TORONTO – In the aftermath of the Tampa Bay Rays clinching a wild-card berth, Bo Bichette realized that he needs a place to live once the Toronto Blue Jays season ends Sunday. His condo in the St. Petersburg, Fla., area right now is being occupied by Rays reliever Emilio Pagan, who’s going to be in the place for the next week, at least.
“Now, when I go home,” says the rookie shortstop, “I have to live with my parents for a little bit longer.”
No biggie, Bichette’s housing situation will soon resolve on its own. Far more difficult to settle will be “the uneasy” feeling he had watching the Rays celebrate a trip to the post-season at Rogers Centre. The 21-year-old, who is recovering well from his concussion but won’t play in Sunday’s season finale, finished his last two seasons with championships, one in the advanced-A Florida State League, one in the double-A Eastern League.
This year, he, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – scratched Saturday with right knee soreness and expected to sit again Sunday – and Cavan Biggio, teammates on those title-winning squads, were part of a club that secured the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 draft at the same time the Rays secured a post-season berth. As the Rays partied on the field, Bichette and his young Blue Jays teammates sat in the dugout, some slumped over the railing, watching it all go down.
“You, obviously, never want to see them celebrate on your field,” says Bichette. “At the same time, I looked at Cavan, I looked at Vladdy, I looked at some of the other guys around me and I was like, ‘Man, next year that’s what we’re going to be doing.’ I think it lit a bit of fire under us, definitely something we want to experience. It’ll definitely motivate us.”
The Jays need a good, veteran starter (or two!) in 2020. The Red Sox are looking to reduce payroll. Might a David Price reunion be in the cards?
The Red Sox have recently announced a desire to get under the luxury tax cap in 2020. Their most expensive player in 2020 will be David Price, who still has three years and $96 million remaining on the seven year, $217 million dollar contract he signed with Boston prior to the 2016 season.
Meanwhile, the Jays have a number of promising young pitchers coming through the minors (six of their top seven prospects are pitchers) but the second and third “waves” are still a few years away from being MLB-ready. And the projected rotation for 2020 is heavy on young pitchers without much big league experience. What the Jays badly need is a top-of-rotation, veteran pitcher who can bridge the ~3 years until the Thorntons and Boruckis are more experienced and the Manoahs and Pardinhos are ready.
Price was a beast from 2010-2016. His 1,528 IP led the majors, and his 34.1 WAR was 4th, behind only Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. But the injury bug hit in 2017 and (like an unwanted guest) refused to leave, with the result that Price’s 6.3 WAR from 2017-2019 is less than the 6.7 he put up in 2015 alone.
In 2019, Price missed time at the beginning of the season with “elbow discomfort” and at the end with a wrist injury that will require off-season cyst surgery, with the result that he only started 22 games (107 innings). His 4.28 ERA, while decent, was not spectacular – but his 3.86 SIERA was 22nd best in baseball (starters, 100 IP) – ahead of Patrick Corbin, Zack Greinke and Noah Syndergaard. ZiPS projects Price at a 3.95 ERA over 145 IP in 2020. That might not seem so great, but in HR-happy 2019 a 3.95 ERA would have been 45th best in baseball – so a solid #2 starter.
What would a deal look like?
With the injury risk and Price’s age (he will pitch most of 2020 at 34 years old) it is difficult to argue that he is worth 3/$96m, which would leave Boston with two options. They could either eat a significant portion of Price’s salary, or add prospects / draft picks / international pool money as a sweetener (similar to what the Mariners did when they traded Robinson Cano to the Mets last off-season).
The Sox farm system is
So say that Price will average 2.0 WAR over the next three years, and that is worth $15m per year. And say that a #66 prospect is worth $26 million in current value. So the Jays might take Price and Casas, throw in a low prospect or two for appearances sake, and have Boston retain ~$25m. Of course, Boston will be hoping to do better than this, looking for a team who still sees Price through 2016-coloured glasses. But this would be a fair price, IMO.
This deal would tick a lot of boxes. It would help Boston with their cap problem at the cost of a player who has had a troubled relationship with the Beantown media and fans. Price might welcome a move back to Toronto, where he was far more appreciated. And Price could provide the veteran, #2-level-starter presence that the Jays need, both to compete in 2020 and beyond and to mentor the young arms coming up. There is risk, of course – but that risk might be what makes a deal possible at a reasonable price, and getting one good starter via the trade route would reduce the pressure on the Jays’ front office to succeed in the free agent market.
Montoyo hopes Blue Jays can learn from watching Rays clinch
The attitude is exactly what you want from a foundational player like Bichette, who enjoyed a spectacular two months in the big-leagues and will leave Toronto having produced 2.1 WAR, as calculated by Baseball Reference, in a mere 46 games. But for the Blue Jays to be playing for more than draft position next year, the front office needs to take as much inspiration from the Rays’ rapid rebuild as the players did.
Trent Thornton closed out a solid rookie season with five shutout innings of one-hit ball in Saturday’s 4-1 victory over the Rays to grab a share of the team lead in wins at six. He’s now tied with Marcus Stroman and Daniel Hudson, who have spent the past two months pitching for other teams. Yes, the win is a largely meaningless stat, but the absurdly low total is a pretty good indicator that the rotation’s performance was feculent.
As things stand now, Thornton seems to be a leading candidate for the 2020 staff, along with a healthy again Ryan Borucki and, it sounds like, Matt Shoemaker, assuming both sides can work out a deal. Jacob Waguespack is an interesting potential innings-eater, while top prospect Nate Pearson will be up at some point, too, and lefty Anthony Kay made an impression in his short time up.
Beyond that, who’s helping close the massive gap between the Blue Jays and the playoffs?