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Photo Credit: © Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Thoughts on the Blue Jays’ trade deadline approach, the Juan Soto blockbuster, the AL playoff picture, and more!

It’s difficult to look at the San Diego Padres and not feel a little jealous.

The Padres won the trade deadline this year as they pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Washington Nationals for Juan Soto and Josh Bell while also adding an elite closer in Josh Hader and Barry Bonds disguised as Brandon Drury.

The new-look Padres kicked the Soto era off on Wednesday night by beating the piss out of the Colorado Rockies in front of 44,652 fans at Petco Park. They put up five runs in the first inning, started by a Soto walk and concluded by a Drury grand slam. San Diego wound up cruising to an easy 9-1 win.

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The vibes were reminiscent to 2015 when the Blue Jays won Troy Tulowitzki’s debut game by a score of 8-2 over the Phillies and then David Price’s debut by a score of 5-1 over the Twins.

Even though the Blue Jays came up short in October, we all remember those trades, the hyped-up debuts, and the subsequent run the team went on after, as a team spinning its wheels in the mud around the .500 mark exploded and won the American League East for the first time in over two decades.

The hope for many Blue Jays fans this season was a similar kind of investment, one that would propel a good team over the likes of the Houston Astros and New York Yankees to become the top World Series threat from the American League.

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Instead, the front office took a Raise The Floor approach, acquiring a pair of relievers from Miami, a swingman from the Dodgers, and a utility guy from the Royals. This is also a big-picture approach, as all four of the players the Blue Jays acquired are under control for at least one more season, and neither Gabriel Moreno nor Ricky Tiedemann, the team’s top two prospects, were moved.

It’s reasonable to have mixed feelings about this year’s trade deadline for the Blue Jays. On one hand, they’re a better team now than they were last week and they didn’t have to give up much from their farm system. On the other hand, they didn’t fill their needs of a battle-tester closer who can strike guys out in October or a lefty bat that can get on base at a high clip.

But that said, it’s also silly to suggest that this deadline was anything akin to the 2014 deadline, in which Alex Anthopolous stood pat while the team was within striking distance of a playoff spot. Adding Anthony Bass, Zach Pop, Mitch White, and Whit Merrifield isn’t adding Juan Soto, Josh Bell, and Josh Hader, but it’s far from hanging the team out to dry.

The reality is this front office values having a farm system that can consistently pump depth to the big-league roster and there simply wasn’t the prospect capital to have an all-in trade deadline given the moves that have been made over the past year.

They gave up Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson to get Jose Berrios last summer and they gave up Gunnar Hoglund back in March to get Matt Chapman. Giving up Moreno or Tiedemann, two players who could realistically be key contributors to the team next season, would leave the system quite barren when it comes to players who can make a difference any time soon.

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Another thing to consider is that the Blue Jays just had a very significant draft in which they added two more quality prospects than usual because they had compensatory draft picks from Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien leaving in free agency. There will be more bullets in the chamber for big additions this winter and at next year’s deadline.

But let’s focus on this year for now. Are the Blue Jays good enough?

After splitting a two-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Blue Jays are 58-46 and are sitting in the top wild-card spot in the American League. Though the Yankees have cooled off from their 130-win pace and are 18-18 in their last 36 games, they still boast an 11-game lead in the American League East.

The focus for the Blue Jays is earning that top wild-card spot, as it would result in them hosting a three-game series in the first round of the playoffs.

The Mariners are two games back of the Blue Jays and they solidified their starting rotation by adding Luis Castillo. The Rays are three games back and they didn’t do much save for adding some depth, the Red Sox are in a free fall and their most notable additions were Reese McGuire and Eric Hosmer, and the surprisingly decent Orioles got worse as they opted to move Trey Mancini and Jorge Lopez.

The teams to beat in the American League are still New York and Houston. The Yankees subtracted Jordan Montgomery and Joey Gallo and added Frankie Montas, Lou Trivino, Andrew Benintendi, and Scott Effross, while the Astros subtracted Jose Siri and Jake Odorizzi and added Trey Mancini, Christian Vasquez, and reliever Will Smith.

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The sentiment here is that the Yankees and Astros both widened the gap between themselves and the Blue Jays, which is probably accurate on paper over the course of a 162-game season, but isn’t the case when it comes to an anything-can-happen five- or seven-game playoff series.

Last summer, it seemed the Dodgers massively widened the gap between themselves and the Braves when they acquired Max Scherzer and Trea Turner while AA went out and got Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler, and Adam Duvall, but Atlanta wound up beating L.A. in the NLCS before winning the World Series.

We would all love to be soaking in the vibes that Padres fans are right now and it’s certainly fine to look at this summer’s additions and say meh. But the reality is the Blue Jays got better this week and they’re staying true to their big-picture approach of building a team that can contend for years to come.

This is a good team. Enjoy the ride.


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