TORONTO -- The Blue Jays aren't going to take the world by storm at this year's Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline, like they did in 2015, but that doesn't mean they'll stick with the status quo either.Toronto does not require a major overhaul like it did last July when the
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays aren't going to take the world by storm at this year's Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline, like they did in 2015, but that doesn't mean they'll stick with the status quo either.
Toronto does not require a major overhaul like it did last July when the club acquired Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, Ben Revere, Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins in a series of deals. But some tinkering is needed, and some holes need to be filled.
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The Blue Jays entered the All-Star break a season-high 11 games over .500. Toronto trails Baltimore by just two games for first place in the American League East, and it reached the halfway mark of the season with more than 50 wins for the first time since 1992. Things are going well, but there is still work to be done.
"I would say we're certainly in a better position now than we have been in the past," said Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey. "The thing that is so encouraging to me -- [Jose] Bautista's not with us ... so the streak that we're in right now, and the way that we've been playing doesn't feel flukish.
"It feels like this could be a sustained thing for this team, and that's something that sometimes has felt a little bit different from the past teams when I've been here in Toronto. ... It has just been a matter of time for it all to click in unison, and I think that's what you are seeing."
General manager Ross Atkins will have to address some of the pitching concerns his club faces down the stretch. Toronto needs at least one reliever, and it must come up with a plan if Aaron Sanchez is eventually moved out of his starting role.
The good news is that the Blue Jays should have some money available at the Deadline. They made a run at outfielder Jay Bruce during Spring Training, they inquired about the late signing of free-agent right-hander Alfredo Simon, and there was no hesitation to sign lefty Franklin Morales to a $2 million deal late in camp. That proves there were some dollars to spend.
This club doesn't need a star, it needs additional role players who can come in and provide the Blue Jays with a more well-rounded roster.
From the left side, Minnesota's Fernando Abad and Colorado's Jake McGee make sense. McGee has struggled this year, and he recently came off the disabled list, but if he's healthy, the 29-year-old is proven in the AL East. From the right side, Milwaukee closer -- and former Blue Jay -- Jeremy Jeffress fits the mold of a useful piece, and he should be available from a rebuilding Brewers franchise.
There has been a lot of talk about the Blue Jays also adding a starting pitcher. If the club decides Sanchez is going to the bullpen, Oakland's Rich Hill and Minnesota's Ervin Santana could be possibilities. Hill's price tag could soar heading toward the Deadline, but the Twins would love to unload the more than $30 million in guaranteed money remaining on his deal through 2018. However, it would be surprising if Toronto does anything major here.
Lastly, the rumors of Toronto's interest in Bruce won't disappear, and the club also has been linked to outfielder Josh Reddick. The only way the Blue Jays could add either of them is if they fully commit to using José Bautista as a full-time DH upon his return the lineup. That might not sit too well with the pending free agent, who still has a strong desire to play the field when healthy.
WHAT ARE THEY PLAYING FOR?
The first priority for the Blue Jays is to get back to the postseason, but in reality, it's World Series or bust. Toronto has eight players who will be eligible for free agency at the end of the season, and no one knows what this club will look like 12 months from now. The window of opportunity to win is now, and after being eliminated by Kansas City in last year's AL Championship Series, anything but a step forward would be a disappointment.
THE ROAD AHEAD
Toronto has 71 games remaining this season, with 34 against the AL East, nine against the AL Central, 23 vs. the AL West and five in Interleague Play. Expect the race for the division to come down to the final month, when the Blue Jays wrap up their season with 22 of their last 29 games against division rivals. Toronto's final three series of the year are against Baltimore, New York and Boston, so the division crown could go right down to the wire.
Sanchez is by far the biggest wild card on the roster. He had to compete for a job in the rotation during Spring Training, and he turned that into a spot in the All-Star Game. Toronto manager John Gibbons has maintained all year Sanchez will eventually go to the bullpen because of an unofficial innings limit, but can the club really afford to do that if he's pitching this well?
Sanchez's status will determine what Toronto does at the Deadline. If he needs to be replaced in the rotation, the Blue Jays need to acquire some starting depth. If Sanchez remains a starter, then Toronto needs to trade for a reliable setup man to bridge the gap to closer Roberto Osuna.
PROSPECTS TO WATCH
Outside of outfielder Dalton Pompey rejoining the club once again as a September callup, the Blue Jays do not have any notable prospects who are guaranteed to make the jump later this season. Most of the club's top prospects are in the lower levels of the Minor Leagues, but one name to keep an eye on is right-hander Conner Greene.
The 21-year-old started the year strong with Class A Dunedin, but he has struggled since being promoted to Double-A New Hampshire. If Greene bounces back, there's an outside chance he could contribute. Greene is raw, but he has an overpowering fastball, and he could be useful in short stints.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.