Blue Jays: Why it would be a mistake to become a seller
If the Blue Jays aren’t going to be trade deadline buyers, should they consider selling some of their veteran rentals? To me, that would be a mistake.
As of this writing the Blue Jays have a record of 49-46 and a bit of an uphill climb to put themselves into a playoff position. They’re 9.5 games behind the Red Sox for the AL East division lead, 8.5 behind the Rays for second place, and have even slipped a half game behind the Yankees for third. In the Wild Card standings they’re 4.0 games behind the Oakland A’s for the second spot, and would have to leapfrog the Yankees and Mariners as well to get there.
With all of that in mind, it’s understandable that there is a portion of the fan base that thinks it would be wise to sell some assets before their contracts expire. Marcus Semien was the All-Star starter at second base for the American League, and his one-year deal means that he’ll be back on the free agent market this winter and he is sure to receive several lucrative, multi-year offers. Robbie Ray is also on an expiring deal, and he’s arguably been the ace of the Jays’ staff this year and could very well fetch a decent return if he were traded.
All that said, I’m actually against the idea of the Blue Jays selling much of anything off before the July 30th deadline. First of all, I continue to believe in their chances to close the gap on the A’s in the Wild Card standings, especially since there are still 67 games to be played this season. I’m starting to accept that the division crown is a pipe dream at this point, but since they’re just 4.0 games back in the WC standings, I don’t think it’s time to fold up shop. Not with this much talent on the roster, and a unique window of opportunity.
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Secondly, their most valuable potential trade pieces still hold a lot of value to the Blue Jays even if they fall out of the playoff race. In Semien’s case, the A’s elected not to give him a Qualifying Offer last winter, which means the Blue Jays will have that option before letting him leave in free agency for nothing. Assuming he signs elsewhere, that will give them a compensation pick to play with, so at least he wouldn’t walk and leave the Jays empty handed.
As for Ray, I strongly believe that there will be a legitimate push to re-sign the southpaw to another extension. Things have worked gone very well for the 29 year old since he joined the organization and started working with Pete Walker, and I believe there will be motivation on both sides to come to a new multi-year agreement. If I’m correct, do the Blue Jays really want to let him go and find success in another uniform before they try to get a new commitment from him? In a perfect world they’d be able to have their cake and eat it too, acquiring prospects for Ray now and re-signing him anyway. However, there is a risk involved in letting him taste success elsewhere if the Jays are intend on re-upping with the fireballer.
The third piece of this is related to my first point, in that I still believe in this group to at least compete for a playoff spot for the rest of the season. I honestly think that the Blue Jays will have to ask themselves how much they value that experience for their young stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Alek Manoah, and more, and what kind of message they want to send to their talented core. Just four games back of a playoff spot and 67 left to play, do you really want to tell Vlad Jr. that this is over with more than two months to play? I’m not sure that’s the lesson you want to teach your young All-Stars, or the message you want to send for the future.
After this season the Blue Jays will have four more years of contract control with both Vlad Jr. and Bichette, and while a lot can change in that time, I’m very confident that the front office has already explored the idea of extensions for their young dynamic duo. Who knows if that’s even remotely realistic right now, but it’s something that Ross Atkins and his team need to be mindful of already. Guerrero Jr. is a generational talent, and ideally they’ll be able to give him and Bichette the type of long-term contracts that we’ve seen go to other young stars like Ronald Acuna Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr. (ideally, somewhere in the middle) and more. Settling on a term and value will be a gargantuan task, but just as importantly, selling a commitment to the franchise is a major part of the equation.
For that reason and the others I’ve already listed, I truly believe it would be a mistake for the Blue Jays to become sellers ahead of the July 30th trade deadline. I understand if the front office doesn’t feel justified in spending the prospect capital to become buyers, but personally, I’d rather they rolled with what they’ve got rather than throwing in the towel. There are too many reasons to let it ride.