The Blue Jays were 9 games under .500 when they embarked on the most recent road trip. They have since won 5 straight and now sit only 5.5 games out of the second wildcard spot. What a difference a week makes.
Anchored by solid starting pitching and an offence that continues to hit homers, the Jays finally look like the team everybody thought they would be after all the offseason moves. Now home vs. the Rockies, where I suspect the Jays should take 2 of 3. Then the real test: 3 vs. the Orioles, 3 vs. the Rays, and 4 vs. the Red Sox. A disappointing couple weeks could put an end to any playoff hopes. A successful couple weeks would mean the Jays are back in the thick of a postseason race prior to the allstar game.
With Jose Reyes scheduled to come back later this month (he went 2-2 with a single, triple, 2 walks and 2 stolen bases in his rehab debut this weekend), the offence should only get better. Also, Brandon Morrow should be back by the end of June. When healthy, we all know what he is capable of doing.
So the question becomes this: who gets sent down? With everyone playing at a high level, it’s a good problem to have. Currently the Jays are carrying 8 men in the bullpen. I imagine that there will be a move at some point to drop this back down to the traditional 7. Perhaps when Reyes returns? But who goes? My guess is either Juan Perez or Dustin McGowan. I think Perez does more for the team, but the Jays have a soft spot for McGowan and probably don’t want to risk losing him on waivers if they send him down after being so patient with him during 3 shoulder surgeries. Unfortunately, Perez might be the odd man out. It sounds awful to be sending down a guy that is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 10 innings, allowed only 5 hits, recorded 10 K’s, has held opponents to a .152 average, and produced a 0.80 WHIP. But Perez is a lefty. And the Jays already have three other lefties in the ‘pen (talk about luxury) in Aaron Loup, Darren Oliver, and Brett Cecil. But Perez is also out of options and would have to clear waivers. At $380,000, how could somebody not claim him? Neil Wagner has options and could be sent down, but the Jays have been keen on using him in clutch situations. It’s pretty hard to send down a guy who throws 96-98 mph and consistent strikes.
To me, if the Jays are going to really make a run and go for it, McGowan is the odd man out. I know…I know… We all want to see him do well. He continues to fight through adversity and never gives up. But he also has a contract which pays him $1.5 million this season and another $1.5 million next year. There is a club option for $4 million in 2015 with a $500,000 buyout. If anyone has a shot at clearing waivers, it’s a guy who has had three shoulder surgeries and is making that kind of money. And if he cleared waivers, you have to think he would accept a minor league assignment in triple-A since the Jays organization has been so good to him all these years.
It also makes sense from this standpoint: when Morrow comes back, Esmil Rogers probably gets pumped out of the rotation and back to the ‘pen. Replacing one righty with another makes sense. And I’d rather have Rogers than McGowan at this point.
Tough decisions for sure. It will be interesting to see how GM Alex Anthopoulos handles the next couple weeks. There are a lot of “good problems” right now with respects to the Jays roster.