Don’t be too quick to crown Jays

Published 7:01 am Sunday, August 16, 2015

It’s easy to look at the Toronto Blue Jays’ surge up the standings and the Minnesota Twins’ plummet down it and come to the conclusion the Jays dominated last month’s trade deadline and are destined for big things in the playoffs.

But things are rarely that simple, and it’s far too soon to laud the Jays as the winners of these deals.

At face value, the Jays rocked the trade deadline by acquiring lefty ace David Price, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Ben Revere. And at face value, teams that stood mostly pat amidst a playoff hunt, especially the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees, were seen as tanking at the deadline since they didn’t want to sacrifice the young talent it would take to land a marquee player.

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For the Twins, it’s not much of a surprise. The Twins aren’t known for big deals at the deadline. That Yankees, on the other hand, used to be Public Enemy No. 1 for making big trades at the end of July. However, they opted to keep a core of young prospects, especially prized starter Luis Severino.

Thus far, the Jays moves have looked genius. They swept four games from the Twins and three from the Yankees to rocket up the standings, with Price throwing a dominant game in each series. In his first two games as a Jay, Price was 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 15 innings. That’s exactly what you want from an ace pitcher in the post-season.

The Jays surpassed the Twins in the wild card standings and were a half game behind the Yankees in the American League East as of Tuesday, and they’re now the favorites to eclipse the Yankees and win the division.

Despite the immediate success, most people are ignoring two big problems: 1. It’s only August, and 2. The Jays gave up a lot in these moves, especially for Price, who could be just a three-month rental.

The Blue Jays traded three talented pitching prospects to the Detroit Tigers to get Price, who will become a free agent after the season. They parted with prized starter Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt. Norris alone was probably too much to give up for about 12 regular season starts by Price, who would be a dominant force to face in the playoffs. Many believe the Norris, 22, could be a future ace, and he’s under team control for several years and cheap: His 2015 salary is $508,700 compared to Price’s $19.7 million.

The Jays essentially gave up at least two pitchers in Norris and Boyd who could potentially anchor the Tigers staff for several years at an affordable price. The Jays sacrificed tomorrow for today. But if the Jays win the World Series, no one will care. If they don’t, the moves could prove costly.

Regardless of how well Price does for the Jays down the stretch, he’s a free agent after the season. Just look at the 2014 Oakland Athletics. They traded for pitchers Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija, and Jason Hammel. It was seen at the time as a big move but the A’s struggled down the stretch and lost the wild card playoff game to the Kansas City Royals. After the season, the A’s lost Samardzija and Lester to free agency. Granted, the Jays are a much more balanced team than last year’s A’s, but that doesn’t negate the high price for a rental. This year, the A’s are last in the AL West.

People are quick to look at today and today only. For example, and ESPN article, written by Mike Mazzeo, raved about Price said the yankees may be sorry: “The Yankees decided to pass on Price, unwilling to part with the likes of Luis Severino and Aaron Judge. They might end up paying for it down the road.”

The two teams schooled by Price in his first two Jays starts — the Twins and Yankees — should continue to look long term, just like the Tigers with their three new promising young pitchers.

For the Yankees, Severino has shown flashes of promise in his two big league starts. The Twins have an exciting young core of players coming up, and prized outfielder Byron Buxton is returning from an injury. The Yankees and Twins have have a core of young prospects to look forward to, and most of the clubs primed for years of contention — the Cardinals, the Pirates, the Cubs, the Giants, etc. — are all built around homegrown talent — the kind of talent the Jays gave up to win now.

There’s no denying the Jays could be primed for big things now, but they could pay for it big time down the road, especially if Price leaves for greener — in terms of money — pastures.

The Yankees and Twins, on the other hand, will hope to benefit tomorrow from standing pat today.