Buy or Sell? Decision Coming Soon For Blue Jays Management

Will the Toronto Blue Jays be sellers or buyers ahead of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline? The direction of the franchise may be determined over the next 13 games heading into the All-Star break. It’s a home-heavy but challenging schedule and if Toronto is still under .500 at the break, team president Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins might waive the white flag on 2017. Should the Jays at least be at break-even, Toronto could add a piece or two (second baseman, reliever) in an attempt to reach the playoffs a third straight season for the second time in franchise history.

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Has there been a team in recent memory more aggravating to its backers trying to reach .500 than the 2017 Jays? They have lost nine straight games when having a chance to reach .500 for the first time this season and been outscored 73-24 in those losses. The last was June 21, an 11-4 defeat in Texas. Toronto’s run differential was plus-29 in an encouraging May but is minus-30 this month. June had been a successful month the past two years for Toronto, which went 15-12 last season and 18-9 in 2015.

Toronto started a three-game series against struggling Baltimore on Tuesday and the Orioles’ wretched pitching staff. The Jays will avoid the Birds’ best starter, Dylan Bundy, in the series. Plus All-Star closer Zach Britton is still on the disabled list. The Orioles also beaten the Jays seven times already in 2017, though. The loaded Red Sox head to Rogers Centre this weekend. Toronto does have to face top AL Cy Young candidate Chris Sale but misses David Price. It’s a trip to the Yankees from July 3-5, and each New York pitcher lined up to start has an ERA north of 4.00 so that series is winnable – but the Yankees rake at home.

Finally, the American League’s best team, Houston, visits Toronto for a four-game set to close the first half. On the bright side, the Jays will avoid the Astros’ Cy Young contender in lefty Dallas Keuchel, the 2015 Cy Young winner. Houston is the +240 Bodog favorite to win the World Series. Stick to trusted linemakers like Bodog when making your MLB bets.

Free-agents-to-be this winter on the Blue Jays are starting pitchers Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano as well as most likely slugger Jose Bautista. After next season, J.A. Happ and Josh Donaldson hit free agency. Donaldson clearly would bring the most in return, especially with another year on his contract. Estrada’s value is plummeting by the day. He is 0-4 with a 10.03 ERA and opponents are hitting .381 against him in five June starts. Liriano’s ERA is 5.46. Bautista is hitting better since moving to leadoff but has a mutual option for $17 million next season that the Jays likely will decline. He has seen his percentage of hard-hit balls decline from 41.4 percent in 2016 to just 30.8 percent this year.

One problem with Shapiro and Co. waiving the white flag in any trades is that it would hurt attendance – and thus cost ownership some money. Toronto ranks sixth in the majors in attendance. Then again, perhaps ownership would like to trim a team payroll of more than $186 million that ranks behind only the Dodgers, Red Sox, Yankees and Tigers (Detroit will be a seller ahead of the deadline).

The addition of a second wild-card spot has changed the trade market as more teams believe they can at least get into the playoffs and sell hope to their fan base. But is it worth potentially playing just one extra game and getting nothing in return on potential free agents?

The deciding factor could be Aaron Sanchez’s return from the disabled list. He was set to begin a rehab assignment on Tuesday in Florida. The Jays are hoping he can make one big-league start before the break. If Sanchez looks like the ace he was last year, Toronto management might delay the buy/sell decision until later in July. Should Sanchez struggle or have a recurrence of blister problems, it might be time to reboot for 2018.

  • MD

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  • Ed Sprague Jr.'s kids

    Here are the Jay’s considerations.
    1. Go in hard ( no way)
    2. Fix your most glaring holes ( high chance)
    3. Stand pat ~ least risk situation money wise and optics
    4. Light sell with an eye to reloading for next year
    5. Light sell (goodbye joe smith, maybe even estrada or liriano for a decent return)
    6. Hard sell (not happening either)

    I actually think this core deserves another shot at the playoffs. I would fix holes and explore if any decent players would be available as salary dumps mostly. During april i thought a hard and early sell would be best but have flipped positions on this.

  • Regulator Johnson

    How do you get $186 Million Payroll? Forbes had them at $142 based on AAV of their contracts & Cot’s has them at $165. I honestly have a hard time believing it’s $186.

  • Rob Ray

    I’m on the fence with this. I’d prefer to see my team as competitive as they can possibly be, it’s so much more enjoyable to follow them every day if they are winning. On the other hand, I don’t see this team as being good enough to win the World Series or make a deep playoff run. I rarely agree with Mike Wilner, but Wilner is right about one thing, and that is “trading for prospects is like buying scratch off lottery tickets”. Most of the prospects that teams have in their organization are over-hyped. The Jays haul for Roy Halladay was Michael Taylor, Kyle Drabek and Travis d’ Arnaud. Taylor was coveted by the A’s because he was a bay area high school star, so the Jays sent him to Oakland for Brett Wallace and Wallace was sent to Houston for Anthony Gose. Taylor, not to be confused with the Michael Taylor who currently plays for the Washuington Nationals, never made it and retired three years ago. Wallace bounced around with several teams. The last I knew, he didn’t have a job in baseball. Drabek was waived, picked up by a few teams, tried to make an unsuccessful conversion to shortstop with the Giants last year, and was waived by an independent league team last month. Drabek currently has no job in baseball. Anthony Gose was traded for Devon Travis. Gose failed in Detroit and is currently trying to switch positions to become a pitcher. Travis is a good player if you can keep him on the field. Finally you have d’Arnaud. D’Arnaud is respectable, but not the super-duper star some thought he would be. Yes, I’m using one trade as an example, but too many trades of a grab bag of prospects end like this. It would be easy to question AA for the trades he made, especially in 2015, but AA was in a “win now” mode and the team had not been relevant in 23 years. I’m okay with what Alex did in trying to win a World Series. The real trick, it seems to me, is keeping the club interesting and competitive until the minor league system begins to produce again, without going through a “Houston Astros re-build”, that is, to stay relevant and not lose 105 games a year for half a decade. Yeah, you can trade everybody away, but there is no promise the haul you’ll get in return will be worth the price that was paid to acquire them.