The Blue Jays are making it an easy call to sell

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After holding a players only meeting earlier in the day, the Blue Jays were up on the Dodgers 8-3 after six innings Tuesday night, only to give up seven runs in the seventh and eighth innings to lose 10-9. It was their sixth straight defeat.

Even the All-Star setup crew is getting into the action now. Steve Delabar gave up four runs in Monday’s 14-5 loss, while Brett Cecil surrendered three runs in two-thirds of an inning tonight. Cecil’s ERA has jumped from 1.43 to 2.61 since July 7.

At 45-54, the Blue Jays aren’t only 14 1/2 games back of the Red Sox in the AL East, but they’re 11 games out of the second wild card. Even the fourth place Yankees have 7 1/2 games on them in the AL East.

So while the Blue Jays have been talked about as buyers — they were one of the teams reportedly in the hunt for Matt Garza — they’re really leaving GM Alex Anthopoulos and crew no choice but to sell.

Unfortunately, the pieces the Blue Jays would most want to move have little value at the moment:

  • Josh Johnson has lost his last four starts and has a 7.36 ERA over his last six starts.
  • Mark Buehrle’s heavily backloaded deal calls for him to make $37 million the next two years.
  • Melky Cabrera just returned from an injury and has a .679 OPS.
  • Emilio Bonifacio hasn’t contributed as a utilityman, hitting .211/.251/.307.

The Blue Jays can and should deal from the pen, perhaps starting with closer Casey Janssen. Janssen is under control for $4 million next year and there isn’t a contender around that couldn’t use a guy like him, either for the eighth or ninth. The Jays can also part with one of their four lefties, whether it’s Cecil, Juan Perez or Darren Oliver. Aaron Loup is the keeper of the bunch.

One player the Jays probably can’t afford to move — and this would have come as a surprise a few months ago — is center fielder Colby Rasmus. Supposed heir apparent Anthony Gose has been a disaster in Triple-A, hitting just .230/.316/.303 and getting thrown out on 12 of his 24 steal attempts. Rasmus, a free agent after the 2014 season, has been a very good regular in spite of his strikeout problems, batting .267/.333/.480.

I doubt the Jays will part with any of their stars. There’s still plenty of talent here to get right back into the race next year. But it’s time to turn the page on 2013 and hopefully collect a few prospects to replace the ones they used in their deals for Jose Reyes and R.A. Dickey over the winter.

Nationals acquire Kelvin Herrera from Royals

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Update (8:06 PM ET): The Royals will receive minor leaguers Blake Perkins, Kelvin Gutiérrez, and Yohanse Morel from the Nationals, per Heyman. The trade is official as the Nationals and Royals have announced the deal.

Perkins, 21, is the Nationals’ No. 11 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. The outfielder was selected by the Nationals in the second round of the 2015 draft. This season, with High-A Potomac, Perkins hit .234/.344/.290 in 305 plate appearances.

Gutiérrez, 23, is rated by MLB Pipeline as the Nats’ No. 10 prospect. The club signed him as an international free agent in April 2013. With Double-A Harrisburg this season, the third baseman hit .274/.321/.391 in 249 trips to the plate.

Morel, 17, is not in the Nats’ Top-30 as the club signed him last July as an international free agent. In one start in the Dominican Summer League, Morel allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits and a walk with five strikeouts across 3 1/3 innings.

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Nationals are close to acquiring reliever Kelvin Herrera from the Royals. Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post says three minor leaguers are going from the Nats to the Royals.

Herrera, 28, has been outstanding for the last-place Royals. He owns a 1.05 ERA with 14 saves and a 22/2 K/BB ratio in 25 2/3 innings. Herrera is a free agent after the season, so this is effectively a rental for the Nationals, who are three games behind the Braves for first place in the NL East.

Herrera will help bolster the Nats’ bullpen behind closer Sean Doolittle, who has 17 saves and a 1.52 ERA. It’s not known yet how the Nationals will handle the closer’s role with Herrera in the mix. One would imagine Herrera slides into the set-up role behind Doolittle.