TORONTO – The path from rebuilding team to contender includes countless steps, most of which occur with little fanfare behind the scenes. And then there are the decisions that catch everyone’s attention.
Late Sunday night, the Blue Jays made one of those moves, agreeing to terms with last year’s National League ERA leader in a bold deal that now ranks among the largest in franchise history. The Blue Jays are in agreement with Hyun-Jin Ryu on a four-year, $80 million deal, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported first.
Immediately, the deal with the 32-year-old South Korean impacts the Blue Jays on and off the field. He bolsters a rotation that needed short-term help, represents a long-term building block for a franchise looking to contend again and offers the clearest sign yet that the current front office is willing and able to spend big.
Of course, there are questions here too.
A finesse pitcher, Ryu averaged 90.6 m.p.h. with his fastball in 2019 while also relying on a cutter, curve and his preferred out-pitch, a plus change-up. The combination worked in 2019, when he posted an NL-best 2.32 ERA in 182.2 innings while striking out 163.
He joins a rotation featuring two other newcomers, free agent signing Tanner Roark and trade acquisition Chase Anderson. On paper, Matt Shoemaker would be the club’s No. 4 starter while Trent Thornton and Ryan Borucki would be leading candidates for the final spot. That’s a much better rotation than the one that posted a 5.25 ERA in 2019.
“It’s not good enough just to have depth,” GM Ross Atkins said soon after the regular season. “You have to have major-league pieces and guys that can contribute in significant ways.”
Of course, that initial rotation will just be a starting point. A year ago, the Blue Jays used 21 different starters including Ryan Feierabend, Buddy Boshers and Neil Ramirez. The lack of viable starters was apparent at times, with manager Charlie Montoyo once justifying his decision to start Edwin Jackson and his 11.12 ERA by acknowledging “We don’t have anybody else.”
Well, now they do. On paper, the Blue Jays seem poised to begin the season with a triple-A rotation filled with young pitchers ready or nearly ready for the majors. Jacob Waguespack, Anthony Kay, T.J. Zeuch and Sean Reid-Foley all have some big-league experience and can be optioned to and from Buffalo as needed. Plus, there’s Nate Pearson, arguably the game’s top pitching prospect, who should be ready for major-league hitters at some point this season.
Ryu’s presence should help ensure that the days of ‘an opener and a guy’ are over.
Even so, the Blue Jays can’t assume they’re getting 200 innings per season from Ryu, who has missed considerable time over the years. Shoulder surgery cost him the entire 2015 season and the first half of 2016. After just one start back, elbow tendonitis sidelined him until 2017. Hip and foot injuries impacted him that year, but only briefly. Then, in 2018, he missed 90 games with a left groin strain.
Those injuries could resurface, so a fair over/under for total innings pitched in Toronto may be 500 rather than 800. Regardless, that risk is priced into his contract to some extent as Ryu signed for a lower average annual value than fellow free agents Gerrit Cole ($36 million), Stephen Strasburg ($35) million and Zack Wheeler ($23.6 million). Adding to Ryu’s appeal, he won’t cost the Blue Jays a draft pick since he accepted Los Angeles’ qualifying offer a year ago.
Clearly, there’s risk here — it’s the largest free agent pitching deal in franchise history — but the Blue Jays are positioned to absorb it at a time that they have considerable financial flexibility. Beyond 2021, the team’s only commitments are Roark, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Randal Grichuk. It won’t be until the final year of Ryu’s contract that the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio are arbitration-eligible.
Even after completing this deal with Ryu and agent Scott Boras, the Blue Jays should have room to add and retain more impact players in the coming seasons. According to Roster Resource, Toronto’s projected 2020 payroll sits at $106 million — nowhere near the luxury tax threshold of $208 million.
Ryu’s agreement represents the largest Blue Jays deal of any kind since club president and CEO Mark Shapiro took over following the 2015 season. In the intervening years, Shapiro often said the Blue Jays would have the means to spend on major free agents at the right time, but that was often met with skepticism from the fan base. Now, the Ryu deal speaks for itself.
Eventually, the Blue Jays hope he’ll be pitching them back to contention. If everything breaks right, that could even happen as soon as next season. In the perhaps more likely event that 2020 represents a step towards respectability, Ryu’s greatest impact may be felt in 2021 and beyond.
Blue Jays sit 1 win away from clinching playoff berth after thumping Yankees – CBC.ca
The Toronto Blue Jays showed Wednesday night why they could be a dangerous wild-card team in the playoffs.
Danny Jansen hit two solo homers as the Blue Jays used a 16-hit attack and eight-run sixth inning to bulldoze the New York Yankees 14-1 at Sahlen Field. Jansen had four hits and three runs to help the Blue Jays move closer to nailing down a playoff berth.
“Putting ourselves in this spot is a great feeling,” Jansen said. “But we’ve still got work to do.”
Cavan Biggio scored three times, Randal Grichuk added a pair of runs and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., had three RBIs. Starter Robbie Ray was effective over four-plus innings and A.J. Cole threw a scoreless fifth inning for the win.
Under Major League Baseball’s expanded playoff structure, 16 teams will reach the post-season. Division winners will be seeded No. 1 through No. 3 in each league, second-place teams will be seeded fourth through sixth, and two third-place wild-card teams will get the seventh and eighth seeds.
The Los Angeles Angels, currently ninth in the AL, kept their faint playoff hopes alive earlier Wednesday with a 5-2 win over the San Diego Padres.
And then there was one! ☝️ <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeAreBlueJays?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#WeAreBlueJays</a> <a href=”https://t.co/druwv41Bmw”>pic.twitter.com/druwv41Bmw</a>
Facing veteran right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (3-3), the Blue Jays took advantage of a couple breaks to put up two quick runs in the first inning.
With Biggio on after a leadoff walk, Teoscar Hernandez hit a double-play ball up the middle that took an unexpected high bounce near the lip of the grass and rolled into the outfield.
Guerrero stroked a single that scored Biggio with the game’s first run. Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez tried to pick the young slugger off first base but a wide throw went down the right-field line as Hernandez trotted home.
Ray earns timely outs
Ray breezed through the first inning but issued two walks in the second. Gio Urshela singled to load the bases and a passed ball allowed Luke Voit to score the Yankees’ lone run.
New York loaded the bases with none out in the fifth inning. But Cole (3-0) held off the heart of the Yankees’ order by fanning Giancarlo Stanton and getting Voit — who leads the majors in homers — on an infield fly and then Gleyber Torres on a flyout.
“That was really the game,” Jansen said. “Saving that was huge for us. Bases loaded, no outs, coming in and getting that. There’s a lot of momentum swing right there.”
“That seals the deal. I am no longer a Danny Jansen fan 😤” – that baseball <a href=”https://t.co/ijJMJ3UZwV”>pic.twitter.com/ijJMJ3UZwV</a>
Toronto followed New York’s lead by putting its first three batters on base in the sixth. The Blue Jays took full advantage by batting around with a two-run single by Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Biggio’s two-run double serving as highlight blows.
The victory came a day after New York dumped Toronto 12-1.
New York (32-24) had four hits and a season-high four errors. The Yankees have a magic number of one to secure a second-place finish in the East Division.
Ray, who was pulled after the first two batters reached in the fifth, allowed three hits, four walks and had five strikeouts. Tanaka gave up three earned runs, eight hits and three walks while striking out five.
Jansen, who went deep off Tanaka in the fourth, added another shot in the eighth off Yankees catcher Erik Kratz, giving the Toronto backstop six homers on the season.
Toronto was a wild-card entry when it last reached the post-season four years ago. The Blue Jays went on to reach the AL Championship Series for the second straight year.
Jays win big, magic number is 1 – Bluebird Banter
Our magic number is now 1. A win tomorrow (or in any of our last four games) would put us into the playoffs.
It is nice when the other team forgets how to play baseball. The Yankees made 4 official errors and a few unofficial ones. They were just playing bad baseball all night.
We got a good start from Bob Rae (as much as it hurts the old man in me to say that 4+ innings is a good start). Through four innings he allowed just 2 hits and 3 walks with 5 strikeouts. There was an unearned run against him, scoring on a passed ball (he and Jansen got crossed up, Ray threw a fastball, Jansen thought something bendy was coming). He went to full counts too much, but he kept the Yankees off the bases.
Ray allowed a walk and a single to start off the fifth and that was it. A.J. Cole came in a gave up a walk to load the bases. Looking at the final score, it doesn’t seem like there should have been a big moment of the game on the pitching side, but this was a big moment. We were up 5-1 with Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Viot and Gleyber Torres coming up. But Cole got a strikeout, popout and fly out. It was nice to see because Cole has had a rough time of it lately.
Ross Stripling pitched the last four inning, giving up just 1 hit with 1 strikeout. He gets a save on a game we won by 13.
The MLB record for greatest run differential in a save is 27: Wes Littleton was given a save for his three innings of effective relief in the Rangers’ 30-3 win against the Orioles. https://t.co/E1I8CfV58u
— Minor Leaguer (@Minor_Leaguer) September 24, 2020
We scored 2 in the first, 1 in the third, 2 in the fourth, 8 in the sixth and 1 in the eighth. Our hitters:
- Cavan Biggio was 2 for 5 with a walk, double and 2 RBI.
- Bo Bichette was 2 for 4, with 2 walks, double, 2 RBI (he had 3 walks on the season before tonight).
- Teoscar Hernandez 1 or 4.
- Randal Grichuk 1 for 4, 1 walk, 1 RBI.
- Vladimir Guerrero was 2 for 5, double, 3 RBI. He had an interesting night. He misjudged a popup in the first inning. Thankfully it didn’t cost us a run. He drew a pick off throw from Gary Sanchez, by taking a few steps towards second on a strike and Sanchez threw wide of first, getting us a free run. Then an crushed RBI double in third, an RBI ground out. And he made a very nice play, again a going a long way off first to get a ball, but Stripling got to the bag at first in plenty of time, and Vlad made a nice throw hitting the moving target.
- Lourdes Gurriel was 3 for 5 with an RBI.
- Travis Shaw was 1 for 5 with an RBI.
- Joe Panik only managed a walk.
- Danny Jansen hit 2 home runs on a 4 for 4 night, with 3 RBI. Yes, one of the home runs was off Yankees’ catcher Erik Kratz (but it still counts).
Jays of the Day: Cole (.119 WPA), Vlad (.190) and Jansen (.107).
No Suckage Jays. Shaw had the low mark at -.063.
Tomorrow is our last game of this four game series against the Yankees and then we have a weekend series against the Orioles to end the season.
We had 847 comments in the GameThread. I led us to victory (and I didn’t even have a beer tonight). But I did have a nice day. I took a drive out in the country and saw the changing of the colours, while avoiding the news for a day. I’d say it was a mental health day, but there really is no mental health left.
Lightning’s Stamkos secures place in Cup lore with Game 3 goal vs. Stars – Sportsnet.ca
EDMONTON — Seven seconds.
That’s how much time the puck spent on Steven Stamkos’s stick blade on this night, and perhaps that’s all it will spend there throughout the entirety of this Tampa Bay Lightning playoff run.
That’s all the hard-luck captain needed to secure his place in Stanley Cup lore. Seven freaking seconds.
Somehow, after spending 60 days as a practice-only player inside the NHL bubble and going 210 days between games, Stamkos scored the biggest goal of a career overflowing with them.
He was in full stride down the right boards when Victor Hedman hit him in the neutral zone. He blew past Esa Lindell, who defended the play poorly and managed to settle a bouncing puck in time to tuck it up under the crossbar behind Anton Khudobin.
The Lightning bench exploded. Jon Cooper said the reaction was “just a little bit louder” than any of the others during a playoff run that has included five overtime goals. The coach saw it as a sign his team wouldn’t be denied, and they weren’t while grabbing a 2-1 series lead over the Dallas Stars with a 5-2 victory Wednesday.
“It was pretty damn cool,” said Cooper.
Stamkos called it a dream come true.
Forget the unfortunate timing of the injuries that have cost him big playoff games and a chance at playing for Team Canada at the Olympics in recent years. Just being trapped inside the bubble with no guarantee of playing would be agony for someone who has given as much to the Lightning as Stamkos.
And then to get in for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, and only be able to play five shifts and score on one of them after not playing for seven months?
Hollywood might not accept that script.
“At this time of the year, you want to do anything you can to help your team win,” said Stamkos. “I’ve watched these guys be so committed to what our end goal is, and to be part of it tonight, it was a dream come true and I’m so proud of these guys. And to be able to share that moment with them and just even be on the bench and watch how well we played tonight, I have told these guys before: It’s inspiring.
“It was great to be part of.”
Quickly, the backstory: Stamkos underwent core muscle surgery on March 2 and was supposed to be recovered in time for the second round of a normal playoffs. Then we had the COVID-19 pause, he had some kind of setback while preparing for the NHL’s return to play and the Lightning have gone on a run without him.
But he’s remained a large figure in the shadows.
You could see him dousing Brayden Point with water after he scored a quintuple overtime goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Round 1 and he was summoned to the ice to help the Lightning accept the Prince of Wales Trophy after they eliminated the New York Islanders.
Everything he had to endure in order to even play for two minutes 41 seconds of Wednesday’s game has happened behind the walls. And based on the fact he sat on the bench while not taking a shift for the final 46 minutes here suggests we might not see him in uniform again for the rest of this series.
So that goal? That was something.
“He’s worked extremely hard to get back to a spot where he could play,” said Brayden Point. “Just seeing him day in and day out — the positivity that he brings, and the leadership that he brings. It’s nice to see him work that hard to get back into the lineup. And then to score one? It’s pretty inspirational for everyone.”
Added Victor Hedman: “This is how much he means to us as a teammate and as a leader and as a friend. We were just super happy for him.”
Stamkos played six games against the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Final and didn’t manage to score. In this situation, the Lightning put him on the fourth line alongside Cedric Paquette (zero goals this playoffs) and Pat Maroon (one goal this playoffs) and he produced one in limited minutes before his injury forced him to become a spectator.
What happens next will determine what this means historically.
But what it meant to Stamkos and the Lightning won’t change no matter what. He’s only going to get so many chances like this one.
“It was amazing to be a part of a huge win for us,” he said. “I was just really happy to obviously contribute in a game that I didn’t play too much.”
This was a kid who used to go to shooting school twice per week and fire 500 pucks per session. That’s a skill that endured the injuries, the layoff, everything.
It made this moment possible.
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