The Blue Jays had a nice winning streak going, but now have dropped four of their last five. With one last game before the break, we still don’t know the path this front office is going to take.
Saturday’s loss to Tampa Bay dropped them to 9.0 games back of the AL East division lead, and unfortunately they’ve returned to 4th place in the division now that the Yankees have won five of their last six. At 44-42 things look a little better in the Wild Card race where they’re just 4.5 games back of the 2nd spot, but the Jays are also sitting 6th on that leaderboard behind behind the Rays, A’s, Mariners, Yankees, and Cleveland.
On one hand, the Blue Jays have plenty of reason to still believe in the 2021 campaign. They have a ridiculously talented offence that ranks among the best in the game, and the rotation has been a pleasant surprise. You also have to look no further than the 2015 Blue Jays playoff team to see how it can happen, as they had the same 44-42 record after 86 games that year. In a lot of ways, it feels like this roster is a few solid pitchers away from becoming a real playoff threat, particularly in the back half of the bullpen.
Having said that, I also understand the naysayers that are starting to call for the Blue Jays to become sellers. If that happens it’s not going to take place until the end of July, as I’m confident that the front office will want to give this group every chance to put themselves in a better position before giving up on the season. If the Jays ended up deciding to sell, they could have some very intriguing rental pieces to put on the market, such as Marcus Semien, Robbie Ray, and more.
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The most important factor in deciding their path forward will be how the team performs immediately after the All-Star break. The Jays will have three games with the Rangers coming out of the break, followed by seven games with the Red Sox that are split up by a trip to New York to play the Mets. They’ll be in the midst of a 3-game series with the Royals when the trade deadline comes and goes, so they don’t have an easy schedule for the rest of July by any means.
It’ll be a shame if the Blue Jays can’t take advantage of this talented roster, especially with guys like Semien and Ray on expiring deals. Ideally the front office will be able to add those needed pieces to put them over the top, but it’s understandable if they want to see more proof before they spend significant prospect capital. To Atkins’ credit, the Blue Jays have managed to find some upgrades for the bullpen in the form of Adam Cimber and Trevor Richards, and the price was pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. In a lot of ways it’s a half-step toward what the roster ultimately needs, but without making a major commitment that hurts the organization long term.
While Sunday’s game isn’t necessarily a make or break it point for the Blue Jays, I think it’ll send an important message to the front office before they head into the break. Another loss means a three-game sweep at the hands of a team the Jays can’t afford to lose ground on right now, A win might prove that there’s still plenty of reason to believe in this team yet, and could help define the path for the second half. Right now, things are still very much up in the air.