TORONTO — Exactly a year ago, José Berríos was staying at a hotel in St. Louis with the Minnesota Twins when he learned he was quitting the only team he played for and being traded to the Blue Jays. . The right-hander knew the moment was coming. For weeks, his name has been circulating in trade rumors, leading to sleepless nights due to growing uncertainty. When it finally happened, it was emotional to leave the Twins. But also, a relief that the process had come to an end and he knew where he was going.
“It’s tough because you’re here with the team trying to do their best, trying to compete, but at the same time you know your name is there for the other 29 teams,” Berríos said. , returning to the experience a year later in the Blue Jays dugout. “This process is a bit difficult. It may be because it was (the) first time that I (was) in this situation.
A day after the July 30 trade, Berríos flew to Toronto and was warmly welcomed by his new teammates. His wife and three children eventually joined him in Toronto, and they fell so in love with the city that he decided to sign a seven-year, $131 million residency extension. His young sons, who are clubhouse regulars, were confused at first, but now they understand that dad used to play for the Twins and now he plays for the Blue Jays.
“Wherever I go, I know I had to go and do my thing and compete,” Berríos said. “And I did, I came here. These guys welcomed me and made the decision to extend my career for several years.
Berríos’ trade – which took place on the same day as the Blue Jays’ long-awaited return to Toronto – served as a spark for the team. It was a sign of confidence in their front office talent, which made a big investment in improving the team over time. Ultimately, the team did not make the playoffs. But as the Blue Jays find themselves in a better position this year as the top wild card team in the AL, the club is again seeking that similar vote of confidence from the brain trust before Tuesday’s deadline.
“There are a lot of parts that can make the team better,” starter Ross Stripling said. “So we’re all looking forward to seeing who’s going to come in on August 3 because this front office has pretty much proven that they’re going to get somebody – between deadlines and free agent markets they keep moving, which gives gives us confidence and makes us feel good that they believe in us and continue to make us better.
Ross Stripling, Nasty 81mph Changeup. 👌 pic.twitter.com/VoaKxSnCtu
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 30, 2022
With less than 72 hours until Tuesday’s deadline at 6 p.m. ET, Blue Jays executives have been working diligently on options to improve the club. On the pitch, however, it was more of a party vibe on Saturday, when the Blue Jays clubhouse featured a mid-room DJ spinning the latest hits ahead of a 5-3 win over the Detroit Tigers. . Teoscar Hernández’s three-run homer in the sixth inning was the difference in an inning that went badly for the Tigers. The Toronto bullpen pitched 4 2/3 one-run innings after Stripling left.
The DJ – his name was Ray – had been arranged by manager John Schneider. The day started well. The win kept those good vibes flowing through Sunday.
“It was cool, it brought energy for sure,” Stripling said. “It was upbeat, everything he played was upbeat. So that was fun. It’s definitely the first time I’ve seen that, so it’ll be interesting to see if we bring him back or not. We won , so it’s 1-0.
While it’s not quite a guy shooting a Justin Bieber remix, injecting new players into a clubhouse is also a way to energize a room. And at this time of year, many players like to think about who it could be for their club as they keep tabs on the trade deadline rumour.
“Everyone is aware of it. I think people talk about it because it happens once a year. It’s like draft day, trade deadline day, opening day, day one of a playoff series, it’s kind of something, so guys talk about it,” said said Schneider. “It’s exciting and I think it’s cool that we have the opportunity to improve in different ways.”
Some players like to play armchair GM, trying to fake their own deals to see if they would steal. Blue Jays closest Jordan Romano said he doesn’t stay on top of baseball news all year – he’s busy pitching – but is very observant at this time of the year. year.
“I love it. I love seeing what other teams are doing,” he said. “There’s a bunch of big name guys there, I’m excited to see where they’re going. So I love every aspect of it.
“We’re all phased, I finished my exit, I walked in and they were like, ‘Hey, the Rays have (David) Peralta,’ one of the coaches said,” said Stripling, who abandoned. two runs on five hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Tigers. “It’s all every one of us watches and pays attention to, so it’ll be fun 72 hours later here. I’ve always been on teams that usually buy, the Dodgers would always buy. We had (Yu) Darvish one year, we had (Manny) Machado one year, then last year we had José Berríos here.
Speaking in the dugout a day before he left, Stripling said the way the club has been scoring runs lately, the feeling in the room is that pitching – particularly the bullpen – could be an area where they could add.
“You can always use more swing and miss, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “We have about five guys with under-3s (ERA) in our bullpen, so we have a really good bullpen. It’s like, let’s just make it better, right? If we can improve – if there’s something that makes us better, why not go get it?”
Stripling looked across the field to the visitors’ dugout, where the Tigers were, and imagined that a few of their relievers could potentially be part of the diamond cross trade.
“You could do the whole ‘Moneyball’ scene where you’re like, ‘I don’t want him going at me tonight, send him,'” he said, winking at the Billy Beane’s portrayal of Brad Pitt in the 2011 film.
With starting prices looking high, considering what Seattle paid for Luis Castillo, who was the best starter on the market, the bullpen continues to look like an area where the Blue Jays could end up focusing their efforts to provide impactful roster reinforcements. Even though July was a good run for the Toronto relievers — coming into play Saturday, they had a 2.66 ERA that month — having more leverage options would mean Schneider wouldn’t have to get five outs. of Yimi García as he did on Saturday because there was no one else available to help close the gap to Romano, who earned his AL-leading 23rd save of the season.
“I don’t know if you can really point to a specific weakness, but if there’s a reliever going 1 1/2 innings out, that’s a huge plus come playoff time in October,” Stripling said. . “So I think that’s what most of us would say. It’s like a guy who makes us better and helps us win baseball games is all we want.
(Photo by José Berríos: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)