Officials around baseball will soon cast their ballots for MLB executive of the year, and in the eyes of some rival evaluators, the Toronto front office deserves some serious consideration. President Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins came into this season under pressure, after the surprising exit of Alex Anthopoulos created some fan backlash, and the Blue Jays had little room for maneuverability, given the budget and thin talent at the top of their farm system.
The Jays, faced with gaping holes in their rotation, aggressively targeted J.A. Happ (who signed a three-year, $36 million deal) and Marco Estrada (two years, $26 million), signings which have proven to be adept and extremely profitable. Happ has a 3.20 ERA, Estrada 3.53, and the duo has combined for 359 2/3 innings, for the combined salaries of $21 million this year. In the minutes before the trade deadline, the Jays also bet on a rebound for Francisco Liriano and made an imaginative deal for the left-hander, who has a 2.92 ERA in 10 appearances.
The Jays' executives also tinkered with the bullpen, adding Joaquin Benoit (who has allowed just one run in 25 outings in Toronto) in a swap for the struggling Drew Storen, as well as Jason Grilli (45 games, 3.48 ERA).
Toronto found ways to get better without compromising a farm system that is being reconstructed, and without getting locked into big, long-term deals -- and the Jays appear to be headed back to the playoffs again.
• On Wednesday's podcast: Indians president Chris Antonetti on starting pitcher Corey Kluber, the Indians' adversity and Derek Falvey, who soon will be named head of the Twins' baseball operations; Tim Kurkjian on one of the silliest injuries we've seen in a pennant race; Anthony Rizzo on his two-strike approach; and a great interview with Vin Scully.
And here's Wednesday's scoreboard podcast.
On Tuesday's podcast: Cubs catcher David Ross talks about Jon Lester and Rizzo; Jayson Stark and Pedro Gomez on Jose Fernandez and the Marlins' emotional game Monday; and Todd Radom's uniform and logo quiz.
• Wilson Ramos's ACL injury could cost him tens of millions in guaranteed offers if he were to hit the free-agent market this winter due to the uncertainty about his health and how much he'll be able to contribute in 2017. But he could end up well-paid on a one-year deal if the Nationals choose to extend a $17 million qualifying offer and he accepts.
For the Nats, that could be a worthwhile investment if they think of it this way: For the cost of a qualifying offer, they'll be buying 50 to 60 games of production and/or the draft pick they would recoup in 2017 or 2018 if he signs elsewhere. (The X factor in this is whether the draft-compensation rules change in the next collective bargaining agreement.)
• The Diamondbacks will soon announce their decision as to whether they'll retain execs Tony La Russa and Dave Stewart for next season, but this could be a pretty good clue: One of the most integral members of the leadership has missed pre-arranged meetings with the folks from baseball operations.
• Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman extended his hitting streak to 30 games, the longest streak in the majors this season. From Elias: Freeman is the ninth player in MLB history to have a 30-game hitting streak in a season in which he hit at least 30 homers. The other eight players who have done that are Rogers Hornsby (1922), Joe DiMaggio (1941), Nomar Garciaparra (1997), Vladimir Guerrero (1999), Albert Pujols (2003), Chase Utley (2006), Ryan Zimmerman (2009) and Dan Uggla (2011).
In mid-June, Freeman devoted himself to swinging at better pitches. Over his last 93 games, Freeman is batting .351, with an on-base percentage of .449, 24 homers, 70 RBIs and 74 runs.
Freeman and the Braves continue to roll, as David O'Brien writes.