I'm confident enough to admit that I don't understand the Toronto Blue Jays, a team of contradictions. Back in May, I suggested that the Blue Jays might need to raffle off their veteran players if they were still in last place in July. About a week later, I speculated that one of Orioles, Blue Jays, and Red Sox would become sellers at the trade deadline. Now, here we are in July. The Jays aren't in last place, but they're only a game above .500. They're in fourth place in the AL East, but they're only two-and-a-half games behind the Yankees. And, most importantly, they still have about a 40 percent chance to make the postseason, according to Baseball Prospectus.
And that's because, believe it or not, the Blue Jays are actually pretty good. They have the best offense in baseball, leading the majors in runs scored (by 55 runs!) and slugging percentage, while still second in on-base percentage and home runs. In fact, they're scoring almost five-and-a-half runs per game in a league where the average team is scoring a shade over four.
But as great as their offense has been, their pitching has been almost as bad. The Blue Jays have allowed the second most runs and have the second worst FIP in the American League. Nevertheless, their offense has been so good that the Jays still have the second best run differential in all of baseball, behind only the Cardinals. Their Pythagorean record is 50-35, so they are an incredible 14 games below where they should be thanks to a 20-6 record in blowouts and a 9-16 mark in one-run games. Some of that luck is bound to even out over the course of the second half of the season.
Things looked awfully gloomy at the end of May for these Jays, but they did turn things around. They've found incredible performances from Chris Collabello, Devon Travis, Liam Hendricks, and Roberto Osuna. Their offseason moves to acquire Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin, both just named to the All Star team, and Justin Smoak, have paid off massively. Mark Buehrle, of all people, has recovered from a disastrous first two months to post a 1.41 ERA over his last seven starts to lead the Jays staff.
But with Buehrle set to become a free agent, and only one year of control left for Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, the Jays need to find pitching fast. The Reds or the Phillies might be the most obvious match. Johnny Cueto is a goner and Ardolis Chapman is under contract for only one more season. Would the Reds accept a deal built around Daniel Norris and Dalton Pompey? What about the Phillies with Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon? Can they pry Neil Cotts or Marc Rzepczynski away from the Brewers or the Indians, respectively? The Blue Jays have some work to do, but perhaps the strongest base, in terms of current talent on the team, and future talent with which to make deals, to win the AL East. Now they just have to use it.