We're used to trades deadline where the Yankees and Red Sox were the big movers and shakers. Welcome to the new world of baseball where the big deal-makers are the Royals and Blue Jays, both of whom made a pair of trades this week that shook up the baseball world. While the Royals were busy adding to their first place arsenal with Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist, the Blue Jays made the most stunning trade in acquiring shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from the Rockies, then adding pitcher David Price from the Tigers.
The move for a rental like Price is especially surprising considering the position Toronto is in. The Jays are currently 51-51, three games back of a Wild Card spot, not exactly a leading contender. On the other hand, they have a pythag of 60-42, so you could see them being a bit unlucky so far and playing exceptional baseball down the stretch, especially with their additions. Toronto also has the longest post-season drought in baseball now that the Royals made it last year, so I can understand the desire to make a push this year.
The Troy Tulowitzki trade surprised many because this was already an offense capable of scoring a lot of runs. The Jays lead the league in runs scored by a healthy margin at 5.27 runs per game. Toronto has the second-best slugging percentage and the third-best-on base percentage. The Jays are a much better hitting team north of the border, with an .834 OPS at home compared to just .719 on the road.
The lineup is headlined by All-Star caliber players like Tulowitzki, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and MVP-candidate Josh Donaldson. However the Jays have also gotten good hitting performances from freely available talent like Chris Colabello and former Royals hitter Danny Valencia. Second baseman Devon Travis is a Rookie of the Year candidate, but is nursing a shoulder injury.
*-numbers with Colorado and Toronto
The Jays are not plodders, they can run the bases well. They are third in the league in Baserunning Runs and have a high stolen base rate of 75.6% in 74 attempts. Toronto is a middle-of-the-road team defensively, although upgrading from Jose Reyes to Troy Tulowitzki should help.
David Price was just acquired by the Jays and has not been announced as the Sunday starter, but it makes sense to pencil him in there after Felix Doubront was designated for assignment a few days ago. Mark Buerhle is 26-12 with a 3.55 ERA in 55 career starts against the Royals. He has succeeded this year despite an 84 mph fastball and the second-worst strikeout rate among all starting pitchers. Drew Hutchison has pitched much better than his ERA would indicate and has added more drop to his slider. However he has given up 31 runs in 38 1/3 innings over his last eight starts with opponents hitting .340/.409/.519 against him over that time. The Royals defeated Marco Estrada in Kansas City a few weeks ago although he pitched well. The right-hander relies heavily on his changeup, but can be home run-prone at times.
*-numbers with Cincinnati
#-numbers with Detroit
The Blue Jays pen has the third-best strikeout rate and the second-best walk rate. Twenty-year old rookie Roberto Osuna has been fantastic as the new closer, striking out 10.4 per-nine-innings with the sixth-most fWAR among all relievers. Former Royals pitcher Liam Hendricks has the second-best strikeout-to-walk ratio among all relievers with 45 strikeouts and just 6 walks in 44 1/3 innings of relief. Forty-two year old veteran Latroy Hawkins comes over from the Rockies in the Tulowitzki trade, and continues to defy his age by giving effective innings of work.
The Jays are just 10-22 in one-run games, perhaps due to poor luck, but the Royals would seem to have an advantage if the game is a low-scoring affair. The two teams played a wild one on the Sunday before the All-Star break that we'd all like to avoid, but with Toronto's offense in Rogers Centre, that kind of slugfest is possible again this weekend. The big trades this week should give each team a lift, but winning the trade deadline is one matter, winning ballgames is another matter entirely.