Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey appeared to be getting back on track having logged quality starts in three out of his last four appearances entering this afternoon’s match against the offensively-impotent Mariners. Over six innings today, though, the right-hander allowed three home runs, including a first inning lead-off home run to Michael Saunders (his first of two) and a grand slam to Dustin Ackley in the fourth. When Dickey left after six innings, his ERA was a disappointing 5.36.
The Jays acquired the 2012 NL Cy Young award winner from the Mets with Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas for John Buck, Travis D’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, Wuilmer Becerra in one of two big trades the Canadian team made during the off-season. Dickey is just one small part of the 10-21 Jays’ problems, however. Josh Johnson — now on the disabled list — has a 6.86 ERA, Mark Buehrle 6.43, and Brandon Morrow 5.29. Despite having the third-most home runs in the league, the Jays have the lowest batting average (.226), second-lowest on-base percentage (.291), and third-lowest slugging percentage (.389). Their list of injured players is rivaled only by the Dodgers.
As for Dickey, his strikeout rate is down more than six percent and his walk rate is up by more than three percent compared to last year. He is inducing fewer ground balls consequently raising his fly ball rate. Known for having a faster-than-usual knuckleball, its velocity is down 2 MPH from last year. His first-pitch strike rate is at its lowest (52.6%) since 2008 with the Mariners.
Even if the 38-year-old Dickey were to right his sinking ship, the Jays are still in some trouble. But fixing their ace is a good place to start. Fortunately, the Jays are still less than one-fifth of the way through the season, so there is time to turn it around.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.
The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.
Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.
With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.
Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.
Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.
The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.