Despite picking up a series win over the New York Yankees, the Toronto Blue Jays remain stuck at the bottom of the American League East. With the trade deadline just weeks away, onlookers are wondering whether the team’s front office might decide to sell.
“We still need to keep getting better, there’s no question about that,” said team president and CEO Mark Shapiro, who joined Bob McCown on Prime Time Sports on Thursday to talk about the Blue Jays’ trade deadline plans.
Shapiro has been getting a lot of what he calls “free advice,” meaning wherever he goes, people seem to have an opinion about what he should do.
“You get feedback all the time,” he said. “And the bottom line is, we’re in the business to give fans a reason to cheer and celebrate. So when you disappoint fans, that impacts you emotionally.”
Shapiro said he tries not to let those emotions impact his decision-making. The trade deadline, he said, presents an opportunity for the team to get better.
“The bottom line is that deadlines are one of the few times a year where we can impact a team and an organization,” he explained. “There are some limited opportunities to do that. One is the draft that’s just occurred. Another one is the July 2 international signings, which just occurred, and the next one that comes after that is the trade deadline.”
“We need to be opportunistic to get better,” Shapiro added, though he cautioned that his focus remains on improving the organization’s depth while still trying to field a competitive major-league team.
“I think what we’re working towards someday is kind of that ability to have a sustainable, contending team,” he said. “Right now we have that gap of double-A, triple-A talent from our major-league team.”
“We are relentlessly trying to infuse young talent,” he said. “We are taking advantage of every opportunity to acquire that talent short of trading major-league players. And that’s the only thing we’re not doing. We’re committing a lot of resources, a lot of energy, time, money and people at developing that talent most effectively and as quickly as possible without cheating the process.”
Toronto’s passionate fan base has grown in the last few years thanks to the team’s on-field success, and those fans bring a sense of urgency to Shapiro’s plans. While teams such as the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros managed to build contenders by so-called “tanking,” Shapiro said he felt that trading the Blue Jays’ best players would mean a “violent disruption of competitiveness.” The fan base, he argued, deserves better than that.
In other words, if we take Shapiro at his word, don’t expect to see a fire sale.
“We still feel like this roster is good enough to contend,” he said, if not this year, then next year.
“We need to do everything humanly possible to try to extend the window of competitiveness,” he said. “If we didn’t feel that that was possible next year, as well still obviously hopeful but recognize objectively where we are this year … it would be a different conversation.”