* With over a month to go before the July 31 trade deadline, the Toronto Blue Jays have a few items on their shopping list, including a starting pitcher. Is Jeff Samardzija the answer? .... 2014 Canadians drafted … Canadians in the Minors … Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent
By Bob Elliott
The Blue Jays' shopping list with 36 days remaining until the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline:
A starting pitcher.
An infielder, either a second baseman or a third baseman.
That reads like something we recall writing some Novembers before the Jays headed to the winter meetings.
Except it’s not November, even if Mr. November, Derek Jeter, was at the Rogers Centre Tuesday.
That’s a lot of needs for a team in first place this late in the season for the first time since 1993.
What do the Jays do?
Overpay for a starter?
Overpay for an infielder?
Overpay for bullpen help?
As the late John McHale, Montreal Expos president, always said, “I’ll overpay in July, I won’t in the winter, who knows when we’ll get so close again.”
The Jays have a 64.4% chance of making the playoffs, according to ESPN (down from 84% earlier this month) and 59% according to MLB.com numbers from Baseball Prospectus where probabilities are based on simulations of the remaining schedule incorporating year-to-date run differential, roster composition and playing time projections.
At the final home game of the season each fall since 1993, the song has been “OK Blue Jays! Let’s play golf!”
But what should the goal be?
1. A starting pitcher.
Is former Notre Dame tight end Jeff Samardzija, 29, from the Chicago Cubs the answer?
“The Jays aren’t going to win with the starting staff they have right now,” said a National League executive into the phone Tuesday afternoon. “They need a man on the mountain -- The Guy -- and they don’t have him. Is it fair or unfair to knock Samardzija for pitching for a crappy team, a team that has never won? Yes, it’s not his fault. There aren’t any one-man teams.
“All I know is that stuff wise, he’s better than anyone they have. It’s tough coming into the AL East, but Baltimore -- the team I think will win -- hasn’t seen him.”
The Jays are not the only Samardzija suitors. The St. Louis Cardinals lost Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia to shoulder injuries. The San Francisco Giants are worried about Matt Cain. The Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels and Atlanta Braves have shown interest too.
The Cubs want four players, and one wild one flying around Tuesday was that the Jays were willing to part with prized prospects Aaron Sanchez, lefty Daniel Norris and outfielder Dalton Pompey. The Cubs are looking for strictly pitching prospects in return.
Right-hander Jason Hammel, 31, (6-5, 2.99) would not cost as much, but then he’s not as good as Samardzija.
Lefty David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays would be the best fit to give the ball to in Game 1 and to help get the Jays to October. Besides the Jays, the Cards, Giants and Yankees have scouted Price.
The Rays appear out of it -- 20 teams went into play Tuesday within five games of the wild-card leaders -- and can’t afford his contract next year, but would they deal Price within the same division?
Arizona Diamondbacks Bronson Arroyo, 37, has been through the AL East wars with the Red Sox. He’s 7-4, with a 4.08 ERA in 14 starts and is now on the disabled list.
2. Infield help.
Chase Utley would be a wonderful fit at second for the remainder of the season, and Phillies' scouts have been watching class-A Dunedin. Utley is not waiving his no-trade clause to play on turf.
Prado has hit 13 doubles, four triples, three homers and driven in 34 runs in 77 games, with a .693 OPS. In nine seasons with the Atlanta Braves and Arizona, he’s played all four infield positions and left field.
A year ago the Jays were getting ready to send set-up men Steve Delabar and Brett Cecil to the all-star game in New York, and Casey Janssen was closing. The Jays also had Darren Oliver, Esmil Rogers, Neil Wagner and Aaron Loup.
In their all-in season of a year ago, the Jays moved Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud (for Dickey), Henderson Alvarez, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino and Anthony DeSclafani (for Jose Reyes and Buehrle). Do they move more prospects?
“I know what I’d do after the way Stroman competed Monday,” said a veteran AL scout. “I’d bring up Sanchez ... even if he’s two years younger than Stroman. I liked Sanchez better than Stroman in the Arizona Fall League and again this spring.”