Blue Jays' division rival's early July trade suggests their own sell-off is coming

Tampa Bay Rays v Pittsburgh Pirates
Tampa Bay Rays v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin Berl/GettyImages
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This year's Toronto Blue Jays have certainly been an underwhelming team, easily one of the most underperforming clubs in all of baseball. They're 39-46 and 15 games out of first in the AL East and 4 games behind the next team in the standings: the Rays.

The Rays are 43-42 and 11 games behind the Orioles in the division. They, like the Blue Jays, have been underwhelming. Each team has many moveable assets at this year's trade deadline but up until Wednesday morning, neither had budged much when it came to moving pieces around.

That is, until the Rays lined up on a one-for-one swap with the Brewers. Starting pitcher Aaron Civale is heading to Milwaukee in exchange for a middle infield prospect. Civale, 29, is a controllable veteran who has been a solid innings-eater in years past, even if the numbers haven't quite been there in 2024. In 17 starts, he's got a 5.07 ERA and 78 ERA+ across 87 innings of work.

This begs the question, though: are the Rays ready to start flipping pieces? Their waving of the white flag could allow the Jays to leapfrog them in the standings, but might not be of much more help than that - at least immediately.

With the Blue Jays seeming to be ready to make one more run with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette before their own trips to free agency, a Rays sell-off this year could take them out of contention for next year as well, which would bode well for the 2025 Jays.

Tampa Bay has a plethora of moveable pieces that would be worth a ton on the trade market. Utilityman extraordinaire Amed Rosario is a pending free agent, while starters Zach Eflin and Zack Littell are both under control through next season as well, similarly to Civale.

Beyond them, Randy Arozarena, Yandy Diaz and Isaac Paredes are all under control for multiple years now and are right in the middle of their respective primes. The Rays haven't historically been a team to do a complete teardown, but moving their pieces now would guarantee significant returns at the deadline. The higher value their players have, the more they'll get back. We all know that the front office over in Tampa Bay is one of the smarter ones in the league, so a sell-off wouldn't take them out of the AL East picture for more than a year or two anyway.

Should the Rays start flipping players, the Blue Jays should be given a temporary advantage over them in the standings. That is, unless they start a sell-off of their own.