Call-ups helping keep Blue Jays in playoff picture
The Blue Jays have battled back into the playoff picture, currently sitting in the third wild-card spot in the American League. An easier schedule has helped make that happen, but so too has the collapse of the Texas Rangers.
The Rangers have lost 15 of their past 19 games and currently sit a half-game behind the Jays. Toronto has managed to stay alive while being undermanned with injuries. Give credit to the farm system, which has developed a few prospects who have helped keep the team afloat with infielders Bo Bichette and Matt Chapman on the injured list.
Davis Schneider has been terrific. In fact, he has been a godsend to an offence that has underperformed at times this season. He’s hitting .385/.512/.846 with seven homers, a triple, and seven doubles in just 20 games. He has scored 18 runs and driven in 19. Schneider’s versatility has also been helpful as he’s played second base, third base, left field and designated hitter. He has emerged as a fixture in the lineup.
Ernie Clement was recalled from Buffalo when Bichette went down with his injury. Clement has always been considered far more of a defensive expert than an impact bat, but he has been both since entering the lineup. He has improved the Jays defensively, making plays that Bichette would not have. His .410/.415/.564 at the plate has been surprisingly good.
Spencer Horwitz is hitting .300/.415/.500 since arriving from Triple-A Buffalo. He has filled in at first base and DH with Brandon Belt out of the lineup and has driven in some big runs.
The Jays’ farm system was recently ranked 25th of the 30 teams. The rankings are done by very professional and quality evaluators, but they don’t always get it right. Horwitz, Schneider and Clement are not the most toolsy players, but they are “baseball players.” They are guys who make plays but aren’t going to be among the league leaders in any category as everyday players in the future.
If the Jays manage to make the playoffs, these young replacements will have played a major role. A case can be made that theirs is the most important contribution of the season.
GMs fear the worst-case scenario
Injuries in August and September can be devastating to a team’s playoff chances. The Jays have withstood their losses so far. If they don’t make the playoffs, it won’t be because they didn’t have the depth necessary to survive.
The biggest fear of a general manager is not being prepared for the worst-case scenario. It’s the reason the Jays made a small move before the trade deadline, sending pitcher Trent Thornton to the Seattle Mariners for infielder Mason McCoy. McCoy is a 28-year-old shortstop who had no major league experience, but Jays’ general manager Ross Atkins realized he need worst-case-scenario protection at shortstop.
I did the same thing in a desperate moment in 2000 – the year my New York Mets team went to the World Series.
We lost our shortstop, Rey Ordonez, to a season-ending injury, so we traded for veteran shortstop Mike Bordick from the Baltimore Orioles. His backup was Kurt Abbott, who was not a very good defender. My fear was we would be in trouble if Bordick went down and Abbott had to play every day.
So, I made a small trade for a slick-fielding, no-hit infielder named Jorge Velandia from the Oakland A’s. In that deal, I gave up a young 19-year-old second baseman from the Dominican Summer League named Nelson Cruz. I had never seen him play. Our scout liked Cruz and thought he could hit. I felt like I had to protect myself and made the deal anyway.
That Nelson Cruz is the same Nelson Cruz who was traded from Oakland to the Milwaukee Brewers and five years later made it to the majors. He went on to hit 464 home runs and had 1325 RBI.
It was clearly a mistake on my part, but it speaks to the desperation GMs feel in making sure they have organizational depth once the trade deadline passes.