Why August trade market could suit Blue Jays this season

Sportsnet's baseball columnist Shi Davidi joined Starting Lineup to talk about the Blue Jay's upcoming road trip, and which players will rebound in the second half of the season.

Now that the all-star break has passed and the two Chicago teams have pulled off the first big blockbuster of the season, everyone in baseball will anxiously be turning their attention to the forthcoming trade deadline.

For Toronto Blue Jays fans, though, the wait for exciting roster moves might be more drawn out than for some others, as we get reacquainted with the other trade deadline at the end of August. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The July 31st non-waiver trade deadline is so widely anticipated, in part because it signals which teams are making a concerted push towards the post-season or solidifying themselves to have fewer flaws that could be exposed in a playoff series.

That’s not likely to be the Blue Jays’ motivation this year.

Tea leaves and signals and things you read between the lines seem to indicate that the Jays are ready to deal and send surplus veterans packing for whatever returns they can muster, while not gutting what they expect to be a competitive 2018 roster. Trading young, controllable and desirable arms like Marcus Stroman or Roberto Osuna makes almost no sense in this context.

The assets that might be most expendable are impending free agents who are carrying a significant contract, such as Jose Bautista, Marco Estrada or Francisco Liriano.

Given that none of those three have looked like season-changing talents this year, potential suitors might not be overly enthusiastic about assuming the entirety of the rest of their contract for this year, and certainly wouldn’t be moved to act fast to ensure that they get ahead of the market on them.

Which isn’t to say that there is no value or market for these players.

However, as secondary targets with significant dollars still owed to them, they could become very interesting names once players begin to be floated through waivers in August.

A delay in moving these players wouldn’t be the worst scenario for the Blue Jays. A few extra weeks of consideration could help to enhance the value of the players they might offer, especially if they have a run of success that augments their reputations.

Conversely, the extra few weeks of time could give the Blue Jays one last good look at the wild-card slots, and give a clearer sense if there is any hope left for at least a marquee game No. 163. As bunched as the middle-to-lower tier of the American League is, such an outcome isn’t completely beyond the realm of possibility.

That competitive landscape also means that there are other teams that may only be ready to push in their chips later in August. Late-season injuries could also result in some teams that would have seemed to be well equipped for a title run suddenly in need of another arm, or a veteran bat. Any of these situations would only serve to enhance the need of the buyers, and raise the value of the assets the Jays could most afford to move.

And if the Jays spiral far out of contention, it would make their serviceable bullpen arms available in the waning weeks of the season at precisely the time when their perceived value begins to far exceed their actual value.

There are obviously downsides to slow-playing the trade market. Players could get injured or perform poorly. Maybe more pertinent in the August trade market, teams could strategically claim some players, if only to block them from reaching their chief rivals, though this would seem to be less of a concern than it had been in the past.

(Side note: The fact that so much of the action in the August trade market happens out of sight from fans is a shame because it deprives us of the knowledge of who is going through waivers and which teams are actively making claims. Then again, maybe the opaqueness of this process only serves to ramp up the intrigue.)

Trade deadline talk figures to dominate much of the coming weeks, but Blue Jays fans shouldn’t be overly upset if they aren’t active before the first deadline. The best deals may come to those teams that can wait.