David Price trade gives Blue Jays hope of ending ugly playoff drought

David Price, newly acquired from the Tigers, will make somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen regular-season starts for the Blue Jays in 2015. That’s assuming, of course, that Toronto won’t ask him to attempt to duplicate CC Sabathia’s incredible (and mostly insane) three-days-off effort for the Brewers down the stretch in 2008.  MORE: Most memorable deadline deals | Seven landing spots for CarGoAnd chances are, Price will only make a dozen regular-season starts for the Blue Jays in his entire career. He’s a rental, pure and simple. There’s little hope in Toronto that he’ll opt to sign a long-term deal with the team, not with all the deep-pocket owners who will be hot on his trail when he becomes a free agent after the season (hi Cubs, Dodgers, Yankees).  So the Blue Jays and their fans go into the stretch run with their eyes wide open. It’s relatively hard to blame the Toronto front office for going all-in at this point. The future cost in prospects of acquiring Price and Troy Tulowitzki in a deal earlier this week was incredibly steep, and will almost certainly be a cringe-inducing topic of conversation in town for the next decade.Remember this, though: The Blue Jays are only franchise in baseball that hasn’t made the postseason since that ugly strike left the sport’s fans without a World Series in 1994. They’re also the only franchise that hasn’t made the postseason since the turn of the century. Those aren’t tidbits they send out on season-ticket renewal forms, folks. When Roberto Alomar, Paul Molitor and Rickey Henderson — who have since retired and been elected to the Hall of Fame — are the most recent October faces of your franchise, that’s not a good thing. The question is this: Will Price’s dozen starts — along with the addition of Tulowitzki, of course — be enough to end Toronto’s ugly October absence? Let’s look at where they stand at the moment. They’re 51-51 entering play Thursday, which puts them in third place in the AL East, seven games behind the Yankees, one game behind the Orioles and a half-game ahead of the Rays. More importantly, they’re two games out of the second wild-card spot, which is currently owned by the skidding Twins, who have lost eight of their past 10 games. You know about Toronto’s best-in-baseball offense, so we won’t discuss that right now. You also know that Toronto’s pitching has been suspect this season.But they’re been improving, and the group was in better shape now than it has at any point this season, even before Thursday’s addition of Price. Look at their month-by-month staff ERAs: April, 4.78; May, 4.43; June 3.17; July, 3.79. In 11 games since the All-Star break, the Blue Jays have a team ERA of 2.73, with a 1.091 WHIP. The rotation, with Price at the top, is actually pretty decent now. Veteran Mark Buehrle has a 3.29 ERA in 20 starts this season (and a 1.78 ERA in his past 10 starts). Veteran R.A. Dickey’s allowed more than three runs just once since the start of June. Marco Estrada’s most recent start was a disaster, but he has a 3.32 ERA since the start of June. On the other hand, Drew Hutchinson continues his season of bizarro starts: he’s allowed one or fewer runs six times and five or more six times. The bullpen has had a rough go of it, definitely. But youngster Roberto Osuna has looked good since moving into the ninth-inning role, and the Jays have shifted Aaron Sanchez to the bullpen to help out now that he’s back from the disabled list; he has thrown two scoreless eighth innings so far, and he had a 1.09 ERA in that role in 24 games in 2014. So things were already looking up. Sure, it’s not best-in-baseball stuff, but it’s certainly enough to give the team a chance to win regularly with that offense. It’s also probably not a rotation that’s good enough to run through October and win a World Series title. But remember where the Jays are coming from. The first goal is reaching October, not necessarily conquering October (though they’d never actually admit that). Back to the playoff race. The

Jays aren’t in an ideal position — they’re one of five teams separated by two-and-a-half games in the race for that final spot — but it’s not awful. The Royals were just one game over .500 entering play on July 30 last year, and you know how their magical season turned out. And if the Blue Jays do manage to get that wild-card spot, logic says they’re in much better position to actually win that game now that they have Price on their side. In 2013, you’ll remember, the Rays gave Price the ball in a win-or-go home Game 163 tiebreaker against the Rangers, in Texas. He threw a complete-game gem, allowing seven hits and two runs as the Rays picked up the 5-2 victory and grabbed that final wild-card spot. He’s built his big-game reputation on that effort, and his first taste of the postseason, when he was a rookie reliever with the Rays. In five appearances during Tampa Bay’s 2008 run to the World Series, he had a 1.59 ERA and struck out eight in 5 2/3 innings. Since then, though, he’s made five official playoff starts and his teams have lost all five of those games, with Price racking up an unsightly 4.98 ERA. Again, though, performance in October isn’t the highest priority. The goal is to get to October, and the additions of Price and Tulowitzki certainly make that more realistic.


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