They teetered around the .500 mark as the non-waivers trade deadline approached. Yet, with a rich farm system, a positive run differential, plenty of shots against the AL East-leading Yankees and a 21-year playoff drought, Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos — in the last year of his contract — went all in, making big deals for Detroit ace David Price, Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and others.
The moves paid off in the form of a season-ending, 40-18 run, the AL East crown and an AL Championship Series loss to the Royals — and that led to an aftermath in which the freewheeling Anthopoulos departed rather than work for new team president Mark Shapiro, who is more structured.
In a vacuum, the Blue Jays would be very motivated buyers. They have a pair of expiring assets in Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion and haven’t made a World Series since their 1993 title. However, the Jays’ minor league system can’t handle another big push — Shapiro and his new general manager Ross Atkins have been charged with building something for the long term.
So even though the Jays sit in far better position now than they did a year ago, if they make a move, it likely will be for a player under team control for the long term, an industry source said.
No 2016 club, arguably, possesses as much incentive as last year’s Blue Jays to make it to the party.
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein knows from his experiences in Boston that you can’t bank on your moves clicking so near-perfectly on an annual basis. He also knows ace Jake Arrieta, a Scott Boras client, can be a free agent after next year. There is also the minor issue of the Cubs not having won a World Series since 1908.
I don’t think that leads to Epstein giving up Kyle Schwarber to the Yankees for his top target Andrew Miller. Yet as one Epstein ally in the baseball world noted, “Theo is creative.” Can he come up with something, perhaps by roping in a third team, that would make the Yankees give up Miller?
The Mets, having built their nucleus around a core of starting pitchers, appear more fragile than a Bluth Family Model Home in “Arrested Development.” However, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard remain upright and Zack Wheeler might return by season’s end, and when you throw in Yoenis Cespedes’ ability to opt out of his contract in November as well as the Mets’ World Series loss last year, they really want to keep this going. Expect Sandy Alderson to add a bullpen arm, at the least.
When I spoke to San Francisco general manager Bobby Evans about making a big move to keep the franchise’s “even-numbered year” run going, Evans responded, “I wonder if the club that hasn’t won in recent years could be more aggressive.” Last year’s Blue Jays could be Evans’ Exhibit A. Nevertheless, the Giants got to this point by ardently pursuing midseason upgrades. Their primary need is bullpen depth.
When you jump out to a huge lead (as many as 10 games) in your division, when your lead dwindles due to a glaring liability, and when your farm system seems to multiply like the Gremlins jumping into the YMCA pool, you want to use that farm system to address that liability. So the Rangers, who see the Astros charging hard, will try to boost their starting rotation and their bullpen in an attempt to finally win their first World Series title after coming so close (one strike away, twice) to defeating the Cardinals in 2011. They have the personnel to make the White Sox think about giving up ace Chris Sale.
That they have thrived this season is a tribute to their starting pitching and their front office’s ability to find short-term salves for large wounds. With Cleveland ready to party in the wake of the Cavaliers’ success, the Indians would love to turn the struggling Midwest burg into the city of champions. Another bullpen arm would help, and this club makes great sense for the relocation of Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy.
6. Red Sox
They have been baseball’s most consistently aggressive team since hiring Dave Dombrowski last August to take over as president of baseball operations, which was the idea behind hiring Dombrowski in the first place. So though Dombrowski got his work done early — acquiring Aaron Hill, Drew Pomeranz and Brad Ziegler in trades — he won’t hesitate to move again — and Sawx ownership won’t hesitate to green-light him — if another need arises.