AL Contenders Bolster Rosters, Will The Blue Jays Respond?
The landscape in the American League Wild Card race drastically changed on Wednesday as a pair of blockbuster trades were pulled off by two teams battling with the Jays for the final play-in spot.
The Oakland Athletics parted ways with their previous top prospect Jesus Luzardo to acquire the services of former All-Star centre fielder Starling Marte. Later in the evening, the Yankees sent a haul of prospects to Texas, and landed one of the premier power hitters in all of baseball, in the form of Joey Gallo.
General Manager Ross Atkins and the Blue Jays were already faced with an uphill battle towards claiming the fifth and final playoff spot. As of Thursday morning, the club is 4.5 games behind the aforementioned A’s, and will have to leapfrog the Mariners and Yankees if they hope to catch Oakland and secure their first playoff birth since 2016. The acquisitions of Marte and Gallo are going to make what was already a difficult task even more challenging.
Oakland was already a well rounded team. Adding Marte to the top of their order, and into an outfield that already includes a pair of plus defenders in Ramon Laureano and Mark Canha may be enough to put them over the top, with the ability to compete alongside other top teams in the American League.
Gallo is having a career year, where he has slugged 25 home runs en route to making his first All-Star team. The Nevada native will be a huge boost to an offenxe that has posted an ugly .397 slugging percentage through the first four months of the season, and may be the spark the Yankees need to turn around what has been an underwhelming year to say the least.
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There’s no debating that A’s and Yankees got significantly better yesterday. If Atkins is serious about this current group and truly feels that they are a playoff caliber team, then the veteran GM may have to go a little bit outside of his comfort zone and counter with a major move of his own. There’s still more than a day until the deadline and the trade block is currently littered with plenty of talented names that could fit some of the Blue Jays needs such as Kris Bryant, Craig Kimbrel and Jose Berrios.
The Jays are still a quality team, despite their recent struggles, and possess one of the premier offences in all of baseball. With the addition of one or two key pieces, this team has a chance to not only clinch a playoff spot, but make some serious noise in October.
Atkins will just have to decide how committed he is to this group, and if he is willing to part ways with some of his prospect capital in order to surpass other contending teams in the American League.