So what do I do on a day off? I work! That’s normal isn’t it?! But like hell I’m going to keep my mouth shut about the Jays right now. 9 in a row, 13 of 15, 18 of their last 23 to grab a 3 game lead atop the AL East standings. THIS is the Jays team that Jays fans thought they were going to get last season.
I said to my buddy and Soups on Sports fashion correspondent Dustin “Bucket” Harvie during the first series of the season against Tampa Bay that this team had a different look/feel to it than last season. Now, that isn’t to say “called it!” I do that more than enough, but in this case while I said that, I can’t say I believed it. Over the previous 20 seasons this team has just always found a way to disappoint those of us who have remained loyal Jays fans.
And this team hardly changed from last season. J.P. Arencibia out, Dioneer Navarro in. 2nd got a little more shored up but not how any of us have expected, and it remains to be seen weather Juan Francisco can keep up his great play at 3rd which has allowed John Gibbons to put Brett Lawrie at 2nd.
But maybe that is all it needed? As bad as things were, the Jays had far and away the worst catcher in baseball last season, and Navarro is a MASSIVE upgrade. I also wonder if JPA wasn’t a problem in the clubhouse last season. He just doesn’t seem like a mentally tough guy and when things when wrong with such high expectations he really went off the rails.
And we all forget just how bad this club was defensively to start last season. When Reyes went down and they had to go with Bonifacio at 2nd and Izturis at SS it was just a train wreck and cost the team a ton of games. This season, the club is more than sound defensively, and have improved that D even more with Colby Rasmus out and Anthony Gose taking over in CF and finally looking like the kid Alex Anthopoulos thought he could be when he chased him so hard during the 2010 season.
It took a brass set for Anthopoulos to pull the trigger on dealing a guy in Brett Wallace at that time who was crushing the ball in Las Vegas while Gose I believe was just 19 at the time and VERY raw. But Anthopoulos recognized that hitters numbers are always elevated in the PCL, and today Gose is on the rise while Wallace simply looks like he’s done as a potential Major Leaguer.
Of course I would be an idiot to not talk about the amazing streak that Edwin Encarnacion is on. When you have a bat as hot as his in your lineup, you’re going to win some games. It won’t last, and he’ll go cold at some point, but this lineup is so good right now and new hitting coach Kevin Seitzer has them taking the right approach to the plate. I said it prior to the season I didn’t like the lineup because they had too many guys who swing for the fences. Now those guys are grinding out at bats and looking to put the ball in play.
Obviously another key has been Mark Buehrle turning back the clock to 2005 and pitching like an ace. This club needed someone to step up, R.A. Dickey is just too inconsistent (as most knuckleballers are) and Brandon Morrow just can’t stay healthy and is all but done with this club. Now the focus will move to bolstering this rotation for a run at the division or at least a wildcard spot.
Now all you hear about is Jeff Samardzjia. I’m not a fan of this move unless the price drastically drops. The Cubs in the offseason apparently wanted both Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez who are the Jays top pitching prospects. Not a chance, not for a guy who has been average at best until this season in the NL Central. Samardzjia looks great to start this season, but nobody is viewing this guy as a legit ace.
And that is what a Stroman and Sanchez package should net the Jays. I would do it if David Price were a possibility. I can’t see the Rays being willing to move him in division, but if they were than I would move Stroman, Sanchez and whatever else you had to do to get that done. Maybe move Rasmus for prospects and then add those prospects to the package for Price. Maybe move Jose Bautista, move Rasmus to RF and then flip what Bautista nets you to Tampa along with Stroman or Sanchez if that’s what it took?
It would take a lot, but Price is perfect. He is young, proven in the AL East, he’s a legit ace. But I would only do it with a contract extension and if I’m Rogers I give him whatever type of money he wants. Don’t let Rogers exec’s like Keith Pelley fool you, they have the money!
Now back to the streak. The skeptics will say “yeah, but they went on that 11 game run last season, almost at the same time”. This is true, but they didn’t look good at all leading into that run. This team was showing signs every game if they were able to just stabilize a few things, mainly the bullpen which Casey Jansen did upon returning. At the risk of jinxing all of this, I’m going to say what my eyes have been telling me….this team is for real.
World Series contender? Not without improving the pitching staff. I say they need to add a legit ace still weather that be Cliff Lee, David Price, whoever may become available which as I said earlier would cost a ton but it is what needs to be done if they really want to compete. But if they don’t make a big move like that, the AL East is there for the taking right now. A ridiculous amount of ball to be played still, but they’ve put themselves in a great spot.
Enjoy this Jays fans! Apparently this team being in the hunt only comes along every 14 years or so (and let us pray that Anthopoulos doesn’t move a future Michael Young for another Esteban Loaiza). And it remains to be seen if they can maintain consistency, but last season during the 11 game streak I wrote a piece talking about I still wasn’t buying it. This year I am….and as you all know I”m only wrong 49% of the time….
Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups