If The Blue Jays Become Buyers

The Blue Jays are 24-17, five games back in the AL East.  They're only two back of the Yankees for the wild card lead.  The Jays have gotten this far based on middle of the pack pitching and a powerful offense.  Their runs scored and allowed totals back up the .585 winning percentage, suggesting this team really can win 90+ games.

This was expected to be a consolidation year for the Blue Jays – set the bargain-basement rotation loose, let Travis Snider develop, trade away veteran relievers.  Instead, rookie GM Alex Anthopoulos has to be considering making midseason upgrades for a once-improbable playoff run.

The offense has three glaring issues: designated hitter, first base, and second base.  In other words, Adam Lind, Lyle Overbay, and Aaron Hill have disappointed, and it is to some extent balancing out surprising contributions by other hitters.  We're talking of samples of less than 200 plate appearances for each, so it's very possible the best course of action is to just give each player more time to rediscover his 2009 form. 

Overbay, a free agent after the season, would be the easiest to replace if he doesn't improve in the next month.  We're not sure yet if game-changers like Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez will be available at the trade deadline, but acquiring either would require a radical departure from Anthopoulos' plan.  It'd also block Brett Wallace (.309/.369/.612 at Triple A) through 2011.  Calling up Wallace to replace Overbay might provide a sufficient upgrade.  Otherwise, the Jays could target more reasonable first base rentals such as Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Adam LaRoche, or Lance Berkman.

A rotation reinforcement to back up the ace performances of Shaun Marcum and Ricky Romero would help.  Brett Cecil and Brandon Morrow have shown enough promise that one veteran addition might be enough.  Jesse Litsch could be an in-house addition next month.  Still, the cost to acquire Kevin Millwood, Jake Westbrook, Brandon Webb, or Brett Myers wouldn't be high, as opposed to the Roy Oswalt/Cliff Lee range.  The Jays' bullpen hasn't been great, but Jason Frasor appears to be back on track and they've got good arms at the back end.

The Blue Jays have to be treated as potential buyers rather than sellers.  There are plenty of options to upgrade the club in 2010 without abandoning the long-term plan.


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