Blue Jays notebook: As trade talks begin, Toronto should also seek a bat

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins. (Tijana Martin/CP)

TORONTO – Already, the Blue Jays are looking outside of the organization for pitching help.

The demotion of Alek Manoah opens a spot in the rotation and while Bowden Francis may end up filling it, counting on him as a sure thing would be reckless. Ideally, someone like Mitch White, Thomas Hatch or Zach Thompson would have established themselves as a viable option by now, but that’s simply not the case.

So, here the Blue Jays are, exploring options for pitching at a time when few teams are clear sellers. Prices are now high on any viable starting options, but the Blue Jays are seeing what’s out there all the same.

“We always do,” GM Ross Atkins said Thursday. “And we’ve intensified those discussions over the last several weeks”

Between now and the August 1 trade deadline, those talks are sure to ramp up further. Like literally all contenders, the Blue Jays will be in the market for pitching reinforcements, whether that’s for the rotation, the bullpen or both.

Yet looking beyond the rotation, this team also needs another bat. They’ve had a reasonably productive offence to date, ranking sixth in the American League in runs scored, third in on-base percentage (.333) and fourth in slugging percentage (.426). Those numbers are respectable – especially when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and others are still underperforming their career marks.

“It’s such an exciting team for me to think about because I still feel like we haven’t hit our stride,” Atkins said. “Our offence can be a locomotive that could just be unstoppable, and we haven’t been that yet. So hopefully we will be that in July and August. And I think that potential is real.”

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Fair enough, but there’s also the potential for injury – a reality that confronted the Blue Jays once again Thursday when Kevin Kiermaier left the game with a left wrist contusion. Along with the 33-year-old Kiermaier, the Blue Jays’ lineup features 33-year-old George Springer, 34-year-old Whit Merrifield and 35-year-old Brandon Belt most days

It’s not inconceivable that one of those players could go down, in which case the Blue Jays would end up relying far too much on a bench that’s underperformed all year. By adding one more impact bat to the bench, they’d improve their chances of remaining a dynamic offence all season. We’re probably talking about a right-handed hitter, and an outfielder would make sense on paper but ultimately it’s about production, not handedness or position.

Best-case, everyone stays healthy and a newcomer simply makes the bench a little better. But once August 1 passes there are no more chances to meaningfully upgrade the roster you take to the post-season. If the Blue Jays want to prepare themselves for October, now’s the time to start looking.


While there’s no firm timeline for Manoah’s return to the major leagues, his demotion to the Florida Complex League certainly suggests he could be away from the team for weeks as he looks to build back to the form that saw him finish third in AL Cy Young voting a year ago.

The specifics will be interesting to watch, as an absence of more than a few weeks could delay his chance to go to arbitration. When the year began, Manoah had one year and 130 days of service time, seemingly putting him on track to become a ‘super two’ player who goes to arbitration four times rather than the typical three (for context, last year’s super two cutoffs was two years and 128 days).

But if Manoah’s optional assignment lasts more than 20 days, he’ll get less than a full year of service time in 2023. While the super two deadline is a moving target, his chances of qualifying look virtually non-existent if he’s in the minors for a month or more. 

Most important in all of this is the challenge of building Manoah back up, but his timeline to arbitration is worth monitoring as the outcome will impact both the pitcher himself and the club’s long-term planning. 

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We’ve now heard from Anthony Bass on a couple occasions. First, when he shared an Instagram post that called brands “demonic” and “evil” for selling Pride-themed apparel. Then a week later when he said he regrets causing harm but still believes what he believes. 

It matters when athletes speak out, either with hateful messages such as the one Bass shared or with messages of acceptance like the one reliever Jay Jackson recently shared on Twitter. But ultimately, their voices are far from the only ones that resonate here. Near-sellout attendance is expected for Pride weekend, and now the Blue Jays’ home fans, including many in the 2SLGBTQ+ community, get to have their say on Friday when Bass catches the ceremonial first pitch or later in the weekend if he appears in a game. 

One way or another, the response will be telling. Regardless, happy Pride Weekend to all.


Top Blue Jays pitching prospect Ricky Tiedemann is throwing off flat ground with the hope of getting him off a mound soon. The 20-year-old left-hander has been sidelined since early May with biceps inflammation in his pitching arm after impressing in big-league spring training.

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