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TSN Baseball Insider


In my experience, where there is smoke, there is fire. 

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu can attest to that.

Ryu was placed on the 15-day injured list on April 17 with left forearm inflammation. He was activated off the injured list in early May but continues to have issues with his elbow/forearm area. 

The 35-year-old left-hander was removed after five innings in his start on May 26 with soreness in his elbow, but both he and the Blue Jays organization downplayed their concerns. 

He made his next start on Wednesday, against the Chicago White Sox, but once again had to come out of the game early, this time after the fourth inning. He complained of tightness and discomfort in his forearm again. 

On Thursday, for the second time this season, the Jays placed Ryu on the 15-day IL with left forearm inflammation.

Ryu stated through his interpreter that this most recent pain he’s experiencing is similar to the soreness he felt after the injury he suffered earlier this season, and not the same discomfort he felt in his elbow in his previous start. 

His velocity drop in the second half of the 2021 season was suspicious, especially when coupled with his lack of command. It wreaked of arm issues. Now that the arm has flared up for the third time this season, it is clear that this is more than a tweak. 

The Jays are running further diagnostics on the elbow and forearm, but I will be surprised if he doesn’t have an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow or the flexor tendon in his forearm. It may not be something that necessarily immediately leads to surgery. But at this point, the team can’t count on him coming back completely healthy at any point this season. 

Ross Stripling will likely assume Ryu’s spot in the rotation in the short term, but if I was Jays general manager Ross Atkins, I would start making calls to see if I could land a starter in a trade. 

If Ryu returns in 2022, then he can be the added depth to the rotation. But he has proven that he can’t be counted on this season because of his arm issues.

Montas, Castillo good fits for Jays rotation

If the Jays do make a deal to fill the void in their rotation, the Oakland Athletics and Cincinnati Reds would be at the top of my list.

I would call Oakland – owners of a 20-33 record and in second-last place in the American League – and ask them what it would take to get right-hander Frankie Montas.

Then I would get hold of Cincy to inquire about their ace, Luis Castillo. With an 18-32 record, the Reds are in the second-last spot in the National League after Thursday’s action and should be looking to move Castillo as quickly as possible. He was activated off the injured list on May 9 and had been dealing with a sore shoulder. The Reds need to trade him before any injury creeps up again. 

Castillo (2-2, 3.38 ERA) and Montas (2-5, 3.20 ERA) are under control for this season and next. Both pitchers are 29 years old as well. Montas has been healthy all season and looks strong. Either guy would slot in as a solid No. 2 starter. 

There will certainly be competition, but the Jays should move early to justify the asking price of talent in the deal. If they acquire one of them now, instead of waiting for the trade deadline, they can get two extra months’ worth of starts. 

It will take a strong package of prospects to get either of these players. One area where the Blue Jays have depth is at the catcher position. It is a position that is very light on talent around the game. 

Toronto’s top prospect, catcher Gabriel Moreno (.331/.388/.424,) is performing quite well with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. It is a matter of time before he is ready to join the major-league club. Once he does, he will be the Jays’ lead catcher. That will push Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk and Zach Collins down the depth chart. 

The Jays are going to have to make a tough decision about what to do with Jansen and Kirk. Kirk has options remaining, so he could be demoted to the minors but that seems unlikely considering how well he is swinging the bat. Jansen is having a solid offensive season as well with seven home runs. But Kirk is the better hitter and is an option as the designated hitter. Jansen is the better defender and is only under control through the 2024 season while Kirk can be a Blue Jay at least through 2026. 

One thing is certain that Moreno will not be traded. There will likely be more interest in Kirk (24) than Jansen (27) in the market because of his age and service time remaining. But there may be a win-now team that looks at Jansen as the missing piece to their success because of his ability to handle a staff. 

The Jays can’t afford to give up Kirk right now unless they get offensive production in return. The club has struggled scoring runs and Kirk has recently been a big reason why they have been more productive. Trading Jansen would maintain the offensive depth at the position. 

The Jays can choose to kick the can down the road with the catchers by optioning Kirk to the minor leagues or carrying three catchers on the major-league roster.

Neither the Athletics nor the Reds need a frontline catcher. Sean Murphy and Shea Langeliers are young and controllable backstops in Oakland. Tyler Stephenson looks like he is going to be an above average two-way catcher in Cincinnati. So, there may be a way to make a deal for one of those starting pitchers for something other than a catcher.

Spitting Seeds

- The Jays (30-20, second in the AL East) have now won eight straight games following Thursday’s 8-3 victory over the White Sox. It looks like the offence is starting to come around as Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Kirk, Jansen and Santiago Espinal are all swinging hot bats. This takes pressure off the top three hitters in the lineup: George Springer, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.  Plus, as Toronto scores more runs that will allow manager Charlie Montoyo to manage his starting staff more conservatively while also protecting the workload of the bullpen. The Jays currently have five pitchers who have appeared in 22 or more games. That extrapolates to 72 appearances or more, which is not sustainable for five different pitchers. 

- When I was the New York Mets general manager from 1997-2003, the average velocity for a fastball was 88-90 mph. This season the average is over 95 mph. The game has changed so significantly. But hitters can still hit the fastball. It is just a matter of starting earlier and timing the pitch. Of course, pitchers get away with more poorly located fastballs than back in the day because it is still a bit harder to time a pitch that is thrown that hard. There was a pitch thrown by Miami Marlins pitcher Edward Cabrera on Wednesday that was absurd. He threw a 96 mph changeup. His fastball was around 100 mph. He will probably have to take some velocity off his changeup in the future, but the fact that anyone can throw an “off-speed” pitch that hard is freakish. Cabrera had a no-hitter through five innings against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field, in fact. He got his first major-league win. 

- Just when I think I have seen it all, baseball happens. Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought it was possible that the Pittsburgh Pirates (22-27) with their $69 million payroll could sweep the Dodgers (33-17 heading into Thursday night’s late game in L.A.) and their $259 million payroll  in Los Angeles. But it just goes to show that any team can beat another team if they get quality pitching and make plays during a game. It was the first time the Pirates swept the Dodgers in L.A. since Sept. 4-6, 2000. Just as bizarre, the Cincinnati Reds beat the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Wednesday. The aforementioned Luis Castillo struck out 10 Red Sox hitters over six innings in the 2-1 win. The win was the first for the Reds at Fenway since Game 7 of the 1975 World Series. That is 47 years ago. 

-The MLB trade deadline on Aug. 2 took a hit as Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo made it clear they will not be trading slugging outfielder Juan Soto. Soto and his agent, Scott Boras, rejected a $350 million contract extension recently, saying they will be going to free agency after the 2024 season. I think the Nationals are crazy not to trade Soto. If he is definitely going to free agency, they should trade him now and continue the rebuilding process. They aren’t close to winning over the next three seasons, so they should get impact prospects who can play next to Soto when they sign him once he goes to free agency. There is nothing that says they can’t bring him back after trading him and he goes to free agency.