Atkins: Blue Jays in 'tough spot' as Trade Deadline looms

GM acknowledges last-place club might have to make some hard decisions

June 28th, 2024

TORONTO -- The realities of the Blue Jays’ season aren’t just standing on their doorstep, knocking politely. They’ve started to bust the windows in.

Their recent seven-game losing streak, which seemed to expose a new flaw each day, felt like a frustrating season finally choosing its permanent direction. Now 37-43 after a 9-2 win to open their homestand against the Yankees, the Blue Jays are still looking up from the basement of the AL East and facing major organizational questions in 2024 and beyond.

“We’ve obviously put ourselves into a tough spot over the last seven days,” general manager Ross Atkins said Thursday. “Ten days ago, we were feeling like there was positive momentum, and that has gone away.”

Barring a run of wins that would stun anyone who has watched this club play in 2024, the Blue Jays are positioned as sellers ahead of the Trade Deadline on July 30. Selling can take different shapes, though, from tinkering to retooling, pivoting to burning the whole house down. That’s what the coming weeks will determine.

The future always matters, but in this specific case, it’s 2025 that looms so large. That represents the final year of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette’s club control, and any competitive window has always been tied to them. The Blue Jays risk getting stuck in the middle if they commit only halfway to rebuilding in an attempt to make one last run in ‘25.

“Right now our focus is on the 2024 team, and with every decision you make, regardless of stadium renovations or the state of the organization, you have to be thinking about the future, as well,” Atkins said. “As you’ve seen over the last four years, we’ve poured a lot into the current team from a financial standpoint, a trade standpoint and a resource standpoint. We’ll continue to do that until it doesn’t make sense to do so any more.”

There’s the kicker. When won’t it make sense any more?

Atkins later expanded on this, mentioning the two or three different “angles” the Blue Jays can approach this from. He doesn’t want to speak in absolutes, but let’s call these buying, selling and holding.

“The coming days are exceptionally important to us, and understanding the market is also exceptionally important to us in either way,” Atkins said. “We’re focused on winning. We’re focused on building the best possible team we can this year and supporting them the best we can. If we get to a point where we need to adjust, we’ll be prepared to do so.”

The Blue Jays’ public and private messaging can be two different things, of course. It’s clear that Atkins understands the realities of what it would mean to be a seller, but this organization wants to push off accepting that as long as it can. Selling doesn’t excite fans. Selling doesn’t inspire hope. Selling doesn’t, well … sell.

Unless Toronto goes on a 15-5 run, the most obvious path is to shop players on expiring deals, namely Yusei Kikuchi, Danny Jansen, Yimi García, Justin Turner and Kevin Kiermaier. That 2025 season is so important here because, if the Blue Jays are open to dealing players with club control beyond this year, the barn doors swing wide open and possibilities come flooding in.

We’re talking Vladdy and Bo, Chris Bassitt, Jordan Romano, Chad Green, even Kevin Gausman, as difficult as some of those deals would be to sell to a fan base. It’s uncomfortable to even consider such things, but again, this is the reality the Blue Jays have placed themselves in.

“We have not received many or a significant number of calls asking for our players that are on short contracts,” Atkins said. “It’s more about just downloading where we are from a strategy standpoint.”

The coming weeks are for feeling things out. The Blue Jays, still hoping and praying that it all comes together at the buzzer, still want to use up as much of this runway as possible before veering left or right. Many buyers are left to wait on teams like Toronto to decide, particularly in a Wild Card era where so many clubs are “in the hunt” late in July. There’s not much time left, though.

The clock is ticking down to when the Blue Jays will need to make major decisions. And while they can buy themselves a few more minutes along the way, it’s nearly time to decide what the future of this organization looks like and how soon that future will come.