TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays will be looking for one particular thing at this year’s trade deadline: young, controllable talent that can impact the team next season.
Toronto general manager Ross Atkins repeated some version of that mantra multiple times during a media session at Rogers Centre Monday, exactly one week before MLB’s July 31 trade deadline.
With the Blue Jays struggling at the bottom of the American League East, Atkins admitted that the window for a third straight playoff appearance for his squad is dwindling fast.
"A month ago we were talking about the need for our team to play well and to get hot and we haven’t done that," Atkins said before Toronto opened a four-game series against the Oakland Athletics.
"We haven’t gotten hot, we haven’t gone on a streak. Now we’re in a position where it’s a lot more difficult to add to a team like this. The scale of deciding whether we add or subtract is more difficult.
"I think any addition at this point will be about control."
The Blue Jays came into Monday’s game having lost three straight — a weekend series sweep against former Toronto slugger Edwin Encarnacion and the Cleveland Indians — and seven of 10 since the all-star break to dip to 10 games under .500 (44-54) and 6 1/2 games back of a wild card spot.
To make matters worse, some of Toronto’s top free-agent bound players have struggled for most of the season, potentially affecting their trade value.
Monday’s starter, veteran left-hander Francisco Liriano, began the game with a bloated 6.15 earned-run average. He was chased from his last start in Boston after 1 2/3 innings and lasted just two innings in his start before that against Detroit.
Right-hander Marco Estrada, meanwhile, has failed to make it through the fifth inning in four straight starts.
"Obviously everything’s information, every day you learn something in this game," Atkins said. "I think more and more teams are focused on the bulk of information and not outing to outing or five innings of work or two innings of work, so it doesn’t impact things in a big way.
"But it can change emotions for sure so we’ll see. We’ll see as this week progresses."
Atkins maintained that the plan is to return to being competitive next season rather than sell off the bulk of the team in a complete rebuild.
While he said there are a number of players on the current roster that the Blue Jays "just don’t talk about" with potential suitors, he also said that labelling someone as completely untradeable "isn’t good business either."
"Everything is under consideration so it’s not that we will look to acquire only major league players," Atkins said. "There’s a lot of different ways to make a 2018 team better and some of it could just be in the form of depth and some of it could be in the form of a controllable asset.
"It doesn’t necessarily have to be that we acquire a major league starting X for the 2018 team. Our ideal is that it is something that is controllable (that could also) slide right into the 2018 team but that’s a hard thing for a team to give up."