Blue Jays Go All in for Shot at October
First, it was Troy Tulowitzki. Now? Left-handed ace David Price. The Blue Jays, who have the longest postseason drought in all of baseball, aren't messing around.
Photo by Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
First, it was Troy Tulowitzki. Two days later, it's David Price.
Alex Anthopoulos and the Toronto Blue Jays have made it clear they're determined to do whatever it takes to finally reach the playoffs by flipping the baseball world upside down and trading for a pair of superstars days before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
It comes at a big cost, but it's telling how much the Blue Jays, who have the majors' best offence by a longshot, believe they're capable of at least capturing one of the two wild-card spots in a weak American League. They now have the ace they needed to help them get there, and the one they'd be ecstatic to deploy for that potential one-game play in.
Toronto was in a better position, at least standings-wise, at this point in 2014 and stood pat only to watch its season derail shortly after, extending its postseason drought to 21 years. The club's need for pitching help remained apparent throughout the offseason, but Anthopoulos elected to revamp an already strong lineup by signing catcher Russell Martin to the richest free-agent contract in franchise history and stealing third baseman Josh Donaldson away from the Oakland A's in a blockbuster deal. Both made the American League All-Star team and have been key figures behind Toronto's lethal lineup.
But Anthopoulos has refused to stop. In a shocking deal, he traded for Tulowitzki—the game's premier shortstop—to form the best left-side infield combination in all of baseball, and added one of the game's elite arms to a rotation that desperately needed an anchor. And did it all in under a week.
Tulowitzki cost the Blue Jays promising, hard-throwing right-handers Jeff Hoffman and Miguel Castro, and Price forced Toronto to part with the team's No. 1 prospect heading into this season, southpaw Daniel Norris—the man who spent spring training shaving with an axe and living out of a van. Fellow left-handers Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt complete the three-for-one deal with the Detroit Tigers. It's a bold trade, and Price may only make a handful of starts and call Toronto home for two months before the rental signs a lucrative, long-term contract with another team.
That's just the Price of trying to win.
Toronto, without a postseason appearance since winning the second of back-to-back World Series titles in 1993, entered Thursday two games behind the Minnesota Twins for the second wild-card spot, despite a 51-51 record. That .500 record is even more surprising considering the Blue Jays lead the AL with a plus-100 run differential thanks to an explosive offense which featured Tulowitzki batting leadoff in his debut.
The offence has been carrying the team all season, and now the much-needed pitching help has arrived in the form of the electric lefty, who remains lights out and sports a career-best 2.53 ERA over 21 starts.
Toronto first tried to get back on top again and chase down the big boys of the East after the 2012 season when it made a pair of blockbuster deals with the Miami Marlins and New York Mets. It didn't work out, but Anthopoulos, who along with team president Paul Beeston is not guaranteed to be back next season, kept attempting to add while the team's window remained open. Beeston, a long-time employee of the club, is out the door at the end of the season and Anthopoulos is in the final year of his contract, leading to speculation that he, too, could be gone.
But for now, they're here. And doing everything possible to make sure September is a relevant month for the club and October is a time for baseball in Toronto—not a time to start talking about the Maple Leafs.
Sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion have club options for next year that will surely be picked up, but they'll hit free agency at the end of the season. Toronto's best chance to win is now and the organization made sure not to pass up on the opportunity.
Just like the Mets and Marlins deals, the monster moves for Tulowitzki and Price may not work out. That's baseball. If it doesn't, Toronto fans may in a couple years be wishing for Hoffman and Norris like they do Noah Syndergaard—a trio who could have helped the team fill out one of the youngest and most envious rotations in all of baseball. But opportunities to win don't come around every year, something Blue Jays fans can sympathize with after more than 20 years of losing.
Buckle up for the ride, Blue Jays fans. The Rogers Centre is going to start sounding an awful lot like it did in the 1990s. It's going to start sounding like the SkyDome again.