The MLB Trade Deadline is slowly approaching and the Toronto Blue Jays are no more buyers as of June 22nd than they are sellers.
At 35-36, they’re five games back of the New York Yankees for the AL East lead and are two games out of the second wild card position. The problem is, or at least one of them anyways, at least six other teams could make the latter of those two statements and seven could say they’re within five games of that spot. Essentially, things are close for the Blue birds, but who can’t say that?
For the Blue Jays, at least according to Fangraphs, that situation is a little bit different. Of the nine teams within four games of the second Wild Card spot, or tied, none have a higher chance of making it to the postseason than the Toronto Blue Jays who have a 37.5 per cent chance of making it to the postseason with a 9.4 per cent chance of capturing the division title. If they had even a marginal or acceptable month of April instead of going 8-17, we aren’t even having this conversation as much as we’re looking forward to another October.
Yet, here we are arriving at one of the most infamous debates at the beginning of summer—should the Jays become buyers or sellers?
The answer is that they should be neither. At least not right now. On June 22nd, it’s still a little early to fall on one side of the fence or the other. If the Jays go on a run quickly, it makes sense to explore small upgrades that would help this year’s team make it to the playoffs for the third year in a row and contend for a title. If their April swoon returns, why not dive down the rabbit hole of selling off major assets like Josh Donaldson, Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano (the latter two of which are unrestricted free agents after this year) to see how to best prepare for the future.
One thing the Jays front office cannot do however is to make a big splash in attempt at winning the division or being considered a World Series contender for the final two months of the season (see 2015). This means that names like Sonny Gray and Joey Votto make less sense than ever unless teams are willing to take on prospects deep within the Jays’ minor league system that the club sees little value in.
The Jays middling record for 2017 is in many ways emblematic of where the team stands on a macro level. They are neither contenders, nor bottom-dwellers, rebuilding nor stocking up—they just are. Whether you like that or not, this is exactly how the team was designed. Six players off the 25 roster (seven if you include Jose Bautista’s mutual option) are set to come off the books this season with cornerstones like Josh Donaldson and J.A Happ following suit next season. Sure there are still pieces such as Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Roberto Osuna and Devon Travis (when he’s healthy) around afterward, but this year and next allows management to make a significant turn with the roster, if they so choose, for the future.
That means, don’t expect much if anything to happen at this year’s trade deadline. Sure, if a team is floating a mid-level reliever or shopping around a pricey contract for a serviceable player, you could see the Jays taking more than passing interest and moving on the player. And yes, it could be proven wrong that maybe the Jays are as Ross Atkins says, “focussed on adding,” but I’m not buying it and I hope they aren’t either.
A little over a month from now the trade deadline will be upon baseball and teams will make some significant moves that will alter the outlook of the game for both today and tomorrow. Just don’t look for Toronto to be one of those teams.