Ev­ery­thing is on the ta­ble

Blue Jays con­sid­er­ing ‘ all of our al­ter­na­tives’ ahead of trade dead­line

The Expositor (Brantford) - - SPORTS - ROB LONGLEY rlon­g­ley@ post­media. com

ST. PETERS­BURG, Fla. — It has come to that point of the sea­son where Blue Jays gen­eral man­ager Ross Atkins must care­fully bal­ance his out­look be­tween op­ti­mist and re­al­ist.

For­tu­nately ( or un­for­tu­nately), the Amer­i­can League stand­ings are mak­ing it con­sid­er­ably eas­ier to de­ter­mine which side to land on.

With an ag­ing and un­der­per­form­ing ros­ter that has lost its way for a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive sea­son, the “For Sale” sign is at the ready. Atkins won’t say as much, but there is no need.

Af­ter an­other list­less loss on Wed­nes­day, the Jays fell to 30- 38 and 16 games be­hind the AL Eastlead­ing New York Yan­kees. They are 13 game out of the sec­ond wild­card spot cur­rently held by none other than the reign­ing World Se­ries cham­pion Hous­ton As­tros. What­ever good feel­ings re­mained from a four- game sweep of the Ori­oles this past week­end are long gone.

So, bar­ring a mas­sive and un­likely win­ning streak over the next few weeks, the Jays will be sell­ers and likely sig­nif­i­cantly so.

“At this point, we have to con­sider all of our al­ter­na­tives,” Atkins care­fully told Post­media in an in­ter­view. “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, in the process of that, we have to con­sider what our al­ter­na­tives are on the buy front, on the sell front, on the money swap front, on any pos­si­ble sce­nario to make our team bet­ter. That’s what we’re in the process of do­ing.”

Rest as­sured that the process is al­ready well un­der­way. Calls are be­ing made and an­swered and any of the sev­eral play­ers on the Jays ros­ter with ex­pir­ing con­tracts will be on the mar­ket.

At the top of the list will be left- handed pitcher J. A. Happ, who pitched five in­nings of one­hit shutout ball against the Rays here on Wed­nes­day. Happ is in hot de­mand, with the New York Yan­kees and Philadel­phia Phillies, among oth­ers, al­ready re­ported to have ex­pressed in­ter­est.

If he con­tin­ues with his ex­cel­lent sea­son, Happ’s value will in­crease, cre­at­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of a cou­ple of prospects head­ing to Toronto in re­turn. The big lefty will 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. Of course, he needs to get off the dis­abled list and re­turn to MVP form to make it worth­while, but the Bringer of Rain still has time to be­come a hot com­mod­ity.

Per­haps be­cause so many teams have al­ready lost touch with di­vi­sion lead­ers, the sense around base­ball is that trade talks are hot­ter than usual for this time of year, a full month- and- a- half be­fore the July 31 dead­line.

And the Jays are ready to lis­ten.

“This is the time of year that the phone calls start to pick up steam,” Atkins ac­knowl­edged. “As we’ve seen, there’s al­ready been a few trades that have taken place.”

With so many play­ers on the fi­nal year or on one- year deals, the Jays have plenty of chips. As it re­lates to re­build­ing ef­forts, they are ac­tu­ally in a favourable po­si­tion to get con­sid­er­ably younger in a hurry.

With sev­eral play­ers com­ing off the books — out­field­ers Cur­tis Gran­der­son and Steve Pearce and ba­si­cally half of the bullpen are also in that cat­e­gory — the pro­mo­tion of young tal­ent in the sys­tem can and likely will be ex­pe­dited.

“Ba­si­cally, all of our fo­cus right now is all on so­lu­tions that this team is con­tin­u­ing to push to not be in that sit­u­a­tion but we will be pre­pared if we get to that point to max­i­mize op­por­tu­nity,” Atkins said. “We never want to be in a sit­u­a­tion where we are sell­ing, but we feel our sys­tem is in a much bet­ter po­si­tion.

“If we are in a sit­u­a­tion where we are go­ing to be sell­ing then we’re go­ing to make our team bet­ter. We’ve got a pretty good core to try to build around.”

As trou­ble­some as things have been with the big- league team, 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 tripleA Buf­falo, start­ing pitch­ers Sean Reid- Fo­ley and Ryan Borucki are de­vel­op­ing nicely.

There’s a pos­si­bil­ity that two or more of that group could be in­volved with the big- league team next sea­son.

“We’re ex­cited about the sys­tem that has con­tin­ued to get bet­ter,” Atkins said. “There are a num­ber of guys who’ve made sig­nif­i­cant strides. There are a num­ber of pieces in place.”

And a num­ber, so it would seem, not far from be­ing moved.

If we are in a sit­u­a­tion where we are go­ing to be sell­ing then we’re go­ing to make our team bet­ter. We’ve got a pretty good core to try to build around.” Ross Atkins, Blue Jays gen­eral man­ager


Starter J. A. Happ may be one of Toronto’s most valu­able trade chips ahead of the July 31 trade dead­line.

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