Inbox: How does Rowdy fit into Blue Jays' plans?

Beat reporter Keegan Matheson answers fans' questions

August 26th, 2019

The Blue Jays have returned home from a West Coast trip that saw them go 1-5 against the Dodgers and Mariners. They'll be back at Rogers Centre on Tuesday, when they host the Braves and old friend Josh Donaldson, who won the 2015 American League MVP Award with Toronto and helped propel the Blue Jays to their most recent playoff appearances.

As the Blue Jays work to rebuild a roster that can reach the postseason again, here are your questions about the present and future of the club.

Tellez returned to the Blue Jays with an improved mental approach to his game, which hasn’t gone unnoticed by manager Charlie Montoyo. Tellez is also confident that a slight adjustment to his mechanics made in Triple-A will help him drive the ball to the opposite field more, which is part of his game when he’s at his best.

That being said, the Blue Jays still need to see the results. Few players have more to gain or lose in September than Tellez, given that Justin Smoak is a pending free agent and the Blue Jays don’t have a clear first-base option in their upper levels. Tellez can hit for power, but the question is what he does with the at-bats in between. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. could own the position down the road but, given the affordable market for first basemen and designated hitters, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Blue Jays address that spot with a short-term addition this offseason.

Specific trade targets are tough, but the positions of prospect depth are important. Dealing mid-range prospects for Major League talent with perceived upside has been a theme under Ross Atkins. Randal Grichuk is an example, coming over from St. Louis for Dominic Leone and prospect Conner Greene. There was also Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz, who eventually was dealt for Trent Thornton.

The Blue Jays are deep at catcher, which most organizations aren’t. With four catchers among their Top 30 Prospects -- including Reese McGuire, who pairs well with Danny Jansen in the big leagues -- that’s a potential area of strength in trade talks. The middle-infield depth is still there, but there’s a gap between those who have reached the Majors this season and some younger, farther-off prospects.

One of Mark Shapiro’s more interesting comments in a recent meeting with the media referenced picking the right time to make the big move. It’s better to add a three-win player (worth three Wins Above Replacement) if it takes you from 87 to 90 wins, for example, than from 82 to 85. So, what’s the number that the Blue Jays need to get over, and are they there yet?

Cole would be extremely unlikely, as his market will be significant, but the Blue Jays do have money to spend. Next year, Toronto will be tasked with reaching that jumping-off point and making it clear that a big splash can put them over the top. They need help to get there, but I don’t expect them to be shopping in that aisle just yet.

Between Anthony Kay’s performance since the Marcus Stroman trade and Toronto’s need for starting pitching, it would make sense. The only thing standing in the way is a 40-man roster spot for Kay, but that has to happen eventually. The left-hander owns a 2.36 ERA over five starts in Triple-A with the Bisons, and after pitching 122 2/3 innings last season, he should be fine to add well beyond his total of 124 1/3 thus far in 2019. 

The Blue Jays are using September as a month to see what many of their young Major League players can do, but that can extend to their next wave of pitching depth, too, including Kay.

Nate Pearson has been tremendous this season, and has carried on that success since his promotion to Triple-A earlier this month, but it’s very doubtful that he will see the Majors in 2019. He’s now at 96 2/3 innings on the season, up from just 1 2/3 innings in 2018 due to injury, so the Blue Jays will be careful with their potential future ace. He’ll be the No. 1 story in Spring Training next February.

Tice has gone from an undersized (5-foot-9) 17th-round Draft pick to a successful Triple-A reliever since 2017, so he’s earned a shot to make that push. Tice owns a 2.11 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A this season while averaging more than a strikeout per inning.

It’s easy to lose sight of just how many relievers churn through a roster each season. Remember Jimmy Cordero and Zac Rosscup? Remember Javy Guerra making 11 appearances? That was all this season, so if Tice can open 2020 strong with the Buffalo Bisons, he’ll keep his name on the doorstep for consideration.