Peter Gammons: Blue Jays, Royals go all in for Today

troy tulowitzki josh donaldson blue jays

Dayton Moore spent years building the Royals organization, then spent October watching his team come from behind in the play-in wild card game against Oakland and motor all the way to the tying run on third in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game Seven of the World Series.

“There comes a point where Today is what counts,” Moore says. “We’re at that place. The Royals haven’t finished first in 30 years. The fan base is tremendous. It’s time to go for it.” And so Moore traded five pitchers—four lefthanded—to the Reds and the Athletics for Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist.

Which, in the final hours of July, probably makes Kansas City the team to beat to get to the World Series with Cueto leading the starters and the best power bullpen in the league.

It may be 30 years since the Royals finished first and won a World Series. It’s been 22 years since the Blue Jays were in the post-season, longer than any team in either league. So, since the end of last season, Alex Anthopoulos has acquired Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki, Devon Travis and now David Price, with enough payroll flexibility that when they took on the $7.1M owed to Price for the rest of the season, their payroll was lower than it was in 2014.

All in. Today.

Anthopoulos had been searching for a starter for a month. His preference was someone with two or three years before reaching free agency. He reached out to Cleveland on Carlos Carrasco, but the Indians weren’t interested in moving their big, young, cheap arms. He reached out to the Padres about Tyson Ross, but the Pads’ asking price is what one NL GM calls “over the top.”

By Wednesday, he had come to grips with the notion that if he wanted to pay dearly for a rental, they could ride deep into the playoffs. The Jays may be two games back in the wild card, but they have the best run differential in the American League. When Dave Dombrowski told the media that he was open to trading Price and Yoenis Cespedes, he called Anthopoulos to inform him. They talked at 11 p.m. and finished the deal at 3 a.m.

“We gave up a lot,” says Anthopoulos. “But Price is a great pitcher. You have to give talent to get great players.” They are all lefthanded power pitchers. Daniel Norris is a potential frontend starter. One AL evaluator says Matt Boyd “will be a beast in Comerica.” Jairo Labourt throws 96.

But Anthopoulos has been willing to move big arms. He gave up Noah Syndergaard to get R.A. Dickey. He gave up Justin Nicolino, Henderson Alvarez and Anthony DeSclafani in the Jose Reyes/Mark Buehrle trade. Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin went to Oakland in the Donaldson deal. Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco went in the Tulowitzki trade.

“We have traded for talent, but we wanted certain types of players, gamers,” says Anthopoulos. That was a big part of signing Martin. A big part of acquiring Donaldson and Travis. Now Tulowitzki, and they have the best defensive left side of the infield in the league.

When Anthopoulos reached Tulowitzki, he was sitting in the visiting manager’s office with Walter Weiss, who was, at the time, emotional. The conversation was brief.

The next day, Tulowitzki called Anthopoulos. “I wasn’t in a position to talk long, or express how excited I am to join you,” Tulo told his new GM. “It wasn’t the time or place to seem excited in front of my manager or teammates.”

“How great is that?” Anthopoulos says. “This guy is a great defensive player, a big bat. But he’s also a gamer, a baseball rat, like Donaldson and Travis and Martin. These are special people, pros. This is what we want.”

“The thing is, you never know what can happen,” says Anthopoulos. “Look at the Red Sox and Indians; we all thought they’d be really good. If you have a chance, you have to go for it.” Especially when they’re only two back of the Twins in the wild card. And have four games with the Royals and Twins coming up, 13 games remaining with the Yankees and September essentially spent in the AL East.

We saw what it was like being in Kansas City last October, and that they’re 10th in the majors in home attendance, ten spots above the Mets. We remember when the Jays were good in the early ‘90’s, drawing four million to SkyDome, and how their average of 28,694 can jump to Pat Gillick days if they steamroll through September.

Johnny Cueto and David Price may well be the best pitchers traded this season. Both are rentals, and will be $175-$225M free agents.

But in Kansas City and Toronto, it is the right time to jump. In the words of the Chambers Brothers, The Time has Come Today.