Jays From the Couch looks at recent comments by Toronto Blue Jays GM, Ross Atkins, and explores the idea of the team ‘adding’ this summer.
The Toronto Blue Jays are in a bit of an odd position as the month of May draws to a close. While there is still lots of season left, no longer can we say “it’s early”. It is about this point of the season that teams will start to ‘know what they have’ as far as their roster goes. The team identity starts to show itself and front offices can better gauge if their team is competitive enough.
At the time of writing, the Blue Jays sit 7 games out of the division lead at 21-26 and 4.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. After 47 games, GM, Ross Atkins, certainly does have an idea where his team stands. Being 7 games out of first place in May is not necessarily terrible. The division has been closer than others around baseball, with no one team running away with things. It is for that reason that the Blue Jays very well could see themselves as having a chance to compete this season, thus not ready to throw in the towel.
Recently, Atkins said that his team is focused on adding and winning, which gives you an indication of how he views his team’s chances with 4 months of this season remaining and roughly two before the July 31st Trade Deadline.
It would be foolish for a general manager to come out after a third of the season and say that his team doesn’t stand a chance; that he is entering ‘sell mode’. This is especially true in Toronto. So much has been made of ticket sales being impacted by the success of the team. Fans will continue to spend their money if they see the club making every effort to repeat the euphoric postseason moments of the last 2 seasons. So, telling the fan base that the season will be about selling off stars in favor of prospect talent is not something that is good for business in Toronto…not in 2017. So, we have to acknowledge that there is some element of Atkins giving the people what they want to hear.
There are a couple of ideas that would add air to the balloon he’s floating. Firstly, the team is only 5 games under .500 having had an obscene number of key players hit the disabled list. Lengthy injuries to Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ and Francisco Liriano would be enough to dramatically impede a team’s success. And, yet, Toronto is within striking distance of a playoff spot. Despite the negative Nelly comments, the reality is that the Blue Jays have managed to stay somewhat afloat with a roster that resembles that of a Spring Training travel day. Having key players return can only improve the club’s fortunes.
Atkins may also take solace in the fact that in each of the last two seasons, the Blue Jays started their seasons off poorly and still managed to make it to Game 6 of the ALCS. A poor start this season doesn’t necessarily doom their playoff chances. Some will say that the team will have to play at a ‘X number of win pace’ to make the playoffs and they cannot expect to go on major winning streaks, etc. All of that is true, but being this close and getting the boost of big players certainly makes it more possible. And, a front office will cling to what is possible, especially when ticket sales, etc are at stake.
In the past, it has been said that simply getting star players back from injury is like a mid-season deal, one that doesn’t cost you a thing. That tired take coming true is not enough to satisfy fans in Toronto. Simply seeing Donaldson, Tulo et al back to health is not enough for fans because that is the way the team is supposed to look. No, a real deadline move will have to more closely resemble 2015. That is not to say that Toronto will have to sell off its farm team. Simply, it doesn’t have to. With a healthy roster this summer, the need will look different.
If we assume that all of the injured players make their way back to being effective by mid July, which looks to be possible, then a Trade Deadline acquisition will simply be a piece that sets the club up for a late summer run, augments the roster, or puts them over the top. Without getting into the Trade Deadline speculation this early in the season (there will be plenty of time for that) we can take a guess at what the club might need.
IF the entire rotation is back and healthy, then starting pitching may not be at the top of their shopping list. Bullpen help is always an interesting area. Perhaps there is a big bat for a corner outfield spot out there come July.
Either way it goes, fans can take solace in a club that is very much thinking about how to improve, not just for the future, but for right now. They feel as though they can win now and are in a position to still do that. The cynics will say that the comments about ‘adding’ are naive, at best, and deceptive, at worst. However, removing the two months of frustration that has built up, it is logical to assume the Blue Jays very much are in a position to, at the very least, take a run at one of the Wild Card spots. And, making the playoffs is the goal. After that, anything can happen.
*Featured Image Credit: Arturo Pardavila III UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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