6ix Takes - April 6th
1. Jays making noise off the field
The Toronto Blue Jays moved on from their long-time fan favourite centre fielder, Kevin Pillar, on Tuesday in a trade with the San Francisco Giants. The Jays got back three minor league guys in return, the most notable being RHP Juan De Paula. The trade happening this early into the season comes as a bit of a surprise to most, personally I expected something to happen closer to the deadline. He’s been on the trade block for some time now and it was no secret a deal was going to get done at some point during this season. Superman and his eye-popping catches will be missed greatly but it’s a move in the right direction for the Blue Jays. The second move the Jays made off the field this week was extending OF Randal Grichuk to a 5 year, $52 Million contract. This gives him the highest salary on the team next season (they only have 3 players on the books) at $13 million and a bigger role on the team. In his first year with the team last year, Grichuk played 124 games while hitting .245 (.301 OBP) with 25 HR, 61 RBI, 32 2B and 60 runs. $52 million over five years is not breaking the bank by any means and if need be, a very tradeable contract; you’re not overpaying Grichuk and you’ll get what you pay for. He’s relatively young so hopefully, he’ll be able to improve and change his game over these five years to turn into the second or third star after guys like Vlad Jr. or Bo Bichette.
2. Jeremy Lamb = Raptors Killer?
Jeremy Lamb hit his second game-winner of the season against the Toronto Raptors on Friday night. His three-pointer put the Charlotte Hornets up by two with three seconds left in the back and forth game. This shot was much more reasonable than the beyond half-court desperation heave he hit in Toronto just under 2 weeks ago. The Hornets are only one of seven teams to beat Toronto multiple times this season and both were at the hands of Lamb.
3. JT gets revenge
John Tavares and the Leafs faced off against the Islanders in Long Island for the second time this season. This time went over better than their first meeting away from Toronto as the Leafs took this one 2-1 as JT getting the game-winning goal in the 3rd period. It was nice to see #91 score in Long Island wearing a non-orange jersey and get back at the Islander faithful who booed him so badly in his first game back.
4. Gardiner is back
After missing over a month of action with an injured back, Jake Gardiner finally returned to the Leafs lineup on Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. As expected, he had moments where he looked a little rusty but showed flashes of his normal self in just over 16 mins of play. On Saturday night, he got his first point since rejoining the Leafs with a 1st-period goal in Montreal. Hopefully, Gardiner’s presence can get this team back on track for their first-round series against Boston and help the Leafs get past the first round for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
5. Shoemaker = Stud
Jays new pitcher, Matt Shoemaker has gotten off to a fantastic start this season. In his two starts, the 32-year-old has pitched 14 scoreless innings while giving up only two hits in each while striking out seven in his first start and eight in the second. He’s thrown about 68% of his pitches as strikes and has only walked three batters. Expectations weren’t low for Shoemaker coming into the season but no one expected this early season dominance. It’s way too early to talk about the end of season awards but if he keeps this play up, we’ll be seeing the name Shoemaker on a whole lot of Cy-Young ballots.
6. TFC Stays Undefeated
Saturday afternoon, TFC played at home against the Chicago Fire and drew the match 2-2. They have the best goal differential in their conference and sit in 2nd place behind the Columbus Crew with a record of 3-0-1 (10 points). TFC have outperformed their preseason expectations, leaving fans with an extremely positive outlook for the rest of the year. If they can stay on this roll, those summer games will be one of the more exciting places to be in Toronto. Hopefully, they can recreate that magical 2016 season with their new team and bring that coveted buzz back to BMO field.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Woj Pod
Pascal Siakam and Nick Nurse were both guests on Adrian Wojranowski’s podcast this week. Each of their appearances gave an insight into the Raptors new coach and their new (almost) star player. Nurse definitely has Raptors fans feeling confident after listening to him and Woj shoot the breeze while Siakam continues to grow into a loveable, media-savvy young player.