The Toronto Blue Jays have the best offense in MLB by almost any measure, yet they’re stuck in fourth place in the American League East. It doesn’t take a brilliant baseball mind to deduce the problem is pitching, or a lack thereof.

Here, let’s just lay out the numbers: The Jays have scored 447 runs to date, making them the only team in either league to eclipse 400. They also lead the field in slugging percentage and are among the top five clubs in virtually every significant offensive category.

At the same time, Toronto pitchers rank 25th in ERA overall and second-to-last in the AL, ahead of only the cellar-dwelling Boston Red Sox.

So that’s the windup. Here’s the pitch: On Thursday, CBS Sports‘ Jon Heyman posited a trade that would send Chicago White Sox‘s right-hander Jeff Samardzija north of the border.

Heyman suggested the Jays could ship catching prospect Max Pentecost, whom Toronto took with the 11th overall pick in 2014, to Chicago. 

It’s just a rumor at this point, bordering on pure speculation, but it makes too much sense for the Blue Jays to ignore.

Samardzija, of course, was moved in a trade last season, when the Oakland A’s acquired him from the Chicago Cubs. He pitched well for Oakland and finished the season with a 2.99 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 219.2 innings.

The A’s, however, were dropped in the wild card playoff by the Kansas City Royals before Samardzija could pitch in a postseason game, and Oakland traded him to the White Sox in December.

This time around, his stock isn’t so high. Whereas last season he had a year remaining on his contract, now he’d be a pure rental.

More than that, though, Samardzija’s numbers are down. Way down.

Through 16 starts, he sports an unsightly 4.56 ERA, and he’s coughed up an MLB-leading 123 hits.

Yet, according to Heyman, “scouts still mostly love him, and he should be quite popular,” as the trade deadline creeps closer.

He’s not the only pitcher on the block. Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels’ name keeps popping up, and the last-place A’s may dangle an arm, most likely Scott Kazmir (Heyman has Kazmir going to the Cubs, in a reversal of last year’s Chicago-Oakland, buy-sell scenario).

Because of his pedestrian performance, however, Samardzija could be the best, cheapest option in terms of assets surrendered. 

And he might well benefit from a change of scenery.

True, the AL East features four of the top ten hitters’ yards, according to ESPN’s Park Factors statistic. But there’s something to be said for relocating to a winning clubhouse.

The White Sox, after their much-touted offseason overhaul, have vacillated between bad and dreadful. The Jays, meanwhile, despite their struggles on the hill, are fluttering two games over .500 and within striking distance in baseball’s most wide-open division.

“We still need to make upgrades in the rotation and the bullpen, that goes without saying,” Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos told Jeff Blair and Kevin Barker on Sportsnet 590 The FAN Monday. “I’d love to land both. What we come away with or don’t come away with I have no idea. Clearly we’re looking to be active.”

On Wednesday, Samardzija addressed the possibility of being dealt. 

“We’ve talked previously about what deserves a lunch,” Samardzija said, referring to conversations with his agent, per Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune.

“If there ever is a situation when we need to get together to discuss something he has heard, we’ll do that, but at this point that hasn’t happened. I’m just going to continue playing baseball and let him handle that.”

That’s not even close to a trade demand. But it certainly sounds like he’s open to the possibility.

As they search for much-needed pitching help, the Blue Jays should be, too.


All statistics current as of July 3 and courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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