The Toronto Blue Jays find themselves in that excellent little gray area when it comes to the no-waiver trade deadline this Wednesday night.
Should the Jays try and sell some of their assets to ascertain some prospects and younger talent and ship off some more expensive veterans, or should the Jays try and acquire a 2B, starter or DH and try to make up some ground with the second wild card spot?
Before I give you my overall thoughts let us outline some benefits of looking at both the for and against trading away veterans for prospects.
The Blue Jays would have to leap frog seven teams in order to grab that second wild card spot (The Rays have a very firm stranglehold on the top wild card spot). That seems like a tough stretch to make things happen this season.
Take away the 11-game win-streak and the Blue Jays are 10-22 in their last 32 games. Well even if you include the 11-game win-streak they still sit under .500 in their last 42 games (21-22) which is not close to October baseball.
With guys like Josh Johnson (who is a free agent at the end of this season) and Mark Buehrle (who is set to make a ton of money the next few years), perhaps the Jays could benefit from moving these veteran starters to teams who need battle-tested starters.
Buehrle could be attractive with his post-season success, left-handedness, durability and great veteran presence. Johnson has struggled mightily this season but could still be attractive to many teams at a low value.
Since the Jays aren't going anywhere this season, perhaps getting some value from those players that could be replaced next year would help reinvigorate the farm system that was pilfered of talent this past offseason.
Although the Blue Jays have to pass seven teams to grab the second wild card spot, they are still only nine games back with over two months of baseball left. Stranger things have happened.
The Jays have been somewhat lucky to only be nine back after this disastrous stretch recently. Everyone knows that they have the talent to put together another long win-streak but they need to hitting and pitching to line up somewhat in order and get some luck running their way.
If they were able to grab an upgrade at second, another starter or perhaps a DH (which could allow Lawrie to play 2B and EE to move back to 3B and Lind at 1B) to give a little more pop to the offense, then they could easily give up a bullpen asset or two and make a strong run. Especially with Santos, Drabek, Hutchison and Perez on their way back, they might need to make some roster moves and the Jays have a plethora of bullpen assets that could be dangled.
Why not see what is available in the next couple of days?
Do I believe the Blue Jays should start to sell off some assets and get some prospects back? The simple answer is no with a couple small caveats in play.
To begin, it must be made clear that GM Alex Anthopoulos continually stated that this team was set to win over the next couple of years (with most of their nucleus signed for a couple of years), so it would be silly to sell off already and not allow the Blue Jays the chance to bond in August and throughout the whole off-season etc.
Moreover, being 'only' nine games back of the second wild card spot isn't that far off with two months left to go in the season, especially when many of those opponents are AL East rivals. Weirder things have happened (see Red Sox meltdown in 2011).
I believe that the Blue Jays should continue to allow the nucleus of this team and the majority of their peripheral players to play out the season together and see what comes of it. Remember it was just recently that Melky Cabrera, Jose Reyes and Brett Lawrie all took the field together on the same day. Let this team (now that it is healthy) play its way in or further out of contention. We could easily be singing a different tune in mid-August and here is why.
The Blue Jays have a very favorable schedule over the next couple of weeks.
They begin a western swing versus the A's, followed by the Angels and Mariners. Despite the A's record, I believe all of these are winnable series. Moreover, the A's come to Toronto following the Mariners series for a rematch. It is not far fetched to say that the Blue Jays could finish this slew of games at 9-5 or 10-4.
(I am also aware as many of you have stated that I perhaps have too much faith in the quality of this team and they haven't shown enough, but against these pitchers out west, coupled with the team bonding on the west coast and away from the scrutinization of Toronto, this could be a very good thing for the club.)
We could easily see the Blue Jays about a handful of games outside of the second wild card spot come their series with the Red Sox that begins on August 13.
If the Blue Jays can win against its own division, an area they have had a lot of trouble over the years (see my article on the AL East written way back in late 2011) then they could feasibly be in the playoffs. Other than teams in the AL East, the Blue Jays play the Astros, Royals, Diamondbacks, Twins, White Sox and Angels. These teams currently have a 273-345 (.442) record.
If the Blue Jays can win their AL East matchups and do what they need to do against those aforementioned teams with a combined .442 winning percentage, then they could easily be in the conversation at the end of September.
The one quick caveat that I would like to mention in regards to making trades would be if any team inquires about our bullpen and, specifically, any of our highly touted left-handed bullpen members of which we have many (Oliver, Perez, Cecil and Loup).
Many teams would be interested in any of the four, especially Cecil or Oliver. If anyone comes with a great offer for any of our bullpen members I would say go for it and improve the team elsewhere as we have many great replacements ready and waiting (Neil Wagner and Sergio Santos to name two). To avoid the logjam, get some upgrades, depth or prospects and the team won't lose much this season.
The Blue Jays still have a chance with two months remaining and the only reason they do is because of the new second wild card spot. Had that not been instituted and there was only one this season, I would be singing a much different tune. The rules are rules and the Blue Jays still have the ability to make their offseason moves worthwhile for 2013.