Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said today that suspended reliever Roberto Osuna will return to being the team’s closer when he is activated from his suspension, as Shi Davidi of Sporsnet.ca reports. Osuna is serving a 75-game suspension for a violation of the MLB-MLBPA Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy.
Dealing with Osuna’s situation was never going to be easy for the Toronto organization. The domestic assault charges against Osuna — one of the game’s best young relief pitchers — are extremely serious.
While the imposition of a lengthy ban did give the team an understanding as to when the young pitcher will be able to play, at least in the eyes of Major League Baseball, there’s still ample uncertainty remaining. Osuna is still facing a criminal trial, after all. In the event of a conviction, he could miss further time (and public scrutiny). And any criminal penalties could make it difficult for him to travel with the team. The factual circumstances surrounding his arrest also still remain largely unknown. Public opinion on the topic may yet depend upon the course of the criminal matter and what facts ultimately emerge.
Still, Atkins declared today that Osuna “is our closer.” He explained:
“We’re running a baseball team and our goal is to win championships. Roberto could potentially be very much a part of that. The word that comes to mind for me when you talk about that is empathy. That’s not just for Roberto, that’s for everyone involved, that’s where we’re going to spend our time and energy, on being empathetic and trying to understand. We don’t have a background in investigations.”
Readers can reach their own conclusions as to the merits of that stance given what has been reported to this point. From a purely on-field perspective, though, it seems Osuna will step back into his prominent role at the back of the Blue Jays’ bullpen if and when he’s able. The comments surely give no indication that the organization will look to trade Osuna before the July 31st trade deadline, as has been speculated elsewhere. He’s eligible to return to play in the majors in early August.
Atkins also addressed his organization’s general stance with the trade deadline approaching, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith tweeted. With Steve Pearce going out the door last night, it’s already obvious that the Jays’ rental pieces are available. That means that a variety of relievers could be moved, along with veteran outfielder Curtis Granderson and starters such as J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada.
But Atkins made clear, too, that the team will at least be open to the possibility of dealing controllable assets as well. If rival organizations wish to pry loose a player under contract into the future, though, the Jays will ask them “to frame the value for us and do the work on their end.” It seems, then, that the Toronto front office won’t be shopping players such as Justin Smoak, Yangervis Solarte, and Kevin Pillar so much as it will be amenable to considering offers for them.
While much of the focus will be on the July trade period, matters of significance lurk in August. Osuna’s status is likely to be a highly visible topic, with implications that go well beyond the game itself. And from a pure baseball perspective, a fascinating situation could be developing with regard to Josh Donaldson, who could be a highly important trade asset during the revocable waiver trade period — if he’s able to get back to health by that point, which isn’t yet certain given his recent setback.