Blue Jays upgrade at shortstop, but will it be enough?

The Troy Tulowitzki for Jose Reyes deal that seemed to materialize out of nowhere last night shocked most. Tulowitzki goes to the Toronto Blue Jays for Jose Reyes, Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro, and another yet-to-be-determined prospect. The Colorado Rockies will also send LaTroy Hawkins to Toronto.

For months, the Blue Jays had been expected to upgrade their starting rotation, but in flipping one injury-prone shortstop for another, the Jays decided instead to add to their strengths, namely bludgeoning opposing teams with baseball’s best offense. Toronto has the best offense in the league, and it’s not even close. They average 5.28 runs per game. Second place scores only 4.65 per game.

The Blue Jays did not need Tulowitzki, but they were one more Reyes injury away from needing him. Reyes has played in only 69 games this season. He’s been pretty good when on the field, but at 32, his power numbers are beginning to flag and it is impossible to predict how his hamstrings will hold up into his mid-30’s after years of abuse. Tulowitzki is injury-prone as well. Just like Reyes, he has not played a full season over the past three years. From 2007 to 2014, the All-Star shortstop appeared in just 936 of 1,296 Rockies’ games. That’s less than three-fourths.

Over the past three seasons, Reyes has played 305 games to Tulowitzki’s 304. The offensive numbers aren’t even close. Tulowitzki has put up a slash line of .316/.390/.537 to Reyes’ .289/.334/.404. Tulowitzki has also hit 58 home runs to Reyes’ 23 while also playing much better defense. This trade definitely gives the Blue Jays an upgrade at shortstop.

All that being said, the Blue Jays had bigger fish to fry at the trade deadline. Toronto’s pitching staff is one of the worst in baseball. Their starters have the 24th-best ERA in baseball, and they have ridden the Brett Cecil roller coaster too long at closer. Roberto Osuna has assumed the role from Cecil, but he is 20 years old and inexperienced. For good reason, the Jays have been frequently linked to both Jonathan Papelbon and Aroldis Chapman. As far as the starting rotation goes, with Hoffman and Castro dealt away, the Blue Jays will not be able to pursue a Cole Hamels or David Price-type ace. A deal with the San Diego Padres for Tyson Ross or Andrew Cashner could materialize. Mike Leake of the Cincinnati Reds or Mat Latos of the Miami Marlins could also be targets. The Blue Jays will just have to decide whether their rotation or bullpen is the greater concern.

Or, if Toronto wants to continue adding to its powerful lineup, a left-handed hitting outfielder would be a good acquisition. Left and center field have been the only real holes in the Blue Jays’ lineup this season. Toronto is also heavily skewed towards right-handed hitters. On the season, the Blue Jays have hit 130 home runs, but only 19 have come from the left side.

Troy Tulowitzki is a great addition for the Blue Jays, but he was not cheap (Tulowitzki will cost Toronto over $50 million over the life of his contract than Reyes). While he is an upgrade offensively and defensively at shortstop, Tulowitzki is not so big an upgrade as to push the Blue Jays over the top. If Toronto wants to get back to the postseason for the first time since 1993, there is still significant work to be done. If the Blue Jays hope to really contend this season, a starter is needed. There are still four days until the trade deadline, and by the time the clock strikes 4:00 on Friday, expect Toronto to have made at least one more deal.

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