The Toronto Blue Jays have settled comfortably into the basement in the American League East with a 9-17 record, and their 9 1/2-game gap from first place ties the Miami Marlins for the largest in baseball. So, as Yogi says, is it getting late early?
Dave Cameron of FanGraphs pondered that question Monday, noting that the ability to erase a deficit and return to postseason contention is helped by the addition of the second wild card team in each league. But it will still not be easy in the competitive American League East, especially with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees exceeding expectations.
A key issue is the absence of shortstop Jose Reyes for several months due to an ankle injury. Cameron says Toronto’s slow start and the loss of Reyes probably pushes them down closer to a .525 club now, or about an 85 win pace.
No one is saying that the Blue Jays will engineer a sell off that would make Jeffrey Loria proud, but righthander Josh Johnson would seem to be serious trade bait by July if Toronto’s struggles continue. A free agent this winter, Johnson is in the final year of a four-year contract that pays him $13.75 million this season. He is off to a slow start (6.86 ERA) which could be the result of a triceps issue that forced him to skip his last start.
There should be no shortage of teams looking to add pitching, starting with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have already used nine different starters this season due to a rash of injuries. The Red Sox and Yankees would like to add a starter, and the Blue Jays might be willing to deal within their division since Johnson would essentially be a short-term rental.