With the non-waiver trade deadline only a few days away, we are in the midst of one of the more frantic periods of the season. The Jays have a strong team that should be able to get make the playoffs as is. But is it currently set up to have a legitimate shot at the World Series? I’m not convinced. Even after the addition of Melvin Upton Jr., they will probably need a little more help. The team can’t do much better than its current lineup of position players. With that in mind, here is a list of pitchers that they could add, should add, and hopefully won’t add.
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Jake Odorizzi – With names like Chris Sale and Sonny Gray thrown around this summer, it might seem peculiar to set the Jays’ high bar at Jake Odorizzi. Yet, he is exactly what they need right now. Odorizzi has established himself as a legitimate #3/4 in the AL East. The right-hander is in the midst of a somewhat disappointing season, which will diminish his trade value. Perhaps a move out of the Trop could put him on a better track. At any rate, he doesn’t need a rebuild quite to the same extent as Gray. The Jays learned an important lesson last year. Although it was great to add David Price, he was not a necessary commodity. They could have still made it to the playoffs by adding a pitcher with an ERA of ~3.75. Price’s dazzling numbers just made his starts more of a sure thing. Rather than spend the remaining prospect capital on a Sale or Gray, the Jays would be better served to invest responsibly in a reliable, young arm that still has lots of control.
Rich Hill – With Sanchez’s pending move to the bullpen, Estrada’s back issues, the possibility that Stroman won’t find a consistent groove, and the simple odds that at least one starter will get injured over the next two months… the Jays could use some insurance. Enter Rich Hill. The veteran is having the season of his life out in Oakland. The problem for the A’s is that it is difficult to value him. Hampered by injuries, Hill has pitched all of 18.1 innings since May 29th. That isn’t exactly what teams look for in a rental. As such, his value has likely taken a hit over the past couple of weeks. If the Jays could acquire him for a few low-level prospects, then he might be worth the gamble. He shouldn’t be the team’s top target, but also shouldn’t be ignored.
Andrew Cashner – Something strange has happened this month. With a thin starting pitching market, Cashner has seen his value rise in a way that does not reflect his performance. In short, he has been more than underwhelming. Cashner actually hasn’t had a quality season since 2014. Furthermore, he has a history of injury troubles, which could come back to haunt him. Yet here we are, with Cashner positioned as one of the more realistic targets at the deadline. Fangraphs recently wrote about this change of events. If the Jays were to acquire Cashner, then it would have to be for a cheap return. He is simply too much of a risk. It could work out, but his track record suggests that it wouldn’t.
Ervin Santana – Remember a few years ago, when the Jays were desperate to sign Santana? They didn’t miss out on a star pitcher, but Santana also hasn’t been a complete slouch. Since 2014, he has pitched at a rate comparable to Dickey, and with a similar contract. That is to say that he has been perfectly serviceable. The upside for Santana is that he would be under control for three more years. However, with the Twins out of contention, and Santana as their biggest trade piece, they will want a significant return. As with Cashner, he wouldn’t be worth anything too flashy. While it wouldn’t hurt to add Santana, he would still be a step back from any of the arms currently in the rotation.
Andrew Cashner – If the recent rumours are any indication, then it looks like the Jays might be in on Cashner. Rosenthal’s mention of a perceived difference in value has to be a good thing, as the Jays don’t seem willing to overpay. Even so, Cashner would be small consolation for a rotation that will lose Sanchez. There has also been some speculation that Cashner could go to the bullpen. To be fair, he can throw 99 MPH. But a bullpen move wouldn’t address the Jays’ rotation needs. Hopefully there is more in store.
Jeremy Hellickson – In terms of realistic rentals, Hellickson might be the cream of the crop. If the Jays could acquire him for a couple of mid-tier arms, then they might be in good shape. While most of Hellickson’s peripherals look good, his HR/9 is concerning, especially in Philadelphia. It’s not clear that he would easily adjust in a mid-season return to the AL East. Even so, Hellickson has always had decent upside, and could be worth pursuing at the deadline. The main hurdle would be the Phillies’ asking price.
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Will Smith – With the struggles from Cecil and Loup this season, the Jays desperately need a reliable left-handed reliever. The top name on that list was Aroldis Chapman, but the Cubs outbid everyone. Smith is the next in line. The left-hander has looked sharp in limited innings this season (read: 19.1). He doesn’t overpower batters, but has still been effective. As far as left-handed options go, he is probably as good as the Jays could realistically hope to acquire. The same could be said for several other teams, which will surely drive up his price.
Jeremy Jeffress – Sticking with the Brewers, their closer has put up an impressive season. The former Blue Jay has seen plenty of action so far this year, without faltering. This marks Jeffress’ third consecutive season with impressive results. Jeffress could serve as an excellent 8th inning man for the Jays. As with Smith, he still has three years of control after 2016. The price will be high for both of these options, but either of them would ease the concern with the bullpen.
Jeanmar Gomez – Originally drafted by Mark Shapiro, Gomez has had a terrific season with the Phillies. He has faced high leverage situations with regularity, and has found success in them. That is one of the key pieces missing from the Jays’ bullpen. If he could fit in as a replacement for Storen, then it would be a great change. Gomez is only under contract for one more season, which could make it easier for the Phillies to part with him. Relievers don’t often net significant returns, and with Chapman and Jeffress available, Gomez will be a smaller target for most teams.
Fernando Abad – Another left-handed option, Abad has pitched well for the Twins this season. He strikes batters out, but also gives up a concerning amount of walks. With one year of control remaining, and Morales recently returning to the Jays’ bullpen, Abad should not be a major priority. If the Jays need another lefty, then Smith should be their first choice. That said, Abad is not a bad alternative, just in case.
Joaquin Benoit – It was good to see the Blue Jays get something for Storen. That “something” came in the form of 39-year-old Joaquin Benoit. While Benoit had pitched six strong seasons in a row, he struggled mightily in Seattle this year. A command pitcher who now lacks command, Benoit has not been able to control the walks. As such, his trade is essentially a swap of reclamation projects. If Benoit can return to his usual self, then this move could be a steal for the Jays. They are certainly hoping that Benoit will pitch like Grilli. The odds don’t seem great, though. Unless the Jays are able to add at least another arm, the Benoit acquisition on its own will be underwhelming.
Tyler Clippard – The Jays did not get a chance to see Clippard in Arizona earlier this month. That was a good thing. The former Washington National has been the picture of consistency since becoming a regular in 2009. He is in a bit of a down year, and [with another year of control](http://www.spotrac.com/mlb/arizona-diamondbacks/tyler-clippard/), he could be one of the more expendable players on the DBacks’ roster. As such, he should be priced to sell. That said, Jays fans might have some concerns about acquiring a late-inning reliever who spent most of his career with the Nationals. The Jays have been linked to Clippard at various times throughout the years. Now might finally be the time to get him.
Steve Cishek – As the Mariners series showed, Seattle has plenty of bullpen depth. While Seattle is certainly not out of contention this season, it is possible that they would part with at least one of those arms. If any would net a strong return, it would be their closer, Cishek. The Mariners could take solace in the fact that he has not even been their best reliever this season. At the same time, the Jays could add a quality late-inning piece. If last season’s Mark Lowe trade was any indication, the Mariners might be willing to part with Cishek for relatively little in return.
Of course, there are an unlimited number of scenarios which could unfold over the weekend. One thing I feel confident about is that the Jays won’t have a deadline like they did last year. To be fair, no team in professional sports has had a deadline like Anthopolous pulled off. As I said at the outset, the Jays are currently in a good position for the playoffs. They just need a couple of pieces to really get them over the hump. A deadline like 2015’s won’t be necessary, but they will still need to do something.