Snider to Pittsburgh, Thames to Seattle, more to come by deadline?

When Blue Jays outfield prospect Travis Snider left unexpectedly Monday night, social media exploded into a frenzy. We knew he was gone when he started shaking hands and hugging teammates, but is this trade only a portion of what’s to come? 

At the same time Snider left, Eric Thames was lifted in Las Vegas — he then was dealt to Seattle for reliever Steve Delabar. Though Toronto needs pitching help, I’m willing to predict to there’s a 50 percent chance neither Lincoln or Delabar will pitch in Toronto at all. 

With Jose Bautista likely out for more than a week longer than originally thought, these trades leave Toronto with an outfield of Rajai Davis, Colby Rasmus and Anthony Gose for more than a week more than anticipated. The fourth outfielder, in theory, would be Yan Gomes, and there’s no way to believe that was the intention is to have him in that spot. 

Meanwhile, reports have Toronto eying Matt Garza. It’s fairly obvious the Jays want him to help fix the rotation, and those same reports say Toronto and Texas are the two largest suitors for the righty. The Toronto Star even reported the Jays requested to do a physical on Garza.

The Cubs are looking for arms in deals as shown in earlier trades, and Lincoln and Delabar would suffice that, along with the other arms in Toronto’s loaded prospect list. But, with Snider and Thames gone, could that mean a corner outfielder would be traded to Toronto? My guess is that would happen in a Garza deal, thus allowing the Cubs to unload its Alfonzo Soriano contract to Toronto. That’s why I believe these Snider and Thames deals are tipping the Blue Jays’ hand that a bigger deal is in the works.

Who they are dealing for might be a mystery, but I don’t believe Toronto is done trading before the 4 p.m. Eastern deadline Tuesday. 

 

Jays acquire J.A. Happ to help deflating rotation, but was it worth it?

Last night the whole Travis Snider ordeal played out on Twitter to the sound of a potential call up if Brett Lawrie were to be headed to the disabled list with injury. In hind sight, it’s funny how quickly things change in 12 hours.

Instead, Snider was called up because a surprising and massive 10-player deal with the Houston Astros was completed that led to the Blue Jays acquiring J.A. Happ, while dumping off Ben Francisco, Francisco Cordero and flood of prospects, including Asher Wojciechowski and Ted Musgrove, who were named Toronto’s 10th and 14th best prospects respectively heading into this year by Baseball America.

Happ made a splash in 2009, when he went 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA, struck out 6.5 per nine innings, had a respectable strikeout to walk ratio and finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting. In fact, there were many rumors swirling that Toronto wanted Happ in the eventual Roy Halladay deal, way before the Phillies dangled names like Kyle Drabek and Travis d’Arnaud. Instead, Happ ended up in Houston, along with another prospect, Anthony Gose, and several others in the Roy Oswalt deal.

Happ has remained fairly solid since 2009, but even a 4.83 ERA is sadly a step up from what Ricky Romero has allowed this season. Happ’s K/9 numbers have gone up, but his hits need to drop while in Toronto. Either way, he automatically comes in as a better option for the rotation than say Jesse Chavez, although Happ will begin his Toronto stay in the bullpen.

If Happ moves to the rotation, I doubt many people saw a proposed rotation of Romero, Happ, Cecil, Villeneuva and Alverez/Laffey at this point in the season. I do believe at some point Happ will overtake one of those starting pitchers within the next couple of weeks.

Toronto also receives Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter in the deal, which will help out a depleted bullpen that had to call up guys in AA-New Hampshire that really had no business making the majors this season.

Lyon completes his circle of baseball life in this deal. He was originally drafted by the Blue Jays, climbed the ladder, and last pitched in Toronto in 2002 before being placed on waivers and was claimed by Boston.

This time Lyon enters Toronto as a bullpen-exclusive guy, likely joining Jason Frasor in the set-up role. He’s boasted a much better resume than many relievers Toronto has relied on, while a 3.25 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 8.8 K/9 this season is fairly solid. It’d be nice to get the Brandon Lyon of Arizona or Detroit, but I think Jays fans will settle for anyone not named Francisco Cordero, Robert Coello, Jesse Chavez or Sam Dyson in the bullpen at the moment. (Not Sam Dyson’s fault)

Carpenter is a converted catcher turned pitcher with an 0-2 record and a 6.02 ERA in 30 games this season, but the 26-year-old might just be in a sophomore slump. Last year, he posted a much more respectable 2.93 ERA in 30 appearances as a rookie. He also hovers around a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio, which is decent — but the hits allowed needs to improve. He, unlike Lyon, will be a middle relief guy. He’ll be an intriguing player to watch, but will start his organizational stint in Las Vegas’ bullpen.

As for winners in this deal, it is fairly easy to say Houston won, especially with the prospects they’ve received. However, prospects are never actual answers. They may turn into All-Stars, and they may even fizzle out before the majors. But, at this point it’s hard to tell which will happen. The map looks promising for several of the prospects Houston has received, but if Toronto can get back into the mix with this deal, I’d say it was a move that had to be done. And, if Travis Snider turns into the player he’s expected to be and has shown flashes of, this deal also allows him to contribute.

It’s too early to determine whether this trade has winners or losers, or even if it was worth pulling the trigger on. All we know is Toronto just got help in the rotation and bullpen, and that’s what the Jays need most.

The Intriguing Travis Snider Saga

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Tonight happens to be the opening night for the new Batman movie, but I must say the most entertaining blockbuster moment had to be the rumors swirling around Blue Jays outfielder Travis Snider, who appears to be finally getting the call up to Toronto Friday.

If you haven’t heard the hilarious and nerve-wracking tale by now, Snider homered in the second inning during the 51’s game Thursday night — then was pulled before his next at bat later in that same inning. A friend of mine at the game said there was no signs of an injury, but he was already pretty inebriated from the stadium’s dollar beer night to get his story straight about what exactly was going on.

Then Twitter erupted in a volcano of hype, hope and wild trade talk. It got pretty out of hand for about an hour, and Keith Law said it best on the social media site.

“Heard Travis Snider was lifted from tonight’s game because Anthopoulos enjoys messing with everyone on Twitter,” Law tweeted during the rumor mill.

Fans flooded Toronto media with questions of a possible injury, a call up and many quickly jumped to the idea Snider was dealt.

Finally Sports Net’s Shi Davidi, the go-to-guy for anything like this, broke the news that Snider was sent on a plane to Boston, meeting up with the Blue Jays who are set for a three-game series at Fenway. Though no official word has been made of any moves, it is most likely a sign that Snider is close to finally returning to the Blue Jays lineup for the first time since August 4, 2011.

For Snider, and Jays fans, it’s almost a sign of relief.

The well-hyped project slugger came into Thursday batting a robust .332 with 13 home runs, 55 RBI and a 1.002 OPS. Sure those god-like numbers scream a call up to the majors, but statistics seem to balloon in Sin City. Regardless of the stats, rumors began to fly that Snider was no longer happy with the organization as he kept getting passed up in the organization for guys like Corey Patterson, Rajai Davis and — perhaps the last straw — 21-year-old Anthony Gose this week, a guy who was previously projected to get the call to the majors sometime late next year at the earliest.

That’s why when he was pulled, many automatically guessed trade. One of my favorite rumors was a Brandon Belt for Travis Snider trade, as Aubrey Huff was also removed early in Thursday’s game. One fan tweeted to Sports Net’s Mike Wilner that Snider was apart of the ongoing Dwight Howard saga. Whoever that fan was, he won best Tweet for that one. Another great Tweet came from a fan who hypothesized Snider was lifted to get in line early for the Dark Knight Rises midnight showing.

Others called into the Fan 590 hoping Snider will finally get a shot in Toronto, as if he is the savior of the franchise — which would be nice if it were to occur.

Whatever the case may be, Snider was trending on Twitter within 20 minutes of the news breaking out that he had been pulled from the game — but only guesses of what was happening until Davidi calmed everyone down at around 1 a.m. Eastern time.

But many questions still remain, like what move will be made to put Snider on the 25-man roster, if he indeed is getting the call. It most likely would mean Brett Lawrie, whose X-rays came back negative on his right calf Wednesday, could be sent to the DL, or that either Yan Gomes, Rajai Davis or Ben Francisco could be sent down. It would be too much trouble to call up Gose to the majors just to option him immediately for me to believe Gose is the odd man out, which is why it’d be more likely for Francisco or Davis to lose out.

However, this may not be an official call up. For example, Snider could be up with the team for other reasons that could result in a trade, or that he’s in stand-by mode regarding Lawrie’s injury and nothing more.

Tonight still remains a mystery for Blue Jays fans across Canada, and here in the U.S. All that is known for now is Snider is running out of options and chances with the Blue Jays.

Two weeks ’til deadline: who will buy, who will sell?

When Bud Selig added the second wild card, many believed this would open things for a team or two to stay alive and sneak into the playoffs. Few foresaw the consequences we might be seeing in the next few weeks.

A quick scan of the standings as of today, July 15, and you’ll see 22 teams either locked in a playoff spot at the moment or within seven games of a spot. Even crazier, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Oakland, Cleveland, Boston and Toronto are all each within 1.5 games of Baltimore for final AL wild card spot.

Only Minnesota, the Cubs, Philadelphia, San Diego, Colorado and Houston are double-digit games away from October and perceived out of contention.

How is that important?

That means there are potentially 22 buyers and maybe eight sellers right now — two weeks before the July 31 trade deadline.

This could lead to a crazy market. It is believed pitchers like Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Cole Hamels are available, but the original cost for those players may rise if teams remain close in the playoff race. A team like Toronto or New York may give in to a steeper demand to fill the void in their rotation, if each team’s management deems the move is necessary.

Some races, like the good one for the NL Central, could end up with teams overbidding in a competition to see who blinks first.

We may even see teams like Oakland, who could potentially become buyers and sellers to gain youth and dump older veterans like Bartolo Colon.

Either way, there’s about two weeks left until the MLB trade deadline, and teams on the fence or near it will have to determine what their game plan is. There appears to be a frenzy for the wild card right now, which makes us wonder if there is even a good buyers market out there.

As for a Blue Jays fan, the need is clearly in finding help at the starting rotation. Sure it was announced Sergio Santos’ season is over, but Casey Janssen has been perfect in save situations since being named the closer. The bullpen seems to get new guys from AA-New Hampshire and AAA-Las Vegas on a weekly basis, but the starting rotation is definitely in shambles.

Ricky Romero has been the only one of the original starters to escape any form injury to this point, but has been horrendous throughout the majority of the season thus far, and has struggled with command. Behind him is a rag-tag team of Aaron Laffey, Carlos Villenueva, a shaky Henderson Alverez and Brett Cecil. Someone on the market like Ryan Dempster or Cole Hamels would be graciously accepted, but then again so would a Bartolo Colon or Francisco Lariano — at the right price.

Can’t argue with the outfield, as Rajai Davis has been solid, Colby Rasmus has emerged as a threat and Jose Bautista is, well, Joey Bats. Edwin Encarnacion has helped fix a void at first base hitting, while Adam Lind has looked much, much better since being optioned to Vegas.

If Toronto does buy, like Alex Anthopolous is indicating will happen, don’t expect any major shakeup in the every day lineup, and don’t be surprised if — and hope — a few arms get dealt north of the boarder.

Toronto’s sudden pitching downfall

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It’s been quite awhile since I last posted, but I promise I’ve been busy as ever keeping up with the Blue Jays here in Cedar City, Utah. In fact, I’ve caught a couple of Las Vegas 51s games, Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate, just to make sure I didn’t lose out on the opportunity to see Adam Lind, Vladimir Guerrero, Anthony Gose and Travis d’Arnaud play. 

But while the focus on the radio stations back in Toronto seem to be fueled by arguments of hitting, pitching is becoming a serious issue that the fans are starting to notice. One caller yelled at Sports Net 590’s Rob Wong over the lack of hitting and .300 hitters, while countless others have flooded SN 590’s Mike Wilner with similar complaints. Sure, there are no .300 hitters on the Jays, but they’re a top 5 team in runs scored. That should win any argument. It doesn’t matter if the hitting averages are low, as long as the Jays can manufacture runs.

But, the pitching in Toronto is the Achilles heel — or Tommy John if you may — of the ball club. 

Since June 11, all hell has broken lose for the Jays’ hurlers. In the nine games since that date, Toronto has failed to get a starter into the seventh inning eight times. Only Ricky Romero and Henderson Alverez have pitched six innings in that time. Romero has struggled mightily this season, and Alverez has posted a 6.26 ERA and 1.68 WHIP, and opponents are hitting .339 off him in his past seven starts. But the real issues came with Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison each having to leave their respective last starts early with various injuries.

That news only got worse with Drabek undergoing Tommy John surgery Tuesday, Hutchison seriously contemplating Tommy John surgery, and all signs indicating Morrow will be on the shelf well past the All Star break with a bum oblique. This is all on top of the ongoing Jessie Litsch and Dustin McGowan injuries in the starting rotation. 

With the injuries and ill performance, Toronto’s bullpen has been pretty solid, but extremely overworked in the past nine games and that will eventually show if the starting staff can’t linger in their starts.

During this time, many have rushed to their phones and dialed the Fan 590 or blogged about how Alex Anthopolous has failed as a GM for not having the depth he promised he’d build.

Blaming Anthopolous would be absurd and uncalled for. It’d be reckless to believe any GM could prepare for losing three starters to longterm injury in a short four-day span. That depth Anthopolous has been talking about is methodically making its way up the charts in Single-A and Double-AA, and it’d be ludicrous to actually believe they should be in the majors by now if a 2009 15th-round pick like Hutchison had already made it. 

Now Toronto will be in an interesting stage. All signs point to a downfall with the lack of a fourth and fifth starter, especially with Jessie Chavez and Joel Carreno each making lackluster starts in relief of Drabek and Hutchison. Meanwhile, Brett Cecil fired off a pretty decent five-inning start for Morrow. But, if this sort of inconsistent pitching continues, don’t be surprised if the Blue Jays become sellers on the market. However, if Anthopolous believes this is the year to strike in the AL East, expect him to dangle some of those well-touted prospects in an attempt to find a reliable and healthy starter Toronto can use.  

One thing is for sure, though, and that’s we won’t be seeing Drabek for a long time. 

Brett Lawrie magic

I’d like to think the Blue Jays have the power to makes comebacks, but down 5-0 to the Rangers isn’t promising. However, Toronto got it done last night.

Even after the Jays bullpen blew its sixth save in ten opportunities, nothing could stop Brett Lawrie from drilling a 3-2 pitch off the top of the left field wall and out of the park.

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Sure there’s still lingering concerns about a suddenly unreliable bullpen, but it seemed to be erased watching Lawrie sprint around the bases like he just won the World Series. It’s fun to watch, minus the jump at home plate.

It’s clear Toronto needs more help in the bullpen, but a win is a win — especially against the top AL team. But, we’re left wondering, how much magic do the Jays have when the bullpen can’t get it done. The Jays are now 2-4 in games where saves are blown.

Should Travis Snider be recalled?

Rajai Davis injured his right wrist in the eighth inning and is currently listed as day-to-day, according to Sports Net’s Tony Ambrogio. After Sunday’s 7-2 victory over Seattle, Toronto skipper John Farrell added that Davis’ scans came back negative. 

However, he added that Davis would be reevaluated Monday. 

Would this mean Travis Snider could be recalled if Davis’ injury is more severe than it appears right now? Snider just got past a wrist scare of his own, and I’m sure there are a lot of Blue Jays fans that would wish that. Snider has been tearing the cover off the ball, again, in Vegas, batting a robust .400 in 19 games, with a 1.170 OPS, 4 homers, 14 extra base hits, 23 RBI and has demonized AAA pitchers left and right. In addition, he’s been disciplined, with a 1:1 walk to strike out ratio.

HOWEVER, this seems to be a reoccurring issue being brought up every season. Yes, he’s putting up Ty Cobb-like numbers in AAA, but it hasn’t really carried over much in the majors. He had one particularly hot start two seasons ago, but a wrist injury ruined that. Snider has put up these fantastic minor league numbers, but still only .248 batting average, 28 HR and 104 RBI in four combined seasons. 

It gets even more interesting when you consider this is the final season Toronto will have options on Snider, so that will play a factor as well. Why waste time by calling up a hot AAA hitter now, when you can spend time correcting his hitting woes?

So it poses the question: should Travis Snider be recalled?

In my opinion, the answer remains no. You have one last chance to fix Snider’s hitting issues, and now that Eric Thames is starting to do some hitting, it’s better to hold off making any rash call-up decisions. Snider is still only 24 years old, so it’s not too important yet. So, hold off for now Jays fans on the Travis Snider worship talk. We’ve seen these AAA numbers before, and it hasn’t translate to major league success, yet.

Anyway, I’ve been watching watching these games on MLB.tv just to get my Jays fix, so I’m excited the Americans around me can watch Toronto Monday, since ESPN will carry the game from Toronto. It’ll be an interesting pitching matchup between the Yu Darvish machine and the suddenly more reliable Kyle Drabek. Should be a fun one.

Oh and Edwin Encarnacion is RED hot, gotta love that. He’s carried over a great end of 2011 into 2012 and the results have been noticeable.  

Royal flush: Jays sweep first series of the year

The annual trip to Kansas City always seems to yield an interesting time for the Blue Jays every year. Last year, both sides literally played through a thunderstorm and Adam Lind hit the grand slam of the year when the Royals walked Jose Bautista intentionally — loading the bases — just to get to Lind.

This time around, there was no perfect game or no-hitter, but the Jays did turn their first triple play since 1979, they lost their closer to the disabled list, found their new closer and swept their first series of the year. With the sweep, Toronto now stands at 10-6 on the season — tied with New York atop the AL East at the moment.

This series was surely interesting. JP Arencibia is starting to hit the ball better now, and the result was several hits and RBI, Colby Rasmus drilled a pair of home runs — and the bottom half of the order was strong in the first three games. Last night, both Bautista and Kelly Johnson homered and the top three of the lineup carried over enough to win.

Finally, the pitching was solid. Sure, Kansas City has now lost 12 straight, but Kyle Drabek (2-0), Ricky Romero (3-0) and Brandon Morrow (1-1) pitched really well in the series, and Drew Hutchison wasn’t great, but got it done in his major league debut. Hutchison was solid and showed why his 21-year-old arm is valued within the organization.

Well, Toronto will now look to carry over that success tonight at Baltimore, and will finish the week at home against Seattle.

 

Sergio Santos headed to the DL, who closes north of the border?

As if the bullpen situation couldn’t seem to get any worse, Sports Net’s Barry Davis reported shortly after Saturday’s 9-5 win over Kansas City that Toronto closer Sergio Santos is headed to the disabled list with inflammation in his throwing shoulder.

Toronto’s back end of the ‘pen has been shaky all season long, as seen in the four blown saves in the first eight games of the season. Even in Friday’s 4-3 victory, Santos surrendered a run and it appeared it was happening again.

Santos pulled it together to pick up his second save of the season. However, it might be the last time Santos closes a game for a little while, with the news of the shoulder injury. 

But, who comes in to close now? 

There’s likely two options:

1, Francisco Cordero – Cordero hasn’t been overly impressive with his 4.50 ERA (3 runs) in six innings, but most of that came in one poor outing. He’s been pretty solid overall, and he has more than 300 career saves. Cordero still has some nasty stuff, and that could be enough for him to close.

2. Closer by committee – Cordero is likely the first option, but the struggling Casey Janssen could end up playing a larger role, in addition to lefty Darren Oliver. Another option could be Luis Perez, but it is more likely that he will remain in his current role a long relief and middle work. However, I would like to point out he hasn’t allowed a run in 10 innings of relief, and he’s struck out 12. 

 

Whatever the answer is, Jays nation will be anxious to see what happens. Because it feels like this could be an issue to deal with for some time.

My trip to Denver, the embarrassing moment and more

My trip to Denver, the embarrassing moment and more

I contemplated telling a heroic of how I caught my first home run ball at Coors Field Friday. Instead, I thought the truth was more humorous. 

While the Jays bullpen struggled in Toronto at Baltimore, I waltzed into Coors Field for the very first time, purchased an ice cold beverage and found my seats in the right field corner. They were wonderful seats with a perfect view of the on-field action, and blocked the cool Rocky wind breezing from east to west and captured . Despite the threatening clouds above, the night was perfect. 

Here’s the view I had:

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Then the third inning rolled around. 

Miguel Montero stepped to the plate with a runner on first and one out. That’s when, on a two-two count, Montero ripped a pitch to the outfield seats. It was clear from the impact, the sudden sigh in the crowd and the projection of the ball, that this was toasted off the bat. While it was an obvious two-run blast for everyone in the building, it was even more obvious for me that this ball had a direct path to my seat.

As it approached, I knew I had the best opportunity to snag the newly minted souvenir. With my beverage in hand, I extended my left arm and tried to snag the line drive with my outreached hand. 

I felt the impact and closed. Should have used two hands — thank god I have the defensive prowess of a pitcher.

The ball ricocheted off my fingertips, bounced off the ground and spun over to the aisle where a herd of fans scrambled to it like a flock of hungry ducks at a park bench when the bread is thrown. A man in a Rockies cap came away from the pile victorious and — with the chanting from the fans around him — viciously tossed the ball back onto the field, and subsequently, was whisked away by security.     

 Arizona fans saw this:

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I watched the ball land halfway between first base and where Michael Cuddyer was standing in left field. There I was, sitting in my seat with adrenaline flowing through me, staring at what would have easily been my first home run ball. I had never been so close to a homer or a foul ball in my life and it deflected off my fingertips.

When some drunk fans from Chicago returned to their seats in front of mine after a fearless beer run, they were discouraged to learn that a ball had come our way. When I explained the whole story, they laughed. We all had a good laugh at my expense, apparently. But, it was all in good, clean fun. 

The game was intense, too.

Todd Helton knocked in a pair in the sixth on a two-out single to help the Rockies rally to a 6-6 tie. Then, in the eighth, Helton hit a two-out RBI double to left that won Colorado the game and left the entire stadium chanting, “we got tacos!” 

I’m still not sure if we were more excited about watching the five-run comeback or because we got free tacos from Taco Bell after they scored seven runs. Either way, the building was electric. 

 

As for the Jays, I took the day off from caring. I just wanted to relax and see some good baseball — and I was rewarded. However, I found out the gist of what I missed rather quickly. The bullpen sucked and Colby Rasmus had a fairly good series. On Sunday, as we were trapped in logjam traffic, I sat down with a stern grin on my face. The offense exploded for seven runs in the sixth and the Jays won easily. 

So, here’s to the next series — Toronto vs. Tampa Bay.

Oh, here’s the view from my Denver hotel too:

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