Key injuries leave Jays limping into September
The Toronto Blue Jays are about to limp into the final month of the season. Literally.
The team has placed shortstop Bo Bichette (quad strain), third baseman Matt Chapman (sprained finger), and reliever Erik Swanson (thoracic spine inflammation) on the injured list over the past few days. The loss of these three players hurts the Jays’ offence, defence and bullpen. It’s a perfect storm of injuries. The coming weeks will be a real test of the depth on the roster.
Bichette and Chapman are key offensive players on a team that already doesn’t score enough runs. Swanson is a critical high-leverage reliever in manager John Schneider’s bullpen. Fortunately, it’s a pen full of quality relievers. Yimi Garcia and Trevor Richards can take over some of the important innings in Swanson’s absence.
But there is no replacing Chapman and Bichette. Chapman is the Jays’ best defender and Bichette is the team’s best hitter. The recently recalled Ernie Clement is a solid glove man but is not known for his bat. Santiago Espinal and Davis Schneider are not nearly as good defensively as Chapman. Schneider is swinging the bat well but lacks experience.
The Jays released infielder Paul DeJong, whom they had acquired at the trade deadline from the Cardinals, when Bichette returned from his knee injury. It’s easy to look at that and say the Jays should have kept DeJong until they knew Bichette would stay healthy. But DeJong was only 3-for-44 (.068) at the plate during his brief time with the Jays and, quite honestly, they can get at least that from the players they have called up from the minors. There should be no regrets over cutting DeJong.
That is the bad news.
The good news is that the Jays are in the midst of a 15-game span where every team they play has a record under .500. But this can’t be a break-even part of the schedule. Toronto needs to go at least 10-5 during this stretch. They need to catch the teams in front of them now because after this run of weak teams the Jays play the Rangers (four games), Red Sox (three), Yankees (six), and Rays (six) to finish the season.
It's going to be difficult on the Jays. The best-case scenario is they get Bichette and Chapman back at the end of this favourable part of the schedule so that they are fully loaded for the last two weeks of the season. But they need to get there first.
Ernie Clement and Mason McCoy are not the answer for the Jays. The Jays need to win on the shoulders of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., George Springer, Whit Merrifield, Daulton Varsho, Danny Jansen, and Brandon Belt. The veterans need to elevate their level of play to compensate for the losses.
The Rangers, Astros and Mariners, who are all in front of the Jays in the wild-card battle, will beat up on each other over the last two weeks of the season, which could open the door for Toronto if they get hot.
I refuse to count the Jays out. They can still get to the playoffs. They need some help, but not a lot. They need to take care of their own business. They are undermanned, but that can’t be an excuse. They have enough talent if everyone rows in the same direction.
Angels put five on the waiver wire
Reports started circulating on Tuesday afternoon that the Los Angeles Angels had placed five veteran players on outright irrevocable waivers. The Angels have effectively put players out for the taking without getting anything in return. The only thing the team will receive is a $50,000 waiver fee for each player if they get claimed.
The waiver order is based upon the reverse order of the standings. If multiple teams place a claim, the team with the lesser record is awarded the player. The claiming team doesn’t have to give up players; they only have to pay the fee and the player’s salary for the rest of the season.
The players the Angels put on waivers are starting pitcher Lucas Giolito, who they acquired at the trade deadline from the Chicago White Sox, reliever Reynaldo Lopez, also acquired from the White Sox, lefty reliever Matt Moore, outfielder Hunter Renfroe, and outfielder Randal Grichuk, who was acquired from the Rockies at the deadline. That’s five players who could absolutely help a team battling for the postseason.
This is a pure and simple salary dump by the Angels’ owner Arte Moreno, who is trying to get the payroll below the competitive balance tax threshold. The Angels aren’t breaking any rules, but it’s horrifically bad management. Not only did the Angels miss out on the prospects they could have gotten for Shohei Ohtani at the trade deadline, but they also drained their farm system of a handful of prospects by adding players as buyers.
Now they are dropping those players for nothing in return, other than cost savings. That is complete baseball malpractice. The Angels have the right to put players on waivers but what they are doing completely compromises the competitive integrity of the season.
As an example, if the Boston Red Sox, who are a few games behind the Jays in the wild-card race, claim all five players and have the worst record among the claimants, those players could be awarded to them.
Any situation where a team can potentially add five major-league players in the heat of a pennant race without giving up anything in return compromises the integrity of competition. Plus, it’s a problem when a team benefits significantly from having a worse record than other teams.
It’s one thing of a journeyman player is claimed on waivers. But this is a selfish move by an owner who has no regard for the game and little regard for his franchise beyond making a dollar. Moreno had his team up for sale last year and then pulled it off the market. Clearly, he is not in this for the long haul.
This is further baseball malpractice and an insult to those of us who built teams in the spirit of competition. Fantasy baseball leagues would not allow an owner to dump his or her players into the market place because it could compromise the competitive nature of the season.
It’s a move that is clearly not in the best interest of baseball. The commissioner has the authority to stop this from happening. I hope he does.