Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro discussed the Blue Jays’ plans for the upcoming trade deadline in a chat with Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. You’ll want to read the entire piece for all of Shapiro’s comments and Davidi’s analysis, but the key takeaway is that Toronto still isn’t looking to pursue a drastic roster overhaul.
Less than two weeks ago, GM Ross Atkins declared that the team was still “very much in it.” At the time, he noted, “we can’t climb back into one of those holes, because there’s not as much time left.” But that’s just what has happened since; even after a victory today, the Jays sit seven games under .500 — well off the pace in the AL East and on the fringes of the Wild Card picture.
While Shapiro acknowledges that the team’s moribund first half must weigh into the equation, he hinted that the team won’t undertake a significant sell-off. The veteran baseball executive emphasized “the incredible support in the fanbase” and the existence of “enough of a base of talent here to still contend.”
Those factors, Shapiro suggests and Davidi highlights, leave the team still looking to get better now as well as in the future. Shapiro framed the coming deadline as just “one window of opportunity for us to improve the team.” Still, as one might expect, Shapiro says “it’s highly unlikely” the club will pursue “rental-type guys.” And he stressed that there’s a “need to be open minded to how we get better.”
That could suggest a pursuit of deals that aren’t readily classified either as “buying” or “selling,” in the traditional sense, Davidi writes. Shapiro did acknowledge that, “how we’re situated at the moment might cause for one transitional period” in compiling a sustainable contender. But, he said, “I still believe we can get through that transition in an expedited time frame.”
It’ll be interesting to see what particular opportunities the Jays end up pursuing in earnest. The organization is in a tricky spot given its slate of significant commitments, numerous areas for potential improvement, and stated intention to continue attempting to field a competitive roster while also building a broader talent base.
Toronto entered the year with a club-record payroll of over $160MM and will owe something on the order of $85MM next year to just five players (with the exact figure depending upon Josh Donaldson’s surely massive arbitration salary). Yet just two hitters (Donaldson and Justin Smoak) are carrying above-average OPS figures on the year, while the rotation has scuffled with Aaron Sanchez shelved for an extended stretch.
As ever, veterans on short-term contracts represent the most obvious trade chips. But starters Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano have struggled, bounceback reliever Joe Smith is on the DL, and veteran slugger Jose Bautista has not rebounded as hoped. (To the contrary, Bautista’s legendary plate discipline is now heading in the wrong direction even as his power continues to dip.)
While some of those players will hold some appeal at the deadline, none seem likely to return truly significant young talent. And as Davidi writes, the organization doesn’t exactly have “replacements ready and waiting in the minor-leagues.” Trading away more significant assets — particularly Donaldson, the team’s star third baseman — would represent a much more drastic step that doesn’t appear to be under consideration at present.