Will Blue Jays deal for pitching before Deadline?
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays made a potent lineup even better by acquiring shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in a blockbuster trade with the Rockies on Tuesday morning, but the pitching staff remains an area of weakness that will have to be addressed prior to Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos has openly talked about his desire to upgrade the rotation, but time is starting to run out. Anthopoulos has three days left to acquire at least one pitcher prior to Friday's 4 p.m. ET Deadline, but he does have the luxury of shopping in a market that's still flush with arms.
Anthopoulos remained relatively noncommittal about the prospects of making another significant move this week, but he left the door open for future trades and admitted that adding to the staff continues to be a top priority.
"I don't know, and I know every other club is looking for the same thing: Everyone is looking at adding and getting better, so I can't make any promises," Anthopoulos said when asked about the possibility of adding a starter.
"Trades are so hard to make and there are so many factors involved. I know this has been talked about before, but you can have 100 conversations before trying to get one done. Hope so, is probably all I would say, but I really can't forecast the next three or four days."
Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir are already off the board, but there is still a large group of pitchers that seems to be available. San Diego reportedly is considering moving James Shields, Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross. Chicago and Detroit are on the fringes of contention, and they might be convinced to move Jeff Samardzija and David Price, respectively.
There's also a second tier of starters who would still provide a significant upgrade. Pending free agents Hisashi Iwakuma, Yovani Gallardo and Mat Latos would be good fits, and then there's always the possibility of Anthopoulos targeting a more under-the-radar type of pitcher who might have multiple years of control left on his deal.
The bullpen seems relatively set following the inclusion of LaTroy Hawkins in the Tulowitzki deal. The Blue Jays intend to continue using Roberto Osuna and Aaron Sanchez at the back end, while Hawkins joins a group that includes Bo Schultz and Brett Cecil for middle relief. That should be enough, but Anthopoulos tried to remain vague in talking about his plans over the next few days and wouldn't commit to one specific area.
"I think it's something we're definitely talking about," Anthopoulos said when specifically asked about adding starting pitchers. "We're open to position players, but clearly, and I've said it before, we're going to look [at] upgrades if we can, rotation and bullpen. But that doesn't mean we'll rule out if there are position-player upgrades. I wouldn't expect anything right now, but we're still talking to some clubs about things on the position-player side."
The one thing Anthopoulos almost certainly won't be do is deal another player from his current core. Jose Reyes was an exception because it involved acquiring an upgrade at the same position, but this isn't a club that will suddenly look to deal Edwin Encarnacion or Devon Travis to find additional help on the mound.
Toronto instead will look to trade some of its remaining prospect capital to get a deal done. Left-hander Daniel Norris, who is the team's No. 1-ranked prospect according to MLB.com, is the biggest trade chip, but the list can be expanded to include outfielders Dalton Pompey and Anthony Alford, slugger Rowdy Tellez, catcher Max Pentecost and other Minor League arms, such as Matt Boyd, Jairo Labourt and Sean Reid-Foley.
The Minor League system isn't as strong as it was a day ago when Jeff Hoffman and Miguel Castro were in the fold, but it still has enough to make at least one more move. The question is whether Anthopoulos will be able to find the upgrade he is looking for at an appropriate price.
"I don't know, you can save that one for Friday. Hopefully, we're not having that discussion," Anthopoulos said when asked whether the team had done enough to contend if a starter couldn't be added. "But if we do, the focus is let's just try to get better. If it can be in the rotation, great. If it can be in the bullpen, great. If it can be on the position-player side, great. We'll talk after the Trade Deadline, and we'll rehash if we did anything else."