Toronto’s poor start leaves the Blue Jays needing to rebuild or retool

With the calendar set to flip in a few days from June to July, that means that the looming specter of MLB’s trade deadline is getting larger and larger on the horizon. With each passing day, we’re starting to get a better idea of who’s going to be using the deadline to try to boost their shots at making a World Series run and who’s going to be trying to jumpstart a rebuild for the upcoming season or even longer.

One of the teams that is currently looking likely to end up in the seller’s group is the Toronto Blue Jays. This is actually a bit of an upset (in more ways than one) for the Blue Jays, who have made the Postseason in three of the past four seasons but came away without any wins in each of those appearances. Depressing recent playoff history aside, the Blue Jays still figured to be right in the thick of things in terms of the Postseason race. Sure, they probably weren’t going to be competing for a divisional title (as evidenced by their 16 percent odds in spring training of winning the AL East, according to FanGraphs) but this was at least a team that could realistically harbor hopes of returning to October baseball again as they were sitting on a 49 percent chance of making the Postseason this year according to FanGraphs’ Playoff Odds.

As of right now, it’s a longshot for the team up North to get back into the tournament. Toronto is now 37-43, they’re lightyears behind in the division — 13.5 games behind Baltimore for first place and given a 0.0 percent chance of winning it. Their Wild Card hopes are getting slimmer with each day as well, as they’re currently 6.5 games behind the Kansas City Royals for the third and final Wild Card spot and they’ve got three teams directly in front of them vying for Kansas City’s spot. As such, FanGraphs is giving Toronto a 6 percent shot at making the Postseason now. All you can say is that it’s better than zero!

As you could probably surmise by simply looking at their current lot in baseball life, the Blue Jays aren’t doing anything particularly well at the moment. Collectively, their pitching staff has an ERA- of 106 and a FIP- of 108 — both of those numbers being good for having their pitching staff rated in the bottom 10 of baseball. Yusei Kikuchi and Chris Bassitt are giving it their best in the rotation and you could say the same for guys like Yimi García (before his injury) and Trevor Richards in the bullpen as well. Still, it hasn’t been enough to propel the Blue Jays into a winning position and it’s been a far cry from the great work that this pitching staff did last season.

With that being said, the pitching would simply be a thorn in the team’s side if Toronto was putting up numbers at the plate. As it turns out, they’ve also gotten worse as a collective at the plate here in 2024 — heading into action on Friday, the Blue Jays were collectively hitting .234/.312/.372 with a .304 wOBA and a team wRC+ of 98. They’re hitting for far less power as well, as their Isolated Power has gone down from .161 last season to just .138 this season. That’s a bottom-five number in all of MLB and all the other numbers are mediocre at best. So with the Blue Jays taking a drop in production all across the board on both the mound and at the plate, it’s suddenly very easy and understandable to see how they’ve played themselves into a serious pickle here.

So it’s simple, right? A team with slim-to-no chance of making the Postseason should obviously be selling, right? GM Ross Atkins may as well just go ahead put up the ol’ “For Sale” sign and start working the phones with the full intention of starting a rebuild, correct? As it turns out, it’s not that simple. As Kaitlyn McGrath of The Athletic mentioned in her recent article, the franchise is just coming off of an expensive renovation of the Rogers Centre and would not want to put fans through a rebuild so soon into their tenure at the newly renovated ballpark.

Between that and the large amount of money that’s already been invested into this team to begin with, it’s safe to say that this isn’t simply a matter of flipping the switch and saying “Okay, time to start it all over again.” Atkins told McGrath as such in the aforementioned article:

“Every decision that you make, regardless of a stadium renovation or the state of your organization, you have to be thinking of the future, as well,” Atkins said. “But as you’ve seen over the last four years, we’ve poured a lot into the current team, from a financial standpoint, from a trade standpoint, from a resource standpoint and we’ll continue to do that until it doesn’t make sense to do so anymore.”

With all of that in mind, if the Blue Jays are still in a similar position in both the division and Wild Card race by the time the trade deadline starts to become imminent then I think it would be safe to assume that Toronto would start selling. If that happens, then the question shifts towards whether or not they’ll just stick with moving their impending free agents or if they’ll move their stars as well. If they stick with simply getting what they can for guys like Yusei Kikuchi and Yimi García then it’s clear that they’re probably going to try to run it back in 2025 with a retooled roster.

However, there appears to be a possibility that guys like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette could be on the move. Those rumors received a nice and healthy dose of oxygen when Vladito did an interview with Virus Deportivo and made these comments regarding potentially being traded to a team like the Yankees:

Here’s a translation of those comments from ESPN:

In 2022, Guerrero Jr. said he’d “never sign with the Yankees — not even dead.” In 2023, he told the New York Post that it was “a personal thing that goes back with my family. … I would never change that.”

But never say never.

“Like I tell you, I’m a player and if a team picks me or if they do something, it’s because they need it, obviously, and I’ll be happy to help any team,” Guerrero told Virus Deportivo on Monday. “But right now, I’m just focused on helping my team try to get out of this bad streak.”

If I was a Blue Jays fan, this would have me turning on the alarm bells. While walking back the comments about his beef with the Yankees might just be a sign of growing up and maturing, that’s beside the point. The main point is that it’s never really a great sign for a team potentially keeping a player around when said player is publicly talking about being willing to help any team he’s traded to — even the team that he had “a personal thing” with. Again, it’s not that I have an issue with what Vladimir Guerrero Jr. said — that was about as professional-yet-honest of an answer as you could get to that question. It’s the fact that it was even entertained that says a lot about what’s going on with the Blue Jays at the moment.

With all of this being said, there’s still no signs that a Blue Jays/Yankees trade is on the horizon. All of this trade talk at the moment is smoke with real tangible signs of a fire nearby. With that being said, with each week that goes by without the Blue Jays getting going, it seems like some hard choices might have to be made North of the border. Whether it’s via a retool or a complete rebuild, it’s clear that the Blue Jays can’t keep going like they are and expect the World Series trophy to return to Canada.

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