MLB Trade Rumor Buy or Sell: Blue Jays firesale coming unless things turn around
Is a rebuild on the way in Toronto if the Blue Jays continue to struggle?
While I'm sure that Cardinals, Giants, Rangers and probably Indians fans would like a word, no team in baseball has been as disappointing thus far than the 2017 Toronto Blue Jays. After two straight trips to the ALCS, the Jays are out to an awful 2-10 start. While there's youth in some areas, it's overall a relatively old team. As such, if the team continues to perform this poorly, you can bet the trade rumor mill will be churning come June or July when it comes to some of the big-name veterans.
And, actually, it's started already. ESPN.com's Buster Olney reports that "rival evaluators" believe the Blue Jays "could focus on a rebuild" if their play doesn't dramatically improve.
So there's some wording in there to leave an out and nothing came directly from the Blue Jays' end, but there's some substance.
Are we buying or selling this thing? Let's take a look.
First off, if a team wants to rebuild, the players to be traded need to have value and it generally helps if they are close to free agency -- unless they are a superstar, then the contract doesn't matter. Veterans should go but younger players with talent (Roberto Osuna!) should be held. The Blue Jays have a lot of players that fit the definition of trade bait here.
Russell Martin might be unmovable, though. He's a 34-year-old catcher off to a second straight terrible start at the plate and there are two years and $40 million left on his deal after this season.
Troy Tulowitzki has three years and $54 million left after this year. He's 32, but he's still productive. The Jays could find several suitors here, especially if they ate some of the money.
Jose Bautista is on a one-year deal, but he's off to a poor start and would need to pick it up for the Blue Jays to get full value in return.
The pitching staff could be gutted. Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano are both 33 and hit free agency after this season. J.A. Happ is 34 and only signed through next season ($13M for 2018). Relievers like Jason Grilli, Joe Smith, Aaron Loup and J.P. Howell all make sense as trade bait to varying degrees, too.
Perennial MVP candidate Josh Donaldson could be the big prize here, though. He's only under team control through 2018. He's 31, but there are still a few prime years left. He'd need to come back from his calf injury and prove he's healthy enough to stay on the field, but he's still a superstar.
So I believe it's possible that, come July, we see Donaldson, Estrada, Liriano, Happ, Bautista, Tulowitzki and a few relievers all dealt. That could help the Blue Jays stock up on some prospect talent and head into the offseason looking to rebuild on the fly around players like Osuna, Aaron Sanchez and Devon Travis.
Obviously, there's a minefield worth of caveats here. The Blue Jays could play their way back into contention. After all, there are still 150 games left in the season and they would only be five games out of the second wild-card spot right now if we were silly enough to be scoreboard watching in mid-April. If the Jays did fall out of contention, they'd have to be convinced this group couldn't contend next year -- otherwise it would be foolish to deal Donaldson. If they Jays did make that decision, they'd need the players listed above to be healthy and productive as well. And if everyone is productive, would they really be falling that far out of the race?
Still, the makings are here for a firesale if everything slides that way in the next few months. I'll buy this rumor that it's possible -- I just think it's way too early to start hopping into the mind of the Toronto front office. We have to see how things play out on the field here in the near-term. If the Blue Jays keep losing, however, keep an eye on those trade rumors. They could grow into a reality.
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