While there are reports that the Blue Jays still plan on trading veterans like Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, winning can change plans in a real hurry.
The Blue Jays climbed their way back to .500 with a series sweep of the Oakland A’s, bringing their season record to 14-14. It could be the high point of their season, but the way this team is playing they are starting to make new believers every day.
It’s no secret that the Jays are in a rebuilding year, and a lot of the decisions the front office has made is a direct reflection of that philosophy. They made offseason trades to create playing time for emerging youngsters, and refrained from jumping too deep into the free agent pool. While they did make several notable moves, they didn’t strip things down to the bone, as some people expected they might.
According to a report from Ken Rosenthal yesterday though, it sounds like he’s hearing that the front office still plans on making more deals from their veteran core, which could include guys like Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, and Justin Smoak, who are all having a good start to the 2019 campaign. The front office has to be thrilled that all of them are healthy and performing near or at their best, which can only enhance their trade value on the market this summer.
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Where things get interesting is the way that free agency has changed in the last few months, mostly because of all of the notable extensions that have been signed in favour of testing the free agent market. There are too many to list, but guys like Mike Trout, Chris Sale, Paul Goldschmidt, Ronald Acuna Jr., and many, many more have re-upped at home, which will drastically change the market in years to come.
As far as the Blue Jays are directly concerned, they extended Randal Grichuk‘s contract, but otherwise they’ve got a pretty blank canvas for their future commitments. It was a situation that allowed the front office to build the roster through their talented minor league system and supplement it later on when they were ready to compete, but this team is making things a lot more interesting than anyone expected. I’m not saying that they’re going to compete this year for certain or anything, but it doesn’t seem as laughable as it did a month ago, especially if they can get as close to fully healthy as possible.
Even if the 2019 season is still a write off, one has to wonder if the Blue Jays shouldn’t be looking at the 2020 season through a different lens. At one point I’m sure they assumed it would be simply “Year Two” of the rebuild, but right now this young roster is showing a lot of promise, and that they may be ready to compete a lot sooner than most of us expected. When you add in that the AL East is far more vulnerable than expected, both now and in the the short term future, and I don’t know that Ross Atkins can necessarily make a hard commitment to a long-game rebuild.
The pace will be dictated by this roster, and if they keep up the type place they’ve had over their last dozen games or so, it’s going to be pretty hard to break up the band. If we’re talking about Stroman and Sanchez in particular, each has one more year of arbitration eligibility before they hit free agency, and the former in particular has expressed a lot of interest in being extended. I’m not sure if Sanchez would consider the same, but the free agent market has certainly changed, and not for the better of the player.
I caught a portion of yesterday’s “Tim & Sid”, and those two were discussing this very topic as well. They made a valid point that the city and even ownership wouldn’t necessarily want to give up on a team that’s competing this year either, so if the Blue Jays find themselves in a realistic race for the Wild Card in July it could be a tough sell for Atkins, even if he’s committed to the plan on continuing to sell off what’s left of the last playoff team in Toronto.
Whatever route that Aktins and Mark Shapiro decide to take, they’re in an enviable position right now as they build around a talented core of minor leaguers that ranks among the game’s best. We’re already seeing the first talented wave, and it appears the future is bright in Toronto. In fact, it might even be looking pretty good before any of us even expected, and that could, and maybe should change the plans a little.