Despite the success the Blue Jays have experienced so far this season, the team's two core weaknesses have remained unchanged since the offseason: starting pitching and second base. Since the winter, there has been a trade rumour linking the Jays and Cubs RHP Jeff Samardzija that simply will not go away. The rumour has been given more life in recent days due to reports that the Jays have been scouting "The Shark".
While the addition of Samardzija to the Blue Jays would likely improve the team, what concerns me is the necessary asset allocation in a potential trade. If the Jays acquire Samardzija and are willing to concede the Cubs' asking price of Hutchison + Stroman/Sanchez, the result for the Jays would be closer to stagnation than actual improvement.
Here's a look at the Jays' current rotation crop and their team averages:
Now, assume the Jays add The Shark with no allocation to the starting rotation as it currently exists:
Adding a pitcher of Samardzija's skill improves the Jays starting pitching numbers in just about every area, including increasing the group's WAR to the Detroit Tiger's current level. The only problem is, an easy, consequence-free transaction such as this is kind of impossible.
If we assume the Jays bow to Chicago's demands and part with Drew Hutchison and a prospect (say...Aaron Sanchez) in the deal, here's how the updated team averages look:
|Team Averages Minus Hutchison||7.43||3.39||.315||8.58%||3.65||3.80||3.96||5.9|
Now, let's take it one step further. Suppose AA decides to pay the full price and part with both Hutch and Stroman. How do the updated averages look?
|Team Averages Minus Hutchison and Stroman||7.34||3.65||.310||8.56%||3.79||3.89||4.05||5.4|
Based on the raw data, paying either the full or the partial price for Jeff Samardzija would likely result only a slight improvement in the rotation's numbers. Without the Jays' two young prospects, the team's FIP likely increases and their xFIP remains roughly the same.
What these numbers ultimately tell us is that the media's insistence that the Jays go "all in" and acquire a premiere starting pitcher at all costs is ignorance of quality vs. quantity. Parting with two very young, high-upside pitchers for a 29-year old who is approaching free agency is a mistake likely to cost the Jays for seasons to come. The team's numbers are not likely to improve, and our farm system will go from middling to on life support.
I am confident that Anthopoulos knows all of this, based on how well Hutchison and Stroman have performed thus far. If the Jays consider themselves contenders, they must improve the team by adding talent to talent as opposed to swapping talent for talent. When it comes to starting pitching, betting on quantity is much more assuring than betting on quantity.