The Blue Jays made some of the league's biggest and most high-profile moves at the trade deadline. With an organization, fan base, and players recognizing that future opportunities are not unlimited considering how the roster in constructed, Alex Anthopoulos is making a play for the club's first post-season berth in 22 years.
Tom and I couldn't get our act together before yesterday's afternoon tilt, but here's your series preview one day late. I'll post a link to my answers of Tom's questions when they're available. In the meantime, thanks to Tom for his time and hopefully the next three games of the series are better than the first.
Jesse: The Blue Jays did what the Twins could not at the trade deadline, which was to bolster the roster in a manner consistent with how the team has played this year. I'll get to a couple of the individual moves in a moment, but let me start with this: what did you expect Alex Anthopoulos to do? What kind of pressure was he under to make these kind of impact moves?
Tom: Honestly, I didn’t expect Alex to do this much. I figured he would look for a starting pitcher, likely not one of the big names that was floating around, and that would be able it. Last year, he did very little and some of the players got on his case. I thought that he had to do something to stop the players from revolting, but he has tended to be conservative at this time of year.
Alex is under a lot of pressure as is manager John Gibbons. Team CEO Paul Beeston is stepping down at the end of the year, so the Jays will need someone new for the team president role. The feeling is that, unless the Jays finally make the playoffs (20 odd years of frustration is wearing on us all), the new guy will likely bring in his own people.
It is nice to see the team go for it this year. It seems to have given the players a boost. It is a long season, adding these players has added a shot of adrenaline to the team.
Jesse: Minnesota's real window of opportunity is still coming, so I was glad when it wasn't the Twins who landed Troy Tulowitzki. Knowing that we very well may look back on this deal in ten years with better perspective, how do you think the Blue Jays fared in this blockbuster? Is the plan to just outscore opponents into submission?
Tom: I really liked the trade for Tulowitzki. It was a surprise, but Jose Reyes defensive range had pretty much disappeared, and he has been making more than a few errors of late, generally at the worst possible time. And the fans (and our radio play by play man) had turned on Jose.
Troy is a couple of years younger, and much better on defense and offense. The biggest thing we’ve noticed, after 3 games, is his range is so much better than Reyes.
I thought Reyes was untradeable. He’s making $22 million a year for 2 more seasons and he isn’t the player he used to be. He was very popular with his teammates. He’s a very happy, very upbeat guy, almost always smiling (which rubbed some fans the wrong way). I loved that. I figure if I could make millions of dollars playing baseball, you’d never get the smile off my face.
Troy will likely decline over the next few years as well, but then he starts at a much higher point and, I’m hoping, his decline won’t be as sharp,
Jesse: After adding Tulo the Jays addressed one of their biggest needs for a stretch run by picking up David Price, the pitcher I considered to be the prize of the ace market at the deadline. Adding two high-quality players like Tulo and Price must have sent a charge through the fan base. How do you think the Jays did in this deal, and how do you see Toronto's rotation stacking up if they make the playoffs?
Tom: The Price trade was another huge surprise. We needed at least one starting pitcher. The Jays were using Felix Doubront as our fifth starter and that wasn’t going well. Removing Doubront and adding Price makes the team look a lot better and makes us feel like we should, at least, win one of the wild card spots.
The good news is that, if we do make the playoffs, we have a game one starter. And he moves everyone else down a spot. R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle have been pitching great lately, but neither one reminds you of an Ace. I’m much happier with the idea of them pitching game 2 and 3 of a playoff.
The trade has the fanbase buzzing. Price’s first start is sold out and there has been near sell outs for the games on the weekend.
Jesse: Toronto also added a couple of ex-Twins in Ben Revere and LaTroy Hawkins - both are fantastic guys and nice role players to supplement your roster, I think. What kind of role do you envision each of these guys playing?
Tom: Hawkins looks to be the ‘7th inning guy’. The team needed more depth in the pen. Roberto Osuna has been amazing, but he’s been asking to get 5 and 6 out saves too often. The Jays moved Aaron Sanchez from the rotation to the bullpen, he’s been the 8th inning guy. The bullpen looks much better than it did a week ago.
Revere gets left field and, most of the time, will be batting 9th. I’m glad they have him batting at the bat of the lineup. We have had Tulowitzki batting leadoff and I like that a lot, get the best bats at the top of the order so they get extra at bats.
The Jays had making do with Chris Colabello and Ezequiel Carrera in left and while they hit better than you would have expected, both looked terrible on defense. The best part about picking up Revere is that we have someone that should make all the routine catches, and some great ones, out in left. It was depressing to see fly balls that should have been easy outs become doubles.
Jesse: Ex-Twins now playing in Toronto include Revere, Hawkins, Chris Colabello, Liam Hendriks, and R.A. Dickey. At what point do we call the Blue Jays "The Better Ex-Twins of the North?"
Tom: Well, our TV commentators always tell us that the Twins “play the game the right way”, so I guess it is good we have some many former Twins on the team. If you ever want to feel your Twins are the best team in baseball, just listen to our TV guys for one game. You’ll be amaze that you ever lose a game. I promise you’ll hear “play the game the right way” at least 3 times each game this series (unfortunately, that is about the peak of their analysis).
Other than the TV guys driving me crazy, I very much enjoy watching the Twins. I was in Minneapolis a couple of years ago for a series and really enjoyed your park and your downtown area. I would love to trade home parks with you.
Jesse: The Twins are set to face David Price, Marco Estrada, Drew Hutchinson, and Mark Buehrle this week. What can you tell us about these four guys?
Tom: You likely know more about Price than I do, other than he likes Rogers Centre popcorn. He says that the Jays have the best popcorn in baseball. When he arrived in Toronto, after having a tire blowout on the drive from Detroit, they had filled his locker with popcorn.
Estrada has been a surprise. I didn’t expect much from him, when we picked him in trade for Adam Lind. He’s basically a fastball/changeup pitcher, but his changeup is very good. He took a no-hitter into the 9thinning, back at the end of June. He’s held opponents to 2 runs or less in 7 of his last 10 starts. He’s a fly ball pitcher, and his weakness is the home run, but he only allowed 1 in July.
Hutchison has been the disappointment of the season, many picked him to be the breakout pitcher of the year. He finished last year pitching great, we hoped he would continue it over to this season. It hasn’t happened. He’s been much better at home (2.47 ERA) than on the road (9.00). I don’t know why the difference, normally I’d say it’s just small sample size, but it’s been consistent, good starts at home, awful ones on the road. Thankfully, if the rotation keeps in order the rest of the way, he only has 2 or 3 more starts in road parts.
Buehrle is just amazing. I love watching him, he pitches quick, no wasted time, he gets the sign and throws. He lives on the corners, since his fastball tops out around 85. He keeps the ball over the plate (walked 1 batter in July) and uses his defense. He just makes it look so easy. He’s the last year of his contract, and I figured he’d retire after, but I’m hoping the team can talk him into pitching one year with the team.