The Toronto Blue Jays are 2 1/2 games back of the Baltimore Orioles for first in the American League East and currently hold the second AL wild card spot with a two game-lead on the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners. With other teams having already made moves, the Jays are in prime position to be buyers before Thursday's trade deadline.
There has been speculation that the Jays have made a recent push in trying to acquire the services of Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester. The problem, however, is whether or not the Jays are willing to go all in this year and sell their most highly-touted prospects.
According to TSN Baseball Analyst Steve Phillips, "the Red Sox will ask for Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez and are going to add more prospects on top of that; probably a three-player package with one of those starters and big arms in the deal going back to Boston."
The Red Sox would not necessarily be against dealing Lester to their divisional rival because the likelihood of the 30-year-old re-signing with Toronto is slim.
"I think they [Red Sox] would trade Lester to the Blue Jays to get the best package in return, understanding they're not really going to compete against Toronto to re-sign Lester next year. They're not worried about winning this year; they're worried about winning next year."
The Red Sox' starting pitcher - who was pulled out of his scheduled Wednesday start against Toronto late Tuesday night - is 10-7 with a 2.52 earned-run average this season.
Phillips believes the Blue Jays are also considering other options at lower prices to add to their pitching depth, including a possible reunion with Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher A.J. Burnett.
"I think they're in on A.J. Burnett," said Phillips. "But you might also see them in on Ian Kennedy, you might see them in on a Bartolo Colon or a Tommy Milone from the A's, so there is a number of things that can still happen with some pretty good pitching available."
Burnett spent three seasons with Toronto from 2006 to 2008. This year with the Phillies, he's 6-10 with a 4.15 ERA in 149.2 innings pitched. The option is more appealing if the Jays are not willing to part with Stroman or Sanchez. Stroman has become one of their hottest starting pitchers over the last two months. The 23-year-old has allowed two or less runs in seven of his last nine outings. Since being called up on July 22, Sanchez has pitched four innings out of the bullpen and has yet to walk a batter.
Regardless of the young talent, other teams in the American League are getting better through last season trades. The Yankees acquired Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres and Brandon McCarthy from the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier this month. The Mariners re-acquired Kendrys Morales, the Athletics traded for Jeff Samardzija and the Tigers picked up Joakim Soria. Phillips thinks it's the Jays' time to show the American League that they are in it to win it.
"This is the year for the Blue Jays to go for it;" Phillips explained. "When can you predict again that you're going to have the Red Sox in last place in the division, the Rays struggling under .500 and the New York Yankees trying to figure out who they are and if they can truly compete.
"John Gibbons was in the Mets organization when I was general manager and he used to say to me all the time 'Steve, you only get a chance to go there every so often. Go for it when you have the opportunity.' Gibbons is probably saying the same thing to Alex Anthopoulos."