108: Acquiring an Ace may not mean "playoffs" for Blue Jays
July 24th, 2015
By Tyler King
The July 31st non-waiver trade deadline is fast approaching. Too fast, it seems, for anxious Blue Jays fans.
They all want to see GM Alex Anthopoulos make the big move - the one (or two) that lands an ace starting pitcher or shut-down reliever...
The one (or two) that gets the Blue Jays into the playoffs.
With Oakland A’s prized starter Scott Kazmir now off the trade table - he was dealt to the Houston Astros right before Thursday’s game against the Jays - the pool of top pitching talent got a bit smaller. (By the way, Kazmir went seven scoreless innings allowing three hits in his first game with his new club).
If it wasn’t already, it’s now definitely a seller’s market.
Figures ... the one year where the Jays could, and perhaps should, legitimately be buyers.
There’s no doubt that a proven starter - which, let’s be serious, is what fans seem to want most - would help improve the team’s record. But even if the Jays do pull off a blockbuster, I’m afraid fans may be expecting too much too soon.
Whether or not this team makes the playoffs this season rests predominantly in the hands of the current staff.
To prove this point, let’s pretend Anthopoulos casts another “Donaldson-for-Lawrie” trade curse on some unsuspecting GM (although, to be fair, Oakland did get some pretty nasty prospects in that deal that nobody wants to talk about).
Now let’s pretend that the duped GM is Rick Hahn of the Chicago White Sox - and the Jays acquire Jeff Samardzija.
The Jays have actually been linked to the White Sox right-hander for what now seems like forever, but since he’s only signed through 2015 it doesn’t smell like a typical Anthopolous/Rogers Media move.
But let’s pretend, for sake of argument, that the planets do align and the Jays do get him. How much better off is this team right away?
(Bare with me.)
Heading into the second game of the series against the Seattle Mariners, the Jays have 64 games remaining. Barring any injuries, Samardzija would likely start every fifth day - meaning he’ll make it into 13 games this season.
The four other Jays starters would be on the hook for the remaining 51.
Now let’s say the Jays win 11 of the 13 games that Samardzija starts (which is a very high estimate - his career ERA is actually only 3.86. In 2015 it’s 3.91.).
Let’s also say that if Felix Doubront (or anybody else) had been the one starting instead of Samardzija, the Jays would have only won three of those 13 games (a low estimate - you really think the Blue Jays bats would let that happen?).
That means - in a near perfect world - the Jays would end up with eight more wins than they would have had, had they not acquired a Samardzija.
And if the team kept its current win-percentage of .500 for the other 51 games, they’d win 26 - giving them a total record of 37-28 in this fantastical post-trade era.
That would push the Jays final wins total to 86.
With the Yankees current winning-percentage of .564, they are on pace to win 87.
Oh so close.
(I’m sorry if I lost you a bit there... I swear this stuff makes sense in my head.)
In a typical year, 86 wins would mean absolutely nothing in the American League East. It wouldn’t even give you a sniff of division title.
In the last 10 years, no team has won the division with fewer than 95 wins.
Luckily for the Blue Jays, this isn’t an ordinary year. Ironically, “ordinary” is now a great way to describe what is often the toughest division in baseball...
Although the Yankees have suddenly become allergic to losing.
The Jays won both of their series’ coming out of the all-star break - going 4-2 overall - yet they lost ground on the division lead. Which shows just how hard it can be for a team to dig itself out of a hole.
The good news (I think) is that the Jays play the Yankees 13 more times this season.
It would definitely be nice if in two or three of those games we had a guy like Samardzija (or Johnny Cueto or Cole Hamels or David Price or Carlos Carrasco) starting against the Bronx Bombers.
But whether or not help is on the way, it’s pretty clear the majority of the current staff will determine the Jays’ fate.
Despite all the criticism they’ve received - which has been downright malicious at times - the starting rotation (as it now exists) isn’t really playing beneath itself.
This season, only R.A. Dickey and Drew Hutchinson have ERAs that are higher than their career averages. Mark Buehrle and Felix Doubront have shaved nearly half a run off their career ERA, and Marco Estrada has dropped from 4.08 career to 3.22 in 2015.
Granted, that does leave room for improvement, but perhaps the heavy criticism is not as warranted as once thought.
I’ll tell you what is warranted... that Anthopoulos make the BULLPEN a priority.
Unfortunately, the big ace is what fans seem most drawn to. Those tend to be the names that have all the star-power attached and get people excited - even if the amount of upside is a bit inflated.
Don’t get me wrong, none of this is to say the Jays don’t need a starting pitcher. They definitely do.
But don’t automatically scream “playoffs” if they manage to make a major deal.
If they do make the post-season, that’s a different story - an ace becomes invaluable.
But hey, let’s figure out how to get there first.
Follow Tyler and #section108 on twitter: @tylerjoseph108