As we hit the final hours before the trade deadline, the Blue Jays front office really needs to consider the value of another playoff experience for this talented young core.
Youngsters like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and more got their first taste of postseason baseball in 2020, and unfortunately it was a very brief appearance. The Jays were knocked out in the best of three Wild Card round when they lost two straight against the Tampa Bay Rays, who eventually went on to lose in the World Series to the Dodgers. That said, even if it was a short-lived experience, it was an important step in the development of this new Blue Jays core.
On that note, I believe that there’s great value in making it back to the playoffs in 2021, and that pulling off another trade or two before today’s deadline would make a lot of sense. I’m not advocating for paying a gigantic prospect price for a rental player so much, but I do think there are opportunities where even that could make sense, such as Thursday’s acquisition of Brad Hand in exchange for Riley Adams.
For starters, you don’t put together a team like this every year, and even if the Blue Jays have some pretty obvious weaknesses, there are some legitimate strengths as well. Their lineup is as deep and dangerous as pretty much anyone in baseball, they have a solid one-two punch at the top of their rotation between Hyun Jin Ryu and Robbie Ray, and their bullpen is a lot better than it was a month ago. I’m not saying I’m ready to put money on them winning a World Series if they were to qualify for the postseason, but as the Montreal Canadians of the NHL just showed us last month, sometimes you can do the unexpected and get hot at the right time.
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More importantly, I’ve been thinking about the timing of this season, and what it means to both the roster and the fan base. After nearly two years since we’ve been able to host a big league baseball game in Canada, the Blue Jays are finally returning home on Friday. Even President and CEO Mark Shapiro admitted that there was a special kind of potential for this season because of those elements, and it would be hard to resist the temptation to push for a playoff race in August and September for this franchise now that they’re able to return to their true home ball park.
Arguably more significant than that, I want the Blue Jays to show this talented young group the kind of commitment they have to winning. More specifically, I’d love to see the kind of behaviour that would convince Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette to sign long-term deals to stay in Toronto.
Each of them are still under club control for four more seasons after this one, so it’s not as if it’s a pressing issue that they have to address right away. However, we’ve seen many of the upcoming stars of the next generation already sign long-term deals with their respective clubs, such as Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies in Atlanta, Fernando Tatis Jr. in San Diego, and even the White Sox with Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. Other than in Tatis Jr’s case, there’s a great chance that the teams will end up getting a bargain over time because of the early commitment, and the Jays would be wise to try and do the same with their own dynamic duo.
I feel like a bit of a broken record by saying this here at Jays Journal and also on social media, but I believe that’s a crucial and underrated part of what Ross Atkins and his team have to consider over the next few hours. I’m very glad that they chose not to become sellers, and I argued a few days ago that selling off veterans would be a big mistake for many of the same reasons. Now that they’ve brought in Brad Hand to bolster the bullpen and agreed to pay his salary in the process, it’s clear that they’re hoping to get at least marginally better before the deadline passes.
My hope is that they’re not done there either, and that the Blue Jays sincerely have designs on making it back to the playoffs. It’s an important step in becoming the champions that they’d eventually like to be, and a transition into a culture where it’s no longer acceptable to be on the outside looking in once the playoffs roll around. For those reasons and more, here’s hoping for some extra roster excitement as the Blue Jays make their long-awaited return to Toronto on Friday night.