Steve Phillips: It’s time the Toronto Blue Jays look at outside options for struggling offence

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With the schedule about to switch to June, it’s a good time to assess the Blue Jays.

It seems clear that the starting pitcher is playoff caliber. Kevin Gausman is an ace and a worthy replacement for the AL Cy Young award winner Robbie Ray. Alek Manoah quickly became an excellent starter. Jose Berrios was a little high and low, but showed flashes of shine at times. Hyun Jin Ryu has had a few good outings since returning from the injured list. Newcomer Yusei Kikuchi also had a few bobbles, but he also showed why the Jays were so willing to give him a three-year contract.

The bullpen is above average. Jordan Romano is becoming one of the best closers in the American League. Romano was a little overworked in the first two months due to the number of close games the Jays played. Jays manager Charlie Montoyo has to get the wins when he can get them, but I’m sure he’d like to get some wins instead of sweating them in the end.

The Jays’ poor offensive production so far this season has been well documented. Toronto is the worst batting team in all of baseball with runners in running position (.181) and has a minus-4 run differential going into play Friday. The lack of production was contagious and the negative energy spread throughout the clubhouse. The Jays hitters seem to be competing against themselves rather than the opposition.

Montoyo tried all the standard moves: changing the lineup, giving the guys the day off, scheduling extra batting practices, canceling batting practices, etc. Now is the time for Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro to get involved. They shouldn’t talk about hitting or trying to fix current staff. It’s time to look at the exterior options.

Even when our offense was hitting well during my tenure as Mets GM, I was always looking for ways to inject new energy to keep it going. When the attack was in trouble, I looked to acquire players who could not only strike, but also bring new energy to the clubhouse and the dugout. Bringing in a new player causes players to focus on someone else and not themselves.

I mentioned the veteran Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta as a potential target for Toronto on SportsCentre this week. He is a free agent at the end of the season and is very affordable with an $8 million salary. He is also left-handed and already has eight home runs.

I also mentioned Trey Mancini with the Baltimore Orioles. He’s a right-handed hitter, but he’s a great person and would fit in well as a backup for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. while also serving as a designated hitter. He’s making $7.5 million this year with a $10 million mutual option for next year. Peralta and Mancini would also provide leadership.

Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto is another option to consider. The Reds and Votto have just moved out of town, and it’s clear how much Votto loves Toronto and his boyhood team, the Blue Jays. He’s had a terrible season so far, but his home run at Rogers Center on Sunday makes me believe a change of scenery in Toronto could reinvigorate him. He doesn’t have trade rights, but based on his excitement over the weekend, I think he would accept a trade.

The problem with a Votto trade is his contract. He owes over $40 million between the rest of this season and the next. But this can be negotiated between the clubs. I would only do the deal if it was financially suitable, but the Reds are in full rebuild mode and I think a deal could be done.

A few other names the Jays should consider are the Royals left-handed outfielder André Benintendi and first baseman/designated hitter Josh Bell of the Washington Nationals.

Ohtani continues to amaze

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Jays fans got to see the two-way LA Angels star Shohei Ohtani Thursday night as he started against Toronto. The Jays scored the 2021 American League MVP for five runs in six innings. It’s only the second time this year that Ohtani has given up more than two runs in a start.

He is having another phenomenal season. Ohtani’s offensive numbers aren’t quite where they were last year, but his pitching numbers are better despite leaving Thursday. He is still the favorite to win the AL MVP and is also in contention for the Cy Young Award.

The more analysis I do on Ohtani, the more amazed I am. He has a 470-foot homer this season and the second-highest exit speed on a live ball at 119.1 mph. He still throws his fastball over 100 mph at times. He has maximum effort on every pitch he throws and on every swing he takes. It reinforces what a finely tuned athlete he is. The amount of wear that a lot of torque puts on the body is profound. He didn’t seem physically affected last year and, although he said he felt some stiffness in his back on Thursday night, it seems to be the same this year.

Babe Ruth said being a two-way player had too many consequences when he decided to give up the pitch. It’s more than physical – there’s also an emotional and mental impact it must have. Normal beginners have four or five days to recover from the pain they feel after each start. Ohtani never understands this because of her two-way status. His body and mind are still active.

We’ve never seen someone quite like him, and I’m not sure we’ll ever see him again.

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