As the calendar gets set to flip to June, it’s a good time to evaluate the Blue Jays.
It seems clear that the starting pitching is playoff-calibre. Kevin Gausman is an ace and a worthy replacement for AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray. Alek Manoah has quickly become a top starter as well. Jose Berrios has been a bit up and down, but at times has shown flashes of brilliance. Hyun Jin Ryu has had a couple of good outings since his return from the injured list. Newcomer Yusei Kikuchi has also had a couple of bobbles, but he has also shown why the Jays were so willing to give him a three-year deal.
The bullpen is above average. Jordan Romano is emerging as one of the better closers in the American League. Romano has been a bit overworked through the first two months because of the number of close games the Jays have played. Jays manager Charlie Montoyo has to take the wins when he can get them, but I’m sure he would like to coast to some victories instead of sweating them out at the end.
The poor production from the Jays’ offence so far this season has been well-documented. Toronto is the worst hitting team in all of baseball with runners in scoring position (.181) and have a run differential of minus-4 heading into play on Friday. The lack of production has been contagious, and the negative energy has spread across the clubhouse. Jays’ hitters look like they are competing against themselves rather than the opposition.
Montoyo has tried all the standard moves: changing the lineup around, giving guys a day off, scheduling extra batting practice, cancelling batting practice, etc. Now it is time for Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro to get involved. They shouldn’t talk hitting or try to fix the current personnel. It is time to look at outside options.
Even when our offence was hitting well during my time as GM of the Mets, I was always looking for ways to infuse new energy to keep it going. When the offence was struggling, I was looking to acquire players who could not only hit, but also bring a new energy to the clubhouse and dugout. Bringing in a new player gets the players to focus on someone else and not themselves.
I mentioned veteran Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta as a potential target for Toronto on SportsCentre this week. He is a free agent at the end of the season and is very affordable with an $8 million salary. He also bats left-handed and has eight homers already.
I also mentioned Trey Mancini with the Baltimore Orioles. He is a right-handed hitter but is a great person and would fit in nicely as backup to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. while serving as the designated hitter. He is making $7.5 million this year with a $10 million mutual option for next year. Peralta and Mancini would both provide leadership as well.
Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto is another option to consider. The Reds and Votto just left town, and it’s clear how much Votto loves Toronto and his childhood team, the Blue Jays. He’s had an awful season so far, but his home run at the Rogers Centre on Sunday makes me believe that a change of scenery to Toronto could reinvigorate him. He has no-trade rights, but based upon his excitement this weekend, I believe he would accept a trade.
The problem with a Votto trade is his contract. He is due more than $40 million between the rest of this season and next. But that can be negotiated between the clubs. I would only make the deal if it were financially appropriate, but the Reds are in full rebuild mode and I think a deal could be made.
A couple of other names that the Jays should consider are left-handed hitting Royals outfielder Andrew Benintendi and switch-hitting first baseman/designated hitter Josh Bell of the Washington Nationals.
Ohtani continues to amaze
Jays fans got an opportunity to see Los Angeles Angels’ two-way star Shohei Ohtani on Thursday night as he made the start against Toronto. The Jays tagged the 2021 American League MVP for five runs in six innings. It was only the second time this year that Ohtani has given up more than two runs in a start.
He is having another phenomenal season. Ohtani’s offensive numbers are not quite where they were last year, but his pitching numbers are better despite Thursday’s start. He is still the favorite to win the AL MVP and is in the mix for the Cy Young Award as well.
The more analysis I do on Ohtani, the more amazed I am. He has a 470-foot home run this season and the second highest exit velocity on a ball put in play at 119.1 mph. He’s still throwing his fastball over 100 mph at times. He has maximum exertion on every pitch he throws and on every swing he takes. It reinforces what a finely tuned athlete he is. The amount of wear and tear that much rotational torque puts on the body is profound. He seemed unaffected physically last year and, despite saying he experienced some back stiffness Thursday night, the same seems to be true this year.
Babe Ruth said that being a two-way player comes at too much of a toll when he decided to give up pitching. It’s more than physical – there’s an emotional and mental toll it must take as well. Normal starters get four or five days to recover from the aches and pains they feel after each start. Ohtani never gest that because of his two-way status. His body and mind are always on.
We have never seen anyone like him, and I’m not sure we ever will again.