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Blue Jays look to stay intact, but get younger

Shapiro says club will not be major sellers at Trade Deadline
MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- Mark Shapiro has all but officially ruled out the Blue Jays embarking on a full-blown rebuild, but some changes to an aging roster should still be expected in the weeks leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Toronto's president of baseball operations has been making the media rounds in recent weeks to speak out against the rampant speculation that his club will become major sellers at the Deadline. Some deals will be made, but likely not the ones a lot of fans may have been expecting earlier this month.

TORONTO -- Mark Shapiro has all but officially ruled out the Blue Jays embarking on a full-blown rebuild, but some changes to an aging roster should still be expected in the weeks leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Toronto's president of baseball operations has been making the media rounds in recent weeks to speak out against the rampant speculation that his club will become major sellers at the Deadline. Some deals will be made, but likely not the ones a lot of fans may have been expecting earlier this month.

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The Blue Jays don't seem inclined to part ways with Josh Donaldson, who will be a free agent at the end of 2018. The same might be said about lefty J.A. Happ, and the young pitching core of Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman and Roberto Osuna certainly won't be touched.

Instead, Toronto is expected to explore the market for its pending free agents, while possibly looking to add players with multiple years of control. There's a clear desire to get younger and more athletic, but the path won't be easy, and it's not going to happen overnight.

Stroman, Smoak excel in uneven 1st half

Here's a closer look at what to expect from Toronto's front office in the next two weeks leading up the Trade Deadline:

Trade scenario
Happ would be a perfect fit for the Astros, but if the Blue Jays maintain their current stance of not selling off major pieces, the focus will instead center around pending free agents. Joe Smith should garner some attention and would be a nice piece for the Nationals. Deals for Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano are unlikely at the moment because of their struggles, but the market could change in a hurry if they string together a couple of strong outings.

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What are they playing for?
Since this team isn't expected to be torn apart, Toronto technically will be playing to get back into the race. The Blue Jays are five games back of the second Wild Card, but the bigger issue is that eight teams are either tied or ahead of them in the standings for one of those two spots.

The road ahead 
It's not easy. Toronto comes out of the break with a three-game set against Detroit before traveling to Boston for four and then Cleveland for three more. That's followed by winnable series against the A's, Angels and White Sox leading into the Trade Deadline. There are 14 games against the AL East in August and 18 more through the end of the season. For a team that went 15-25 in the division, that could be problematic.

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Key player 
Donaldson's first half is one he would like to forget, with six weeks missed because of a strained calf and a lingering knee issue in June. That seems to be behind him, as he started to turn things around before the All-Star break. Two are other big keys are Estrada and Troy Tulowitzki regaining their previous forms.

Prospects to watch 
This isn't the year Toronto will be calling up a lot of prospects. The next wave is still two years away, but the development of key pieces such as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette will be closely monitored. At the big league level, Anthony Alford should eventually 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.

Toronto Blue Jays