MLB Trade Rumors: Teams calling about Bautista, but Jays have others on the block
Moving impending free agents Marco Estrada, Francisco Liriano, and Joe Smith is their top priority
We're now into the second half of the season, and it's become clear the Toronto Blue Jays are not going to make the kind of run required to get back into the postseason race. The Blue Jays are 44-51 and 5 1/2 games back of the second wild card spot with seven teams ahead of them. They have been a sub-.500 team since Opening Day.
The trade deadline is a little more than a week now and it stands to reason the Blue Jays will look to deal away some veteran players for prospects. I suppose they could make a blockbuster like, say, trading Josh Donaldson or Marcus Stroman, but it's very unlikely that will happen. Instead, they're getting calls about Jose Bautista, and are focused on moving impending free agents Marco Estrada, Francisco Liriano, and Joe Smith.
Bautista has full no-trade protection through his 10-and-5 rights, so he controls his own destiny. He's a Blue Jays legend, and if he doesn't want to move at the trade deadline, he doesn't have to. Bautista's contract includes a $17 million mutual option for 2018, though chances are the team will decline their half. Bautisa is hitting .227/.340/.402 with 16 home runs this year.
Neither Estrada nor Liriano is having a particularly good year on the mound. Estrada owns a 5.33 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP in 104 2/3 innings while Liriano has a 6.15 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP in 71 2/3 innings. Liriano had a tough season last year as well. Estrada was at least very good in 2016, throwing 176 innings with a 3.48 ERA. Given the perpetual demand for pitching, I don't think the Blue Jays will have trouble moving Estrada before the deadline. Some team could bite on Liriano too.
Smith is an interesting case because he's been dominant this year, striking out 47 batters in 31 2/3 innings with a 3.41 ERA. He also hasn't pitching since June 14 due to should inflammation. Smith is expected to come off the disabled list Friday, giving the Blue Jays about a week to showcase him before the trade deadline. Relievers are always in demand at the trade deadline. Toronto might not get a ton for Smith, but they'll get something.
It seems unlikely the Blue Jays will go into a full blown rebuild at the trade deadline. They're more likely to take a step back, retool a bit, and prepare to contend in 2018.