TORONTO -- There was a time earlier this season when the Blue Jays expected to be buyers at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, but 95 games into the year, it's clear they have no choice but to go in a different direction.It's almost hard to remember, but Toronto's 2018
TORONTO -- There was a time earlier this season when the Blue Jays expected to be buyers at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, but 95 games into the year, it's clear they have no choice but to go in a different direction.
It's almost hard to remember, but Toronto's 2018 campaign began with great promise following April's 15-10 record. There were some initial hopes that the organization would be able to hang around the fringes of the American League Wild Card race, but an historically bad 9-19 record in May changed that.
The Blue Jays entered the All-Star break with a 43-52 record, with slim hopes for postseason contention. Their .453 winning percentage is below last year's midseason mark of .466 (41-47), and the club finds itself 23 1/2 games back of the Red Sox for first place in the AL East. Trades are coming soon.
Here's a look at where the Blue Jays stand at the season's halfway point.
Current status: Seller
A pair of trips to the AL Championship Series has been followed up with two disappointing seasons. The window of opportunity for this season's core has closed, and now it will be about building for the future. All players on expiring deals should be available, and prospects or emerging big leaguers with multiple years of control will be the targets. Toronto's Minor League system is better than most, so this isn't necessarily a traditional rebuild. But by next year, the youth movement will be in full swing.
What they are seeking
The Blue Jays will be treating this Deadline with the familiar "best player available" strategy that is implemented at every MLB Draft. There does appear to be a need for more quality pitching depth at the upper levels of the Minors, but that doesn't mean the club would shy away from adding top position players. The goal should be to acquire prospects who are at least somewhat advanced so their timelines match up with the next wave of talent, which includes Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Danny Jansen, Anthony Alford and others.
What they have to offer
The Blue Jays could sell any players on expiring contracts, and perhaps some veterans with multiple years of control. J.A. Happ remains Toronto's biggest trade chip, but the club also should explore the markets for relievers Seunghwan Oh, John Axford and Tyler Clippard. Versatile infielder Yangervis Solarte could be available, and Curtis Granderson is up for grabs if a contending team is looking for a left-handed bat off the bench.
Toronto's biggest uncertainty is the health of Josh Donaldson and Marco Estrada. Both veterans -- who were expected to be dealt -- now find themselves on the disabled list. With less than two weeks remaining until the Deadline, there's not much time left to recoup value, but if healthy, they could be last-minute additions to this trade watch.
The Yankees have long been considered the front-runner to acquire Happ, but there are a couple of teams in the National League that should not be overlooked. The Phillies are attempting to make some big moves -- they could use some help in the rotation, plus there's familiarity, considering the close proximity of their Minor League complexes. Happ remains beloved in the Philly area, and he likely would welcome a return to the organization that drafted him in 2004.
The Brewers remain another intriguing team to trade with, although some reports suggest they would prefer acquiring someone with multiple years of control. Regardless of where Happ lands, expect the Blue Jays to offer paying at least some of his remaining salary to increase the quality of prospects coming in return.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.