TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have been trending in the wrong direction since the All-Star break, and with the non-waiver Trade Deadline just one week away, their approach is changing to reflect that reality.General manager Ross Atkins said on Monday that one of the club's primary focuses will be improving
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have been trending in the wrong direction since the All-Star break, and with the non-waiver Trade Deadline just one week away, their approach is changing to reflect that reality.
General manager Ross Atkins said on Monday that one of the club's primary focuses will be improving the 2018 roster, which is expected to return many of this year's core players.
"A month ago, we were talking about the need for our team to play well and to get hot," Atkins said. "We didn't have to absolutely catch fire, but we haven't done that. We haven't gotten hot, we haven't gotten on a streak. Now we're in a position where it's a lot more difficult to add to a team like this objectively, subjectively, as you look to it. The scale of deciding whether we add or subtract has definitely changed."
Toronto enters this week's series against the A's 10 games below .500, at 44-54, after being swept in Cleveland. This puts the Blue Jays 6 1/2 games back in the American League Wild Card race, and while that crowded field is by no means unwinnable, it's an uphill climb.
The Blue Jays could certainly afford to get younger, and that controllable talent is at the top of Atkins' list. Doing so would not only offer potential clarity to the 2018 roster, but also give the Blue Jays increased financial flexibility entering the offseason.
"I think any addition, at this point, will be about control," Atkins said. "We feel like we have underperformed and underachieved offensively and defensively. Our relief pitching's been pretty strong. Our starting pitching's been OK until the last couple of weeks. It's not position-specific right now, it's more about controllable young talent."
In terms of expiring contracts, Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano are pending free agents, but both starters have struggled this season. Joe Smith has been strong out of the bullpen this year with a career-high strikeout rate, and he just recently returned from the disabled list. Jose Bautista, who holds 10-and-5 rights, has a $17 million mutual option at the end of the season.
If a potential buyer were aiming big, of course, the Blue Jays aren't lacking star power. These core pieces for 2018 and beyond, however, don't appear to have featured prominently in recent talks.
"There's always guys we just don't talk about," Atkins said. "They come up in discussion, and there's not any discussion in and around them because we're thinking about building around certain players. But to say someone is completely untouchable and untradeable, I don't think is good business, either."
Keegan Matheson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto.