The 2017 Toronto Blue Jays have had a roller coaster year to say the least. After a horrendous start in April which saw the Jays stumble out of the gate with an 8-17 record, the team turned their fortunes around in May with an 18-10 record. Once fans got off the “sell now” bandwagon, the team followed May up with a subpar June, holding a record of 11-15. The Blue Birds then honored Canada’s 150th birthday by starting July 0-2, being outscored 22-2 in those two games.
There are an abundance of alarming stats and facts that do not favor Toronto’s baseball club. As of July 2nd, they currently hold a record of 37-44 and are 9.5 games out of first in the AL East. The Jays are 0-9 in games that they have attempted to reach the .500 mark. They currently possess the second worst team batting average in its history (.243). They have incredibly poor numbers with RISP, and can’t seem to come up with the “clutch” fundamental hit when it’s needed.
Last week, Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro stated that the players would indicate if this team would be buyers or sellers come trade deadline. Since then, the Jays have gone 1-5 in their homestand, with match-ups against the New York Yankees and the red-hot Houston Astros on deck. The players have spoken; it’s time to sell.
2017 Toronto Blue Jays Must be Sellers at the Trade Deadline
With this in mind, let’s take a look at some players of value, and determine the likeliness of them being moved on July 31st.
Justin Smoak has had a year that nobody saw coming. He currently leads his squad in batting average, hits, home runs, RBI and OBP. He’s also striking out at half the rate he was compared to last season. Smoak made a late charge and won the fan vote for the starting first baseman position for the 2017 All-Star Game. For being in the top offensive categories for first basemen across the league, I would say it’s well deserved.
He’s also under contract for one more season at $4.125 million, plus a 2019 team option for $6 million. Every MLB team would salivate over the opportunity to lock up an All-Star switch-hitting first baseman being paid bench player numbers for two more full seasons.
Likeliness of trade: MEDIUM
Potential Suitors: Minnesota Twins, Milwaukee Brewers, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Marco Estrada has really evolved his game since being traded to Toronto in 2015. Expectations were high for Estrada coming off an All-Star season. So far, he hasn’t been able to reach the same heights he set a year ago. With a lofty 4.86 ERA, Estrada is averaging 9.4 hits per nine innings, up from the mark of 6.8 he set last season. He also has a mark of 1.4 HR per nine innings, his highest in a Jays uniform.
Saying all of this, Estrada is known to have one of the best changeup pitches in the league, and if that’s on, it baffles even the best hitters. He also has a strikeout ratio of 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings, and is on pace to set a career high in strikeouts this season. Contending teams are always looking to add pitching, and Estrada would be a solid rental addition to any rotation.
Likeliness of trade: HIGH
Potential Suitors: Astros, Rockies, Brewers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox
Jose Bautista has been the face of the Blue Jays franchise since his coming out party back in the 2010 season. Since then, he has made six All-Star Game appearances, won three Silver Slugger awards and has been in the top ten in MVP voting for four years. He brings an intensity and passion of the game that is loved by some, and hated by others.
Since the 2015 season, Bautista has dropped off in production. The 36 year-old was riddled with injuries last season that caused him to miss 46 games and post a Toronto-career low in batting average and Toronto-career high in double plays grounded into. So far in the 2017 season, the same trend has continued. He’s on pace for an even lower batting average than last season and a Toronto-career low in slugging percentage.
Saying this, Bautista has shown that he can still produce. In May he posted a .317 batting average with nine home runs, 21 RBI and an OPS over 1.000. He is still a valuable veteran bat on an expiring contract that can provide pop for a team looking for clutch hitting and epic bat flips.
Likeliness of trade: MEDIUM
Potential Suitors: Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers
Josh Donaldson came to the Blue Jays on a steal of a deal from Oakland back in 2015. Winning the AL MVP in his first season with the team, Donaldson has been a top-tier third baseman both offensively and defensively. In his first two years with the Jays, he hit 78 home runs and had 222 RBI. That’s a lot of power.
Donaldson was hurt coming out of the gate of the 2017 season and has been trying to make adjustments on the fly. In 39 games played, Donaldson is batting .254 with eight home runs and 20 RBI. His defense has regressed slightly this season, and over his last 40 plate appearances, he’s batting .100.
The 31 year-old late bloomer will command a hefty package if he is indeed moved. There’s no denying his star power and ability to change the game on either side of the diamond. A trade will be dependent on if the Blue Jays management believe they have any chance of signing Donaldson. If they go into full rebuild mode however, expect the three time All-Star to be moved with one more year of arbitration rights attached to him.
Likeliness of trade: LOW-MEDIUM
Potential Suitors: Yankees, Red Sox, Astros, Cardinals, Angels
There are other Blue Jays players that could be traded on or before July 31st. The Jays will probably shop lefty Francisco Liriano, although his 5.66 ERA may be tricky to move. They’ll also explore options for the other lefty J.A. Happ. If he continues to pitch the way he has been, teams will pay a hefty price for his impressive 3.71 ERA and one more year of control at $11 million. Finally, expect Blue Jays brass to search for a potential trade partner for shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. This option might be more tricky as he had a full no-trade clause kick in once he was moved to Toronto. Any potential trade would have to be approved by Tulo himself.
The Blue Jays will have a lot of tough decisions to make this month. July 2017 will dictate the state of the franchise one way or another.