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View From the Other Side: Toronto Blue Jays

The fabulous Tom Dakers from Bluebird Banter takes on our questions at midseason, long after the bloom of postseason aspirations has burned away up north

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays
Bright Spot: The fabulous hair (and play) of Lourdes Gurriel has provided the disappointing Blue Jays with a cornerstone piece looking ahead.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays started the season with aspirations of contending, as indicated in our early-season chat. But as they head into Chicago, the Blue Jays sit at 46-55, which is 10 games better than the White Sox. But through the quirk of nature that is the insipid AL Central, the South Siders are four games closer to first place than Toronto. The Blue Jays have a 0.1% chance of making the playoffs, and the only odds that get slimmer than that are Chicago’s 0.0%.

Tom Dakers up at Bluebird Banter is such a good dude, what the hell, let’s do a midseason check-in with him on the Blue Jays before Toronto faces the Chicago White Sox for their final face-off this season. (Of course, he invited me first, because that’s what polite Canadians do, so here’s my take on the White Sox over at Bluebird Banter if ya want it.)

Seunghwan Oh and J.A. Happ are gone, but is there anyone else Toronto will be shipping off before Tuesday?

Prices are slashed at Crazy Mark’s Player Discount Center; no reasonable offer will be declined.

Honestly, they should shop any veteran player. Curtis Granderson really should go for any offer. Relievers Tyler Clippard and John Axford will be shopped. There is some interest in moving suspended reliever Roberto Osuna. Ryan Tepera’s name has been mentioned in deals, but since we have a few years of control left, we’d have to get a good return.

I’d love them to see what they could get for Yangervis Solarte, he’s been a lot of fun to have around, but he’s not going to be part of the next good Jays team. If they could find someone will to take one of our catchers (Russell Martin or Luke Maile) off our hands, it would make room for Danny Jansen, who has nothing left to prove in the minors. Unfortunately, I don’t see any contender wanting a slow (make that painfully slow) DH Kendrys Morales.

What’s the ETA for Bo Bichette or Vlad Guerrero Jr.? Are there other prospects who will get some burn?

If baseball was the only concern, Vlad, Son of Impaler, would be up now, but the team doesn’t want to start the service clock. Odds are he won’t be up until late May, or early June next year. There is still some worry about what position he’ll be playing. He’s playing third in the minors, but he’s big. And he’ll likely be getting bigger, he might not have the quickness needed for third.

Bo will be a bit behind Vlad, later 2019 or early 2020.

I would love to see catcher Danny Jansen. Danny is hitting .264/.391/.460 with 10 home runs in Triple A Buffalo. He’s the catcher of the future, and I don’t see why he isn’t up now so we can get a couple of months to look at him and let Russell Martin mentor him.

Outfielders Dalton Pompey and Anthony Alford are in Triple A, and at least one of them should get a shot if the Jays can move Granderson.

And, now that Happ has been traded (it was a busy afternoon), it would be good to see Sean Reid-Foley or Thomas Pannone make a few starts for the Jays.

At the start of the season, we were talking about the Blue Jays “going for it,” and now you’ve just gotten swept at home by wheezing garbage truck that is the Minnesota Twins. What happened?

How long do you want this thing to go? I’ll have to give you the Readers Digest version (I’d like to send this back to you before the Jays/Sox series is over).

Everything that could go wrong, did.

Josh Donaldson has been hurt (the team is saying calf tightness, but calf tightness that lingers on for two months?) and, when he was playing, he didn’t exactly remind you of an MVP.

The starting rotation, which was to be the strength of the team, turned out to be terrible. Only one of our five projected starting pitchers has performed anywhere close to what was expected (and we just traded him).

And the offense has been, at turns, terrible, with occasional moments of damn near average.

Who has disappointed you the most in Toronto this season?

Can I just say all of them, and skip to the next question?

Honestly, I thought Marcus Stroman was a lock to be the team ace, and he hasn’t been. He is such a hard worker and smart guy that I thought he was a sure thing. But then, after seven starts, he had an ERA of 7.71 and went on the DL with Crappy Arm Disease (CAD afflicts 1 of 3 pitchers in their lifetime). He’s been better of late, but inconsistent.

But then, the answer could have been Donaldson, Martin (he isn’t hitting his weight, or my weight or my teenage son’s weight), Devon Travis, or … well, just paste the Jays active roster here.

I guess the real answer is Roberto Osuna. Getting charged with domestic assault is about as disappointing as you can get.

Any particular bright spots, hope, immediate or down the line?

Bright spots? The only one I can think of is we aren’t the Baltimore Orioles.

The bullpen has been pretty good, though it will be interesting to see how they replace Oh. We were wondering if this year’s Justin Smoak would be the same Smoak we saw last year, or if he would revert to the disappointment he had been before that. He’s been almost exactly as good as last year, maybe with a little less power. But his OPS+ is 131 (it was 130 last year).

Teoscar Hernandez has looked good at the plate, but then he’s looked awful in the outfield. I’ve been a Blue Jays’ fan for a long time, and we’ve had several crappy outfielders, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen worse defense from an outfielder (well, OK, Adam Lind was pretty terrible).

Help down the line? We talked about Vlad Jr. He’s the shining light who keeps us hopeful.

I’m stealing all of your questions for me, Tom, but who is your favorite Blue Jay to watch?

It changes daily. Right now, I’m really enjoying Lourdes Gurriel Jr. He is currently on an eight-game, multi-hit streak. He’s fun. His defense is a work in progress, but he has a great swing, nice power, and, one day, he might take a walk (I hope I live long enough to see it).

He has a very good arm, and good range, I think he’d be best at short, but for now he’s a utility infielder, bouncing between second and short. Lourdes is the brother of AstrosYuli Gurriel.

And he has great hair.

Feel free to preview the Toronto pitchers for the series as well.

Friday, we’ll have Stroman. If he’s on, we’ll see a ton of ground balls. His last three starts have gone well, 2.37 ERA over 19 innings. But he has been up and down all season. Of course, there is a chance he’ll be traded.

Saturday, it won’t be Happ … I’m guessing we’ll get to see the first major league start from Reid-Foley. He was No. 9 on our preseason Top 40 prospect list. He’s a righthander, just 22. He can throw mid-90s, and has a good slider and curve. He has a 2.95 ERA in 20 starts, split between AA and AAA. He has 130 strikeouts in 110 innings.

Sunday hasn’t been announced, but it should be rookie Ryan Borucki. Borucki has looked very good in hit first five MLB starts. He has a 2.79 ERA in 29 innings. He’s allowed 33 hits, zero homers, 10 walks and 23 strikeouts. Unfortunately, we haven’t scored for the poor guy. We did get 13 runs in one of his starts, but in the other four we scored a total of three. Borucki was No. 6 on our preseason prospect list. He’s a lefty, throws mid-90s, sometimes getting to high-90s, and has a good changeup and breaking ball.

It is entirely possible that I will turn out to be wrong, and we end up with three different starters.