This story was excerpted from Keegan Matheson’s Blue Jays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.
Welcome to the Trade Deadline frenzy.
It’s the time when winning teams push all-in, losing teams load up for next season and the blue checkmarks matter.
The Blue Jays are buyers, plain and simple. Beyond the obvious opportunity in 2022, the Blue Jays have a multi-year window thanks to an overlap between their young core and their recent big-name additions. There’s a rarity to this opportunity, so this is a time for the Blue Jays to move boldly.
Pitching remains the Blue Jays’ biggest need, beginning with back-end bullpen arms and potentially a depth starter to shore up the back end of the rotation. There’s room to diversify the position player group, too, which could come in the form of bench depth, but a club with financial flexibility, a strong enough farm system and motivation to move can go in any direction.
Here are five questions facing the Blue Jays ahead of the Deadline on Tuesday, Aug. 2:
When will the magic happen?
Last season, the Blue Jays got out in front of their bullpen issues, dealing for Adam Cimber and Trevor Richards a month early. That’s clearly not the case this summer.
GM Ross Atkins says: “Every year, it seems that when there’s a week to go, prices feel very high. Things tend to work towards the Deadline. There seems to be a better understanding on both sides of where those thresholds are, where people will make a decision. Right now, in order to move quickly, you’re probably going to pay a premium.”
Is there a way to improve the lineup?
Entering play Thursday, the Blue Jays ranked third in MLB in runs scored (479) and OPS (.772). It’s unlikely a starter is added, but there’s room to give John Schneider some more bench options.
Atkins says: “Our offense really has performed well for the bulk of the year. We got off to a slow start, but we’re in a good position right now. When you look at the run-scoring side and how we can improve that, there are ways to do that, but it’s becoming more and more difficult. Making incremental improvements even to our position-player roster isn’t the easiest thing to do.”
Where does the rotation rank among the Blue Jays’ priorities?
It’s up there, but with Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman rolling, plus the club’s belief in José Berríos returning to his old form, there’s no sense of panic.
Atkins says: “We have to always think about ways to provide depth. Could that be at the Major League level or in Triple-A? Obviously, we’re also always thinking about how we can do that internally. I feel like we’re at a good starting point on that front, but it doesn’t mean we’re not open to acquiring a starter.”
What will the Blue Jays target in their bullpen?
The Blue Jays have long seemed to lack the 100-mph arms you see popping up in other bullpens, but Atkins is quick to point out that hitters have adjusted to velocity.
Atkins says: “It’s not just about power. Swing and miss is definitely effective. I think that would be the one area where, if we could add more swing and miss, that would be a positive. Right-handed or left-handed is really going to depend on other things we do.”
How do internal bullpen candidates impact these plans?
Yosver Zulueta, Nate Pearson, Julian Merryweather, Adrian Hernandez and others could be part of the solution, of course, but the Blue Jays can’t wait and hope for one of them to be the savior.
Atkins says: “There are some other guys in our system that we’re thinking about as potential options. I’d rather not name them and increase the pressure on certain individuals, but we do feel pretty good about some depth options that we have throughout our system. We think about how we can support them, how we can put them in the best possible position to provide depth for us.”