Monday, August 29, 2016

It's almost September, and the Jays are right in the thick of it

My feeling towards meaningful September baseball.

With three days left until the waiver deadline passes, it is safe to say that there will likely not be any more roster moves from Shapiro and Atkins. The only obvious upgrade seems to be another left-handed option for Gibbons out of the pen. They have had interest in Boone Logan, who may or may not have been put on revocable waivers. A list of potential August trade candidates can be found here. This is the team we are going to finish the stretch with.

So far, the additions of Melvin Upton Jr, Jason Grilli, Joaquin Benoit, and Fransisco Liriano seem to all be working out. A familiar face in a newly re-acquired Dioner Navarro seems to be a strong addition to a spot that was lacking depth behind regular catcher Russell Martin. Speaking of depth? They added two more arms in Mike Bolsinger and Scott Feldman. My favourite part of acquiring Scott Feldman as a rental? We gave up Guadalupe Chavez. When the Orioles did it, they gave up Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop.

Let's back that paragraph up for a second. Since the start of the season, the Jays have acquired a mid-rotation starter with upside, in one of the worst markets for pitching in recent memory. They have acquired two dependable late-inning relief arms. Plus a legitimate, every-day starting outfielder that can play all 3 outfield positions, while under team control next year as well.

In return for all those players, they have given up:

Sean Ratcliffe
Hansel Rodriguez
Drew Storen
Drew Hutchison
Guadalupe Chavez
Jesse Chavez
Colton Turner

Upton, Grilli, and Liriano seem like they can be useful to the club next season in their respective roles. Justin Smoak re-signing aside, Ross Atkins has done a remarkable job when you look at these moves as a whole. None of these, on their own, stand out as big additions, but they all serve a purpose in their own way. I'm not sure he's really gotten the credit he deserves.

Let's look at Melvin Upton Jr. A FanGraphs article from July 6th outlined some of the things that changed for Upton this year, and he's on pace to be around a 2 win player. A 2 win player that we only have to pay $5 million for the remaining year and next. A 2 win player that has allowed Jose Bautista to be eased into the line-up, something which I think is beyond valuable with the way injuries have derailed his season, specifically a turf-toe issue, which he has said is still lingering. With Justin Smoak playing his way out of at-bats, and Edwin looking comfortable at first base, having Upton in the outfield strengthens team defense. If they run out Upton - Pillar - Carerra, it's one of the better outfields in baseball, defensively.

I believe Jose Bautista truly wants to bring a winner to Toronto. This core has already offered to pool salaries to bring in other players, and he seems to be a leader in the clubhouse. If Micheal Saunders is the anti-clutch, I would say Bautista is this teams example of clutch. He was lights out down the stretch last year, and I think that once he gets settled into everyday at-bats, he is going to catch fire at just the right time. Add in the fact he is motivated to prove he's worth the money come this off-season, and I think the recipe is there for him to really bust out when it counts.

The Jays have 6 games left against an Orioles team that is holding fan contests to try to find starting pitching. 7 left against a young, rejuvenated Yankees team that doesn't seem to want to go away. Of course, the 6 most crucial games left are against the biggest division threat, the hated Red Sox. Two years ago we would have all loved to be in this position: meaningful September baseball played in Toronto. It seems to be taken for granted a bit after last year, but this team is good. Enjoy the ride, Toronto fans, this should be an excellent month of baseball.