HOUSTON, YOU HAVE A PROBLEM
Jays wash their hands of troubled Osuna in deal with Astros
On one hand, the Blue Jays feel that dealing Roberto
Osuna was a trade “that made baseball sense.”
On the other, sending the talented but troubled closer to the World Series champion Houston Astros on Monday had an element of allowing him to become somebody else’s problem.
With his 75-game suspension stemming from assault charges he is facing in Toronto due to end this weekend, Osuna will get that opportunity to revive his career with the Astros.
Returning to the Jays in the deal is the Astros former closer Ken Giles, who has struggled and was demoted to triple-A this season, as well as pitching prospects Hector
Perez and David Paulinho.
As with any trade there is risk involved but at least the Jays got a package with the potential for upside for a player that would have been a hard sell to its fan base given the legal proceedings. Jays general manager Ross
Atkins acknowledged that bringing back Osuna to Toronto carried the risk of negative fan reaction, a factor that appears to have weighed into the team’s move.
“We do feel a responsibility to the fans and we do feel empathy for the fans and we ultimately work for the fans, that’s how we view our jobs,” said Atkins, who has been shopping Osuna for several weeks and had multiple suitors. “We are human. It is very difficult for accusations not to influence us in some way.
“Having said that, this made sense for the organization from a baseball perspective.”
Osuna, a 23-year-old native of Sinaloa, Mexico, is scheduled to appear in Toronto court on Wednesday for the latest in the proceedings from the May 9 assault charges. Major League baseball reacted swiftly to those charges, levying the hefty suspension under the league’s domestic violence policy.
“My client is a superstar pitcher and he will succeed wherever he plays,” his criminal defence lawyer Domenic Basile told the Toronto Sun’s
Sam Pazzano. “He is presumed innocent and I intend to resolve this case to his benefit as soon as possible. But the Canadian justice system doesn’t move as quickly as a pro sporting event.
“Roberto loved this city and its fans and wanted to return to the team.”
The Astros, meanwhile, are well aware of the potential for negative public reaction to the acquisition, which loads up the team’s bullpen for a possible run at a World Series repeat.
General manager JeffLuhnow said he asked for and was granted permission from the Jays to speak with Osuna before the deal was made.
“I wanted to understand Roberto as a person more,” Luhnow said on a conference call. “I won’t disclose the details, but suffice to say I came out of that conversation with all the things I was looking to hear from him.
“Quite frankly, I believe you can have a zero-tolerance policy and give people second chances when they have made a mistake in other organizations.”
Luhnow said he has tracked Osuna since he was a 16-year-old and multiple times approached former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos to inquire about his availability.
“He’s a weapon that can make us better,” Luhnow said. “On the baseball side, this is an elite pitcher. There is still an active (court) case and I cannot comment except that we did a lot of background work as third parties.”
The Jays, meanwhile, hope Giles regains the form that helped the team win the division on the way to its long playoff run last season.
“We see his stuff as being electric and one of the better weapons in the game,” Atkins said.
Perez, meanwhile, is a 23-year-old starting pitcher who Atkins said will “add near-term starting depth” to the Jays while Paulinho is a 24-year-old who was once considered one of the Astros top prospects.
“Like any other decision you have to consider the risks and the direction we could have taken,” Atkins said. “We had an opportunity to trade Roberto for three players we are excited about.”
Washing their hands of Osuna, it would seem, the bonus to the transaction.
Osuna didn’t have many stronger supporters with the Jays than manager John Gibbons, who hopes his former bullpen ace responds to the change of scenery and the opportunity to revive his career.
“I love the kid, I’ve been his only manager,” Gibbons said before Monday’s opener of a three-game series vs. the Athletics. “But he’s got some issues to deal with.
“I wish him well, but more importantly more than baseball I hope he gets his life together and deals with the chaos and BS and goes on to have a great career like I think he will.”
In the short term, Gibbons will have an actual closer to deal with, possibly as soon as Tuesday. After a blowup with Astros manager A.J. Hinch that got him demoted, Giles has been with triple A-Fresno for the past couple of weeks.
“I’ve had my own issues with players in the past so it’s not like it’s going to be (a problem),” Gibbon said. “I don’t know what happened (with Giles in Houston) but we’ve had a lot of guys who have really come into their own once they’ve come to this team.
“Hopefully that happens here. It’ll be a new start for him too, which I’m sure he needs.”
AROUND THE BASES
There’s still some uncertainty surrounding Lourdes
Gurriel Jr. who exited Sunday’s game in Chicago with an ankle injury. According to the team, the rookie hitting sensation had an MRI on Monday and the training staff is reviewing plans for his recovery … Surprise guest in the Jays clubhouse Monday — short stop Troy
Tulowitzki, who continues to rehab from heel surgery … To make room for Giles on the 40-man roster, righthander Oliver Drake was designated for assignment … Also, third baseman Josh
Donaldson was transferred to the 60-day DL … The longawaited return of starter
Aaron Sanchez is scheduled to take another move forward on Tuesday. Sanchez will pitch a bullpen session in Florida.
Roberto Osuna was dealt to the Astros for pitchers Ken Giles, Hector Perez and David Paulinho.