Blue Jays hedge their bets with season-ticket holders ahead of the trade deadline

“Barring a complete collapse, they won't begin to signal their intentions until after the All-Star break ends July 18.”
Minnesota Twins v Toronto Blue Jays
Minnesota Twins v Toronto Blue Jays / Dave Sandford/GettyImages

In a shift from previous years, and in what might be perceived by some as a crass business decision, the Toronto Blue Jays have already emailed out renewal notices for 2025 to their current season-ticket holders. Normally the first payments for the following season are due in late August or September, but they’re now asking for payment by July 22, over a week before the July 30 trade deadline.

As Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet noted, “[the] Jays still hope to be buyers this year & aim to compete in 2025 regardless of where ‘24 leads. But it is a shift from previous years.” According to one season-ticket holder on X, “You get charged *automatically* July 22. To avoid this, you are required to opt out in advance by submitting a form and must also "confirm" your decision with a service executive (as if the form isn't confirmation enough!). Jays are making it difficult.”

In fact, season-ticket holders are being asked to commit to purchasing 2025 tickets by June 20, in less than a week, and then make that first payment a full eight days before the trade deadline.

To cynics, this might be viewed as an attempt to “lock in” season-ticket holders for the 2025 season, before fans know which direction the team is headed at the trade deadline. They’ll either be buyers and look to add players for a postseason push, they’ll stand pat with the current roster, or they’ll be sellers and trade their pending free agents, including Yusei Kikuchi, Danny Jansen, Kevin Kiermaier, Justin Turner, Yimi García and Trevor Richards.

None of those players are likely to receive a qualifying offer from Toronto after this season, so they could all walk in November without compensation. Trading them now might at least bring back some return, even if it was lower level prospects to help bolster the ‘bare cupboards’ farm system.

Will the Blue Jays be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?

As Bradford Doolittle of ESPN wrote in his piece on ‘What all 30 MLB teams must do before the trade deadline’, the Blue Jays are sitting on the fence at the moment: “[They] have the best defensive outfield in baseball. The collective batting average from that group (.203) is easily baseball's worst and, no, they don't make up for that in the other slash categories… Either Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Bo Bichette lead some kind of offensive surge over the next few weeks, or it feels like some kind of shakeup needs to happen with this group.”

As Jeff Passan of ESPN wrote recently in his early 2024 trade deadline preview, Toronto is a “hinge’ team: “The Blue Jays could turn an OK deadline into a blockbuster if they wave the white flag. For now, though, this much is clear, according to sources: Barring a complete collapse, they won't begin to signal their intentions until after the All-Star break ends July 18.”

As Passan notes, “Yes, GM Ross Atkins said 'it just doesn't make any sense' to trade [Guerrero or Bichette], which sounded a lot like June 1, 2022, when [Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo] said: "We are not trading Juan Soto." They traded him, of course, because circumstances evolve.”

We’ll have a much better sense on the evolution of this team by Canada Day of course, as they play their next 13 games against .500 or better teams, including the AL Central leading Cleveland Guardians, the Boston Red Sox, and the first place New York Yankees.

Is this a playoff team?

At present the Blue Jays are only three games below .500, and sit only 4.5 games back of the final Wild Card seed. However, with the worst run differential (-37) among the top seven teams vying for a Wild Card, and the fact that they’re already 12.0 games back of the Orioles for the best Wild Card record and home field advantage for the entire wild card series, are they pretenders?

Even if they earn the final Wild Card, they’d be playing the division winner with the 3rd best record (currently Seattle), or they’d play the team with the best record for a Wild Card team (currently Baltimore) if they earned the second Wild Card. We all remember what happened at home versus the Mariners in 2022 when Toronto was the top seed, and last year against the AL Central champion Minnesota Twins when they were the third and final seed.

We also know this is a flawed and mediocre team, with poor run scoring ability. They rank 26th in MLB on runs scored, 27th on home runs, and 22nd on OPS at .671. With runners in scoring position (RISP), that OPS ranking falls to 25th at .682.

Combined with a pitching staff that ranks 19th in baseball with a 4.09 ERA and 27th in FIP at 4.33, there’s good reason why their expected win/loss record is only 30-39 based on their Pythagorean winning percentage using a formula developed by famous baseball statistician Bill James. On that measure, this team has been lucky to win 33 games.

But waving the white flag on the current core of this roster and trading away one (or both) of your two most marketable players in Vlad and Bo might not sit well with season-ticket holders, especially those who’ve committed and just made their first payment for tickets next season by July 22?

Remember that like all of the pending free agents this year, Guerrero, Bichette, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Chris Bassitt, Jordan Romano, Chad Green, Erik Swanson, Génesis Cabrera and Tim Mayza can all walk away after the 2025 season as free agents. That’s over half the current 26-man roster potentially gone 1.5 years from now. So for the front office to be hedging their bets with season ticket holders on the 2025 season so early this year before the trade deadline seems… disingenuous.