Time has come for Jays to sell off vets, go younger

Ottawa Citizen - - SPORTS / CLASSIFIEDS - ROB LONGLEY

“Horse­bleep.” ST. PETERS­BURG, FLA.

That was the san­i­tized but rather suc­cinct sum­ma­tion of Toronto Blue Jays man­ager John Gib­bons af­ter his team’s lat­est loss, a 1-0 walk-off to the Tampa Bay Rays Wed­nes­day.

The Jays are 1-5 at Trop­i­cana Field this sea­son and 4-11 in their past 15.

It was the fourth time in nine games the Jays (30-38) have had five hits or less and they were a mis­er­able 0-for-7 with run­ners in scor­ing po­si­tion on Wed­nes­day.

“We had some chances, es­pe­cially early on, but couldn’t get a big hit. We’re horse­bleep down here. I have no ex­pla­na­tion for it, that’s just the way it is,” Gib­bons said.

It has come to that point of the sea­son where Blue Jays gen­eral man­ager Ross Atkins has to as­sess his club.

For­tu­nately (or un­for­tu­nately), the Amer­i­can League stand­ings are mak­ing that con­sid­er­ably eas­ier: The For Sale sign is at the ready.

“At this point we have to con­sider all of our al­ter­na­tives,” Atkins said.

“We would have to play at a very good clip to get back in con­tention, but we don’t want to elim­i­nate that pos­si­bil­ity.

“So ... we have to con­sider what our al­ter­na­tives are on the buy front, on the sell front, on the money swap front, or any pos­si­ble sce­nario to make our team bet­ter. That’s what we’re in the process of do­ing.”

Rest as­sured, the process is al­ready well un­der­way and sev­eral play­ers with ex­pir­ing con­tracts will be on the mar­ket.

At the top of the list will be lefty J.A. Happ, who pitched five in­nings of one-hit shutout ball against the Rays on Wed­nes­day. Happ is in hot de­mand with the New York Yan­kees and Philadel­phia among those in­ter­ested.

The big lefty could cer­tainly at­tract more than what Francisco Liri­ano brought from Houston at last year’s dead­line: pro­duc­tive out­fielder Teoscar Her­nan­dez.

Who knows what value Josh Don­ald­son will have by the July 31 dead­line, but if the of­fer is right he’ll likely be avail­able.

The Jays are in a favourable po­si­tion to get con­sid­er­ably younger in a hurry.

With sev­eral play­ers com­ing off the books (in­clud­ing out­field­ers Cur­tis Gran­der­son and Steve Pearce, plus al­most half the bullpen), the pro­mo­tion of young tal­ent can, and likely will be, ex­pe­dited.

“If we are in a sit­u­a­tion where we are go­ing to be sell­ing, then

We have to con­sider what our al­ter­na­tives are on the buy front, on the sell front, on the money swap front, or any pos­si­ble sce­nario to make our team bet­ter

we’re go­ing to make our team bet­ter. We’ve got a pretty good core to try to build around,” Atkins said.

There has cer­tainly been some ac­cel­er­ated signs of high-end de­vel­op­ment in the sys­tem. At Dou­ble-A New Hamp­shire, Vlad Guer­rero Jr. (now in­jured), Ca­van Big­gio and Bo Bichette are all hav­ing huge sea­sons. At triple-A Buf­falo, start­ing pitch­ers Sean Reid-Fo­ley and Ryan Borucki are turn­ing heads.

“There are a num­ber of guys who’ve made sig­nif­i­cant strides,” Atkins said. “There are a num­ber of pieces in place.”

CHRIS O’MEARA/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Toronto Blue Jays start­ing pitcher J.A. Happ is draw­ing heavy trade in­ter­est from other clubs.

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