By Rob Ficiur
At the half way point in the season Toronto Blue Jays fans wish for better times, like last year when the team was in a playoff hunt. If only we had not traded this player. If only we had not let this player go as a free agent, then we would be in first place (or better) so we think. In the real world (and on the ball field), how are recent former Blue Jays doing half way through the 2017 season?
1. Edwin Encarnaceon – When the Jays lost Edwin to free agency they lost more than his 42 home runs and 127 runs batted in. They lost a clutch hitter. In April, we thought we let an aging star leave just in time. Edwin hit a mere .200 average and four home runs. As often happens, Edwin has improvd as the season goes on. His June batting average was .322 with seven home runs and 22 runs batted in.
Edwin’s replacement as Designated Hitter has hit almost on par with EE. Kendrys Moarles has 16 home runs to Edwin’s 17; Morales has 47 runs batted in two more than Edwin. Their overall batting averages are almost identical at .256 and .257. In numbers alone it appears that the Blue Jays have replaced Edwin’s production. In the end, we miss his home run trot – no one else thinks he has a parrot on his shoulder – but we know he does.
2. David Price – Price was only a member of the Blue Jays for half of the 2015 season. When the Red Sox signed Price as a free agent that winter the Blue Jays used those same dollars and signed two free agent pitchers for what Price would have cost. Last year Price won 17 games; while the two Blue Jays pitchers (J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada) won 20 and nine games respectively. We can argue that in 2016 Toronto got 29 wins for the same dollars Price got 17 for Boston.
This season David Price has a shoulder injury that delayed his first start until May 29. His overall record is 4-2 with a 4.02 earned run average (ERA). The two Jays pitchers have a combined 7-11 record with an average ERA of 4.32. In recent starts, J.A. Happ seems to have recovered from an early season injury and be pitching more like his 20 game self. In time, Price might regain the form that made him an elite pitcher.
David Price has created more news for his off field choices than for his pitching this year. Shortly after his return from injury, he said he would only talk to the media on pitching days; and he singled out one reporter he would not talk to. Maybe this is more common than we think, but it drew attention to a struggling pitcher. Last week Price got into an argument with commentator/former player David Eckersley. We can chose to interpret these stories how we want. If he were our player, we would dismiss them as the media making stories out of nothing. However, since he is no longer our player we can chose to see it as David Price being a bad teammate and we are glad he is gone.
3. RA Dickey’s knuckle ball is knuckling in Atlanta almost exactly like it did in Toronto last year. His ERA this year is 4.44 compared to 4.46 last year. He has six wins, which is on par for the 10 he had last year. With injuries, the way we have had in Toronto in 2017. It would be great to have a this reliable 180-inning pitcher throwing that knuckler for us this year.
4. Drew Hutchinson – Drew was the opening day starter for the Jays in 2015. By the end of that year, he was no longer on the playoff roster. By mid-2016 he was traded to Pittsburgh for two minor leaguers and Francisco Liriano. With Pittsburgh paying so much for Drew, you would wonder if the Jays sent him away too soon. In 2017, Hutchinson is 4-4 with a 3.74 earned run average. These numbers sound good to very good until you realize that Drew is pitching in the minor leagues again this season. His good play the last month may yet earn him a call up in the dog days of summer. With all the starting pitchers Toronto has used this year, Drew would have been a better choice than some.
5. Ben Revere – The Jays traded for this left fielder at the 2015 trading deadline. His speed and average fielding skills made him a good teammate. His .319 batting average for the 2015 Blue Jays made him seem like a star. Since leaving Toronto Revere has seen the luster come off his game. Last year he hit a career low .217 (over 100 points lower than his Blue Jays numbers). Now with his fourth team in three seasons, Revere is hitting a career second worse .231 in a half time roll.
These numbers and stories are based on mid-season stats. If they continue with their average or subpar seasons – or if they get worse – Jays can will congratulate themselves and management for making such wise decisions in letting these players go. If any of these players could go on a hot streak making Jays fans beg and plead that we can re-acquire him (them) at the trade deadline. If that does not work we can just focus on our team and not wonder what could have been if – with perfect hindsight – we could have kept that player.