After a slow start, the Toronto Blue Jays have crawled back into the playoff conversation, but they will need to add to their roster at the trade deadline to stay there.
On the final day of April, the Toronto Blue Jays were an abysmal 8-17 with a struggling lineup and a roster littered with injured stars. They rebounded to go 18-10 in May, pushing closer to .500, but have since begun the month of June with a losing record. With so much invested in this team, and a winning track record already established, the Blue Jays should still be looking to upgrade their roster at the trade deadline.
Make no mistake about it, the Jays are an aging team with a lineup that has fallen several notches since embarrassing most of the American League in 2015. Jose Bautista looks old and is only being saved by his strong batting eye. Troy Tulowitzki is slugging close to .300 with only two home runs and has been a shell of the player he was in Colorado.
The only thing keeping the Blue Jays in this playoff race is the presence of Josh Donaldson, who is once again performing at MVP levels, and Justin Smoak’s breakout year. If Donaldson goes down with another injury or Smoak comes down to earth before the trade deadline, the front office may be forced to consider punting on the season. Until that happens, however, here are five players who could instantly upgrade the Jays and help keep their playoff hopes alive.
Losing Devon Travis for the year — barring an extremely aggressive recovery schedule — is a major blow to the Blue Jays playoff hopes. He was their best hitter in the month of May and was one of the MLB leaders in doubles before his knee injury. Replacing an All-Star caliber second baseman with Ryan Goins or Darwin Barney is not going to be enough. Goins and Barney can handle full-time at-bats for a week or two, but will not provide much more than replacement-level production over a longer stretch.
The Blue Jays roared to the playoffs two years in a row on the back of dominant starting pitching just as much as a powerful offense. That has not been the case this year. Aaron Sanchez has only made five starts all year while battling a recurring blister problem. J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada have regressed closer to the journeyman status they brought to Toronto, and Francisco Liriano has been a disaster. Marcus Stroman has been the only consistent presence in the rotation.
For now, the Blue Jays appear committed to keeping Joe Biagini in the starting rotation. That may not last much longer, however, as he is 1-5 as a starter with a 4.70 ERA in eight starts. Jason Grilli’s spot is being wasted, as he has allowed nine home runs in only 19.2 innings. Overall, the Blue Jays have a solid bullpen, but perhaps lack one option that John Gibbons can feel absolutely confident in with a one-run or two-run lead heading into the seventh inning.
The Blue Jays dug deep in their farm system to acquire Troy Tulowitzki and David Price at the deadline in 2015. Those trades, along with a few others, have left them with very little MLB-ready talent at the top of the ladder. They have done well to begin rebuilding the farm system over the past two years. If things go south for the Jays leading up to July 31, they may consider shopping first baseman Justin Smoak who is having a breakout year. For now, though, Toronto seems destined to be a buyer.
- Dalton Pompey, OF
- Anthony Alford, OF
- Sean Reid-Foley, RHP
- Bo Bichette, SS
- Rowdy Tellez, 1B/DH
- Vlad Guerrero Jr, 3B (all but untouchable)