The Blue Jays made one significant upgrade through the trade market, and according to the latest from Ross Atkins, it sounds like they’re not done looking for help.
After a few years of watching them sell assets at the trade deadline, it’s sure nice to see the Blue Jays as buyers again.
On Wednesday they made the somewhat surprising addition of Taijuan Walker to the rotation, who arrived in a trade with the Mariners for a player to be named later. I only say that the trade is a surprise because typically Ross Atkins and the front office aren’t interested in “rental” players, but the 2020 campaign is anything from typical.
Since the post-season structure has changed to eight teams coming from each league instead of the usual five, the Blue Jays find themselves in the surprising position of holding down the eighth and final spot. What’s more, with the way the AL standings are starting to shape up, they may not have that many challengers to fend off. As of now they have a 1.5 game lead over the Orioles, and they’re 2.0 ahead of the Tigers. Beyond those two, it’s hard to see any of the Mariners, Rangers, Royals, Angels, or Red Sox turning things around in the 2nd, but obviously stranger things have happened.
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With all of that in mind, suddenly the Blue Jays find themselves in a position where they’d almost be foolish not to pursue a playoff spot, for a variety of reasons. And according to what Atkins told the media on a call on Thursday, it sounds like they’ll be pushing hard to further improve the roster before Monday’s deadline.
Walker will definitely help by raising the performance floor of the rotation, but he also brings some much needed depth. That’s especially important with Nate Pearson and Matt Shoemaker on the Injured List, and with Trent Thornton having been lost for the remainder of the season. It shouldn’t be a huge surprise that it sounds like pitching will still be the central area of focus.
Atkins also alluded to the fact that the Blue Jays have a much-improved farm system these days, which now ranks as the 4th best in baseball according to Baseball America. Atkins called that a “game-changer”, and I can imagine that would be the case. I’m certain there are plenty of prospects that are off limits, but I’m sure he’s been asked about the likes of Alek Manoah, Gabriel Moreno, Alejandro Kirk, Simeon Woods Richardson, maybe even Austin Martin, and likely several more premium young players. The Blue Jays have quite the treasure trove these days, and Atkins mentioned that it means they can “be in on every player”.
It’s hard to say what that means exactly. Before they landed Walker I wouldn’t have predicted the Blue Jays would trade for a player with a expiring contract, but that’s obviously not a limitation they’re going to run with. That could open up a lot of possibilities, and if the price is right, who knows what could happen over the next few days. All I know for sure is that it’s fun to see this team winning again, and legitimately looking to push for more.