated prospect, Bo Bichette today meaning that 3/4 of their infield is now made up of rookies whose dads were All Stars – Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio being the other two. Bo promptly delivered a line drive single tonight in Kansas City in his first big league at bat.
That was facilitated by the team’s trading of Eric Sogard to Tampa; the “nerd” started the game in Toronto’s clubhouse and apparently was told to walk across the field mid-game to join his new employer.He said he was a bit confused as to who to cheer on. The Jays get back two “players to be named” from the Rays, which seems odd (if they are unknown why two?) suggesting perhaps they are players on the injured list or something which would prevent them transferring right now.
Sogard’s been popular and useful this season in his Toronto debut, but it’s not a horrible trade. Eric’s traditionally been a 25th man, a utility infielder with little hitting ability. Somehow this year he’s having a career year, hitting .300 with 10 homers already compared to his 11 before over parts of 7 seasons. Sogard would be a great veteran presence and a good bench player for 2020, but as he’s a free agent he might well walk away in fall anyway and it’s quite unlikely he will be (as a few fans on Twitter suggested) the next Jose Bautista, a career journeyman who suddenly dips into the Toronto pool and becomes a flat out superstar.
Unless you’re a bigtime fan, you might not have even noticed the Sogard deal, because hours later Toronto pulled off the biggest trade in the majors so far this July, trading their staff “Ace” Marcus Stroman to the New York Mets for two pitching prospects- Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson. Torches are lit and the noise coming from P.O.’d Jays fans rivals that heard in Edmonton decades ago when their Oilers shipped hockey legend Wayne Gretzky south to the city of Angels.
Reaction has been over-the-top for sure, but one can’t argue with the fact that it’s a deal which does little for the Jays.
Regular readers here know I’ve been of mixed emotions about Stroman through the years. He has at times been immature, and quite frankly no one seems as impressed with Marcus Stroman’s successes as Marcus Stroman and his personal Twitter account. He gets on opponents nerves by his fist-pumping and high-energy celebrations when he gets a big out.
On the other hand… he’s a pretty good starting pitcher. He made the AL All Star team this season, and with good reason. Although low run support has kept his winning percentage below .500 (6-11 right now), he’s been strong more starts than not and his 2.96 ERA is (was) 5th best in the AL among pitchers with 60 innings logged, let alone “qualified” (ie- an inning per game team has played.) He is one of the most reliable pitchers in getting grounders, a major benefit in a division where at least three ballparks are home run hitters dreams. And don’t forget the young guy already won a Gold Glove in his career. Or that he is a favorite of other pitchers in the clubhouse and by all accounts, a good mentor, as the Toronto Star detailed this week.
In return, the Jays get the Mets top two pitching prospects. Which sounds good…except that Fangraphs consider New York’s farm system to be only 23rd best in baseball (Toronto,8th… San Diego is considered to be the top minor league system) and that even Kay is only the 4th best prospect from New York. Neither pitcher made the MLB list of 100 best prospects.
On the surface, Kay seems like the “catch”, being that he’s 24 and has been pitching in AAA this summer.Woods-Richardson is barely 18 and was only drafted last summer, and is in low-A ball. However, some Toronto sources figure Simeon is the better potential star, with a 97 MPH fastball shot from a 3/4 arm angle, and a good curveball. KAy on the other hand has what scouts deem only “average” fastballs and curve, though Toronto have said it is “a plus curveball with elite spin.” Time will tell. So far though, AAA batters haven’t made him look too elite; he’s 1-3 with a 6.61 ERA and 40 hits allowed in 31 innings after a good start to the year at AA.
The argument the management has made is essentially “it’s the best offer we had” and they pointedly say the Twins and Braves made lesser offers for Stroman, while the other team in Marcus’ hometown (Yankees) seemed to lose interest when Toronto wanted their top pitching prospect. It may be so but it misses the obvious- they didn’t have to trade Stroman!
He wasn’t going to be a free agent until the end of 2020, leaving them time to re-up him, or if things go badly next season, look for a better offer next July. Hopefully, go to the 2020 post-season with Stroman on the mound. Instead they jettison the only reliable starting pitcher they have in favor of a “back-end of the rotation” guy a year or two from now and a possible – vaguley possible – star in about 5 years, by which time they’ll probably be wanting to trade the likes of Guerrero and Bichette if they develop as expected. It’s dumb, dumb dumb. And it shows a total tone-deafness as to what the fans want. Fans who pay the freight for both the pitchers, and the office staff like Ross Atkins, mastermind of this team on pace to be the worst Toronto one since the 1970s.
So it goes. Congratulations Trent Thornton. Six months ago you were an anonymous aging minor league pitcher in the Astros organization. Now, you’re the ace of the Blue Jays staff. With 3 career wins and a 5.45 ERA and a decent record of at least going to the mound when called on this year.
For the record, the outspoken Stroman eventually tweeted apparent happiness about playing in NYC… after he threw a major,loud tantrum in the clubhouse according to both Chris Cwik of Yahoo and Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun. Say one thing for Marcus- he likes to win. He was not pleased to be shipped from one losing, fourth-place team with questionable direction to another fourth-place team with questionable direction. So,we say without sarcasm, best of luck Marcus. Hope you’re more appreciated in New York City … or at least in the New York front offices.