Monday, August 5, 2019

Ten weekly random thoughts: Week 18: July 29-August 4

The Blue Jays had a week of weaker opponents and as expected they dominated. It was also trade deadline week and after saying goodbye to Marcus Stroman and Eric Sogard following Sunday's game, the Blue Jays dealt relievers Daniel Hudson (Washington Nationals) and David Phelps (Chicago Cubs) and starter Aaron Sanchez and reliever Joe Biagini, along with prospect Cal Stevenson (all three went to Houston). Freddy Galvis and Ken Giles were effectively taken off the trade market due to respective lower back and elbow injuries. Despite the weaker lineup, the Blue Jays really had a good week on the backs of solid pitching and the kids  Vlad, Cavan, and Bo all bringing their "A" games. Guerrero Jr. set the new rookie record for most grand slams by rookies in a single season. The no-doubter he hit vs. KC was the 5th by a Blue Jays rookie this season. Rowdy Tellez hit a pair of grand slams, Vlad has two and Biggio has one. It's entirely possible that the rookies could double the mark by the end of the season. After pummeling the Royals into submission, the Blue Jays went into Baltimore, who traded Andrew Cashner to the Red Sox. Randal Grichuk had a scary moment, fouling a ball off his mouth Thursday (more on that later). Lourdes Gurriel Jr. injured his knee Wednesday and missed a game and a half (more on that later). Nick Kingham was also placed on the 10-day DL with an oblique strain (more on that later). The other situation to discuss is Ryan Borucki (more on that later). Looking at the week ahead, the Blue Jays face some decidedly stiffer competition. First, they will head to Tampa Bay where they will face ex-teammate Eric Sogard, who continues to be consistently solid at the plate, batting over .300 over his first three games as a Ray. The Blue Jays then face the first place NY Yankees for four at the Rogers Center. The Yankees are starting to pull away in the AL East title race, with an 8-game cushion following the win in the first game of the double-header vs. the Red Sox Saturday. The Yankees have been solid despite Luis Severino and Dellin Betances not throwing a pitch thus far this season, Troy Tulowitzki playing all of 32 innings before yet another calf injury that eventually forced him to retire, Miguel Andujar missing all but 12 games, Greg Bird missing all but 10 games, Jacoby Ellsbury missing his second straight season, Giancarlos Stanton missing all but 9 games (by the way, he hurt his knee 6th game back at the end of June vs. the Blue Jays diving into 3rd base). Oh, and Edwin Encarnacion fractured his wrist Saturday getting hit by a pitch. Any other team would be in the basement of their division. Credit the incredible job Aaron Boone and co. have done getting the most out of this lineup of misfits. Here are ten random thoughts from week 18 of the MLB.

1. Let's start with the Ryan Borucki situation. Let's rewind back to spring training a second. Borucki injured his pitching elbow towards the end of spring training with what the team at the time was calling elbow inflammation. Borucki was only expected to miss a start or two at most. Instead, he missed the first two months of the season before he was able to seriously start throwing. Borucki was found to have a bone spur in his elbow that caused him significant problems. Anyway, Borucki was finally able to start a rehab assignment the day after Canada Day. He pitched into the 5th inning in his season debut on July 22nd. Borucki had a decent debut giving up 4 runs (2 earned on 7 hits while walking 4 and striking out 3). Second five days later? In a word, terrible. Borucki gave up 2 3-run HR, 8 hits and 2 walks and was pulled after just 2 innings. A couple of days after that start, Borucki was placed back on the 10 day IL with elbow inflammation. He will be "consulting" with renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrew regarding possible next steps and treatment options. The worse case scenario would be that Borucki requires a second Tommy John surgery (he underwent TJ surgery back in 2012 and missed the entire 2013 season). Don't be surprised if Borucki is shut down for the remainder of the season as there is just a month remaining in the minor league schedule.

2. The other injury concern is with closer Ken Giles, who has battled through multiple incidences of elbow inflammation this season. Giles initially went on the IL June 11th and was able to return after the minimum ten day requirement. A few days after returning, much controversy ensued when manager Charlie Montoyo mysteriously used him three days in a row (July 2-4). The first day, the game was a blowout loss. The second game was a save situation with a 3-run lead. The 3rd day was a tie game in the 9th and Giles gave up the winning run. I mean, Giles was coming off a recent inning and you use him three days in a row? Anyway, then the all-star break came and Giles was injured again, this time with an apparently rough massage treatment that caused a nerve problem. This caused him to miss a few games. Then this week, Giles was again unavailable with elbow inflammation. He received a cortisone shot July 30th and did not throw the next two days. At this point, I don't trust the Blue Jays medical team to treat a paper cut. The rest of the season for Giles should be load management with the goal being to keep him healthy but giving him enough work to keep him sharp.

3. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Randal Grichuk and Derek Fisher all had rough days at the office this week. On Wednesday, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. jammed his knee diving for a fly ball. Thankfully the injury was minor and he just missed basically a game and a half. On Thursday, Randal Grichuk fouled a ball off his lips (and no he wasn't bunting!) Grichuk missed one game and served as the DH Saturday. On Saturday, in what was both the most comical and potentially most serious injury, newcomer Derek Fisher completely missed a fly ball. Fisher immediately went down grabbing his face. After Nikki Huffman examined him, he was pulled from the game and replaced by Brandon Drury. By the way, Fisher's Blue Jays debut came in an unenviable situation with 2 strikes against him. He would end up striking out. Fisher had a noticeable lump on his face. He may miss more than a game

4. Last injury update is Nick Kingham was placed on the 10 day IL with a left oblique strain All I really want to say on this one is I find it strange how our pitchers, relievers seem to get hurt when they throw multiple innings. Jacob Waguespack threw 4 innings in his debut back on May 27th and then missed the next month. Kingham threw three innings and is now out at least ten days. Kingham was 3-1 with a 3.00ERA in 11 appearances for the Blue Jays

5. OK, let's get into taking about the trades the Blue Jays made (and I'll just touch on the ones made Monday-Wednesday, then I'll finish up with a winners/losers point of the deadline). The first trade I want to dive into is the trade that sent Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini along with prospect Zac Stevenson to Houston for Derek Fisher. First of all, this trade was a bit of a surprise, given how badly Sanchez had been struggling (hadn't won since April). Sanchez was 3-14 with a 6.07ERA in 23 starts. Mind you his last three starts were significantly better and he walked just the one batter over the last 15.2 innings. Maybe the Blue Jays wanted to sell while he was on a hot streak. Biagini was included in the deal after throwing a scoreless inning on Wednesday. Biagini was 3-1 with a 3.78ERA in 50 appearances in a Blue Jays uniform this season. Sanchez made his Astros debut and what a debut it was. Sanchez threw 6 no-hit innings, allowing a pair of walks and hitting a batter. His team completed the no-hitter. Biagini threw a scoreless inning Saturday in his Astros debut, striking out one and walking one. Fisher's debut wasn't quite as good (see point 3). Fisher had one hit in 4AB in his one full game.

6. Next, let's get into the David Phelps to the Chicago Cubs for minor-leaguer Tom Hatch trade. Phelps is pitching for the first time since Tommy John surgery since March 2018. He has proven himself to not only be healthy, but also reliable. Phelps had a 3.63ERA in 17 appearances as a Blue Jay. Phelps has made 2 appearances in a Cubs uniform, giving up 1 run, 3 hits, walking 1 and striking out 2. He's going to be huge for the Cubs because relievers are a dime a dozen in the playoffs.

7. Finally, Daniel Hudson was traded to the Washington Nationals for minor-leaguer Kyle Johnson. Hudson was having himself a solid season and was one of the most reliable relievers in the Blue Jays bullpen, with a 6-3 with a 3.00 ERA in 55 appearances. Hudson is going to a Nationals team that would host the Wild Card game if it was being played tomorrow. Hudson struck out the one batter he faced in his Nationals debut Saturday.

8. Three winners of the trade deadline:

  • Aaron Sanchez who gets a fresh start after struggling mightily in Toronto. Sanchez may wind up in the bullpen for the playoffs with the Astros locked in with three of the four starters they will need (Justin Verlander, Garrett Cole and the newly acquired Zack Greinke). Sanchez was part of a combined no-hitter in his debut:
  • Chicago Cubs:  They had a good trade deadline acquiring ex-Tigers 3rd/baseman/RF Nicholas Castellanos and Phelps. Are the Cubs perfect? No! However, the moves they made should at least give them a strong chance at the NL Central title or at least a wild card spot.
  • Houston Astros: The Astros may have just secured themselves a World Series appearance. The Astros were among the busiest teams at the deadline, re-acquiring catcher Martin Maldanado, and acquiring Zack Greinke, who continues to be an elite pitcher at age 35. It'll be tough to beat the Astros once in the playoffs, let alone 3 or 4 times. Also, the Astros are going to probably clinch the AL West and home field advantage throughout the playoffs weeks before the season ends, meaning they will be able to set the rotation to have Verlander, Greinke and Cole pitching multi games in a given series
Three losers of the Trade deadline:
  • Boston Red Sox who made just a single move, acquiring Orioles righty Andrew Cashner who had been having a solid season despite his team being dead last, yet again, in the entire MLB. Boston is banking on their team finding their Championship form. So far, it looks like a mistake for the Red Sox to basically stand pat at the deadline. After Saturday's double header in NY, the Red Sox have now lost 7 straight and are fast losing ground in the wild card race. Boston is 5.5 games back of the second WC spot after Saturday and 4.5 back of Oakland, who are a game back of the 2nd WC spot. What an embarrassment it would be if the Red Sox missed the playoffs after winning the World Series the previous year
  • Chicago Cubs who might have made a huge mistake in trading backup catcher Martin Maldanado back to Houston. On Saturday, Wilson Contreras left the game with a hamstring injury. By the looks of his reaction as he came off the field, he could miss several weeks. In his absence, Victor Cartini becomes the starting catcher and AAA catcher Talyor Davis will be the backup.
  • Trevor Bauer who goes from competing in a wild card race and likely playing a wild card game and maybe more with the AL Central title very much up for grabs to a team trying to tank for a draft pick. Like Marcus Stroman, Bauer fell out of favor with management with an "it's all about me" attitude that did not match his performance. Basically, the Reds will get Bauer for another season before likely trading him for perhaps an even bigger haul than the Indians got in the 3-team trade. It's highly unlikely that Bauer would opt to sign long-term with a team that is in rebuilding mode. Actually, Stroman is likely in the same boat about bolting at the first opportunity.
9. Let's end things this week by looking at injured players who could impact the playoff races. Will some, all or none of these players return? Also, if the players do return, how effective will they be? Severino and Betances have yet to throw a pitch this year. Several of the other players in this list have missed substantial time and will need time to get into a groove. Stay tuned...

10. Blue Jay of the week: Bo Bichette, who had a very strong week in his MLB debut. Bichette had 13 hits in 35AB, 2HR and 3RBI. Sure, he had a critical error in the field Sunday, but management has already said they will accept growing pains as the kids gain valuable MLB experience.