Posted on July 5, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Toronto Blue Jays are one of many teams that are heading toward the all-star break unsure of their summer trade plans. Toronto is stuck somewhere between being buyers and being sellers. For most teams, that would been doing nothing at the trade deadline. However, recent reports indicate the Blue Jays may be one of the busier teams during the second part of July and may end up being both buyers and sellers.
The Blue Jays currently sit in last place in the AL East. After a recent skid, they are 10.5 games out of first place. At the same time, Toronto is a mere five games out of the second wild card spot, giving them a glimmer of hope. However, they’d have to jump over seven other teams to get there. After consecutive trips to the ALCS, the Blue Jays have a fan base that has grown accustomed to winning and may not have the patience for a long rebuilding project. The conflict puts the Blue Jays in a difficult spot.
“We really enter any junction in time, and certainly trade deadline is one of those opportunities, where our sole focus is to get better,” explains Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro. “Get better could be in the short-term, for the rest of this year, although it’s highly unlikely it would be rental-type guys, or it could be get better this year and in subsequent years, as well. Trade deadline presents one window of opportunity for us to improve the team, and we are going to want to get better this year, too, that’s for sure.”
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Shapiro’s comments indicate the Blue Jays aren’t exactly going for it this year. Of course, the team just acquired catcher Miguel Montero, which is a move for the short-term. On the other side of the coin, the Blue Jays don’t have many players who would be attractive as short-term rentals to contenders.
Players like Jose Bautista, Francisco Liriano, and Marco Estrada don’t have guaranteed contracts beyond this season and would be obvious trade candidates. However, none are having a particularly good season. Even if the Blue Jays can find a trade partner for one of these players, they are unlikely to receive much in return.
Toronto’s best trade chips are players like Josh Donaldson, Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, and Justin Smoak. However, all of those players are under contract for next season. If the Blue Jays are hoping for a quick turn around with an eye toward competing in 2018, all of those players will be necessary. Trading those players would likely indicate a full-scale rebuild, something the club would prefer to avoid.
“I can’t tell you the exact blueprint or plan right now, but I think there’s still quite a bit of talent here, both veterans and guys in the prime of their careers,” says Shapiro. “We clearly need to continue to compete, we clearly need to continue to get more talent around those existing players but yes, we have enough of a base of talent here to still contend.”
Selling off assets at the trade deadline with the intention of reloading for the next year instead of rebuilding over the long term is possible. For instance, the Yankees did that last summer and are now playoff contenders. However, the Blue Jays don’t have many prospects who are ready to step in the big leagues if key players are traded . That could make it more difficult for the Blue Jays to avoid a full-scale rebuilding effort.
“I do think we can build that team without that cycle occurring here, but how we’re situated at the moment might cause for one transitional period between now and getting there,” admits Shapiro.
Toronto GM Ross Atkins has not divulged anything about the team’s trade deadline plans. However, the Blue Jays are clearly disatisfied with how the season has gone and looking to shake things up. That could lead to a busy trade season for Atkins and the Blue Jays. Toronto may not be obvious sellers or obvious buyers. But there’s a good chance the Blue Jays are quite active on the trade market in the weeks to come.