After the White Sox beat the Cardinals 7-1 on Wednesday, I did as I often do and went to ESPN.com's MLB standings page to check out where certain teams stand in the run differential department.
Sure enough, the White Sox are still the second worst in baseball, although significantly #BetterThanThePhillies.
What I was surprised by is the fact that the Cardinals, who even after two straight defeats against the White Sox are 25 games over .500, no longer have the best run differential in baseball. That title now belongs to the 42-38 Toronto Blue Jays.
The Jays have an incredibly impressive offense. They're the only team in baseball with three players who have hit 15 or more home runs (Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion). They lead the American League in runs scored, OPS, wRC+, wOBA, SLG and are second in total home runs and ISO.
Despite those lofty offensive numbers and impressive run differential, the Blue Jays are just four games above .500 and one game out of first place in a crowded American League East where four of the five teams currently sit within one game. The Baltimore Orioles, who are in first place as of writing, are six games over .500 and have the next best run differential in the division at plus-47. Toronto's pythagorean record is 49-31 while Baltimore's is 44-34.
The Blue Jays' offense alone makes them a contender, particularly in an American League without a runaway favorite. In order to separate themselves from the pack in the East and arguably make them the favorites to advance to the World Series, they need to improve their pitching staff, which currently ranks 12th in the American League in ERA, 14th in FIP, 10th in xFIP, 11th in BB/9 and 11th in K/9.
Even if you're a believer in Drew Hutchison improving as the season goes on, Marco Estrada being more like the dude throwing near-no-hitters or Mark Buehrle continuing to be unfathomably successful, the Blue Jays' rotation is essentially full of No. 3 starters (at least until Marcus Stroman comes back, and even he's no sure thing).
Toronto could obviously use some pitching help before the trade deadline, but while top targets such as Johnny Cueto or Cole Hamels would be most ideal, it's uncertain whether or not they'd be willing to give up any of their top prospects — LHP Daniel Norris, OF Dalton Pompey, RHP Jeff Hoffman — to acquire a pitcher of that magnitude.
What they SHOULD do (in the eyes of this White Sox blogger) is focus on a guy who would allow them to hang on to those three, and that guy should be Jeff Samardzija.
Samardzija's numbers on the surface still look a bit mediocre, but even if you take his ERA and ERA+ at face value he would still be an upgrade if Toronto is hypothetically staring down a David Price or Chris Archer in a must-win playoff game. And while the White Sox would presumably start any Samardzija-to-Toronto conversations with the aforementioned three prospects, Toronto could likely get him from Chicago for a next-tier prospect such as catcher Max Pentecost, as Jon Heyman mentioned in this article.
Pentecost, who was Toronto's first-round pick in '14 and MLB.com rates as the No. 5 catching prospect in baseball, would give the White Sox a projectable signal caller who is still a few years away from the majors, but also carries some risk if his bat fails to develop. (OK, let's be honest, it will probably fail to develop in the White Sox system, but we're being OPTIMISTIC). Outside of Pentecost, Toronto has a few other intriguing prospects such as Sean Reid-Foley, Richard Urena, Mitch Nay, Dwight Smith and Jairo Labourt could match up in a potential deal.
But regardless, the match seems there. Toronto gets a front-line starter for a run to their first postseason appearance since '93 without sacrificing any of their Top 100 prospects, and the White Sox begin tearing apart this season's not-contender and build their farm system.