By Cole Parkinson
John Tavares is a Toronto Maple Leaf and Kawhi Leonard is a Toronto Raptor.
I guess it’s time to complete the trifecta of the big three sports teams in Toronto (sorry FC and Argos fans).
The biggest difference between the two mentioned teams and the Toronto Blue Jays is — the Jays are awful.
The acquisitions of Leonard and Tavares elevates both teams, which were very good to begin with, but the Blue Jays are heading towards a necessary rebuild and with the non-waiver deadline coming at the end of the month, they have quite a few roads to head down.
The problem there though, is their biggest trade chips are either struggling on the field or in Josh Donaldson’s case, not even on the field.
Let’s start with JD, who hasn’t played a Major League game since May 28, who heading into the season was easily considered the biggest and best trade chip the Blue Jays had.
After last year’s second half where JD was really, really good, fans were hoping the team would start to shop him in the offseason but alas the Blue Jays held on to him.
I’ll admit, I was completely fine with holding on to him for the beginning of the season, mainly because he’s been the best Blue Jays player for the past several years and with JD heading into his free agent year, I figured he would be MVP calibre but that hasn’t even been close to what has happened.
That being said, with how his season has progressed so far this year, it’s hard to see any deal making sense for the Blue Jays because there is not much point in selling low on Donaldson when you can get a draft pick if he signs elsewhere in the offseason, if the Blue Jays qualify him an offer.
This may lead to JD finishing the season with the Blue Jays and heading into free agency after the year is finally finished.
From there, it’s hard to see what may happen as they are certainly going to qualify him and then he will have a choice of sticking with Toronto or hoping he gets a better offer elsewhere.
Of course, they can trade him in August as well, so the Jays management staff still has a few options heading into the final half of the season.
A final note on JD, if he does end up re-signing with the Blue Jays at the end of the season, it may create some problems with that one guy in the minor leagues named Vlad Guerrero Jr.
Donaldson would no doubt become the defacto DH while Vlad gets the majority of playing time at the hot corner, though I doubt that’s ideal for both Donaldson and Jays management.
The most talked about Jay has been JA Happ (see what I did there?) who has struggled mightily in his last few starts.
The New York Yankees have been linked to Happ for the past several weeks and it sounds like the asking price from the Jays has been too high.
I think that’s good news if you are a Blue Jays fan because if they trade within the division, you better make sure the other team pays a top price for whoever they are acquiring.
With Happ’s recent struggles though, you’d have to think some teams are a little more hesitant to give up top prospects, especially since he is a rental.
With the AL playoff spots all but locked up (other than the final wildcard spot), there aren’t a lot of options but the NL is still competitive so the Jays may get more interesting offers.
The Chicago Cubs are another team reported to be looking at Happ as a middle of the rotation pitcher, though from the Jays perspective, the Cubs farm system is a lot more barren than the Yankees.
The trade deadline is never cut and dry though, so there is a good possibility someone else comes forward looking to pick up the big lefty.
Of all the players the Jays have on the block, I would be absolutely shocked if they didn’t trade him.
I also think it’s highly unlikely they don’t trade at least one bullpen arm with one of Seung-Hwan Oh, Tyler Clippard or John Axford being prime candidates for back of the bullpen help.
All three were signed in the offseason and have proven to be effective in their roles at the back of the Blue Jays bullpen with each of them getting opportunities to close with Roberto Osuna suspended.
Speaking of Osuna, I think the Jays would have explored a trade for him as well considering teams are always looking for proven closers but with his current situation, I don’t see it happening.
As a young player, the situation he has found himself in may potentially prove to be disastrous, though he has pleaded not guilty and the trial has yet to sentence a verdict.
He’s currently on a rehab assignment in Single A Dunedin and will be available to join the Jays on August 5.
On the position player front, there haven’t been too much media rumblings of activity yet.
With a below average Jays team though, there aren’t many available studs in their rotation that teams would be willing to give up a whole lot for.
Justin Smoak and Kevin Pillar may draw some interest, though Pillar is on the DL for four to six weeks, I don’t think the management staff would really consider it unless the offer blew them away.
Curtis Granderson and Yangervis Solarte could be prime candidates for a move though as both have seen some success in Blue Jays uniforms.
Granderson, who has seen the majority of his playing time when a righty is on the mound, is hitting
.230 with an OBP of .337 and nine home runs.
Against righties, he has an average of .243 so any team wanting to potentially add him, will more than likely have to use him much the same as John Gibbons has.
Solarte may provide an interesting look for playoff contending teams as he plays defence fairly well and is a switch hitter.
With Donaldson on the DL, Solarte has made the majority of starts at third base which has led to 63 games started at third and his fielding percentage at the hot corner is .963 with six errors.
At the plate, he has been a good surprise as he’s slashing a .239 average, .294 OBP and .423 slugging percentage along with 17 home runs and 52 RBI.
He may be an intriguing option off the bench or fill-in third basemen in case of injuries.
Kendrys Morales has turned his season around and may be looked at as a DH or power bat off the bench, though his remaining salary may scare some teams off.
Either way, I believe the Jays will be a busy team at this year’s July trade deadline which is good because it’s time to build for the future and get some future assets.
With a well-stocked farm system, the Jays should be able to rebuild fairly quickly but this deadline will be imperative to pick up those pieces.
The good news is they already have two of the highest ranking prospects in their system in Vlad Jr. and Bo Bichette, the hard part comes with finding quality prospects that will find their way to Toronto.
As tough as this season is, there is plenty to look forward to with the Blue Jays.