Blue Jays fall to Cardinals as front office explores trade deadline options Reset Password Email Sent Create New Password Almost Done! My profile Your account has been created! Your account has been created Sign in Sign in Almost done! Sign in to complete account merger Your verification email has been sent Reset password Email sent Create a new password Password has changed Change password You’ve done it! Resend the email verification. I’m sorry to see you! Unable to cancel subscription

TORONTO — With less than a week to go until the Aug. 2 trade deadline, “the prices feel really high” for the talent available, says Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins. This is not unusual when there is still a track left to the cut line. Buyers and sellers have time to test each other’s pressure points, wait for a deal or two to set the market, and go through the process of finding the best possible deal.

“Right now, to go fast,” Atkins added, “you’re probably going to pay a premium.”

The Blue Jays, even after a 6-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night, ended their seven-game winning streak, they are not in a position to jump. The damage from the 1-9 stretch that helped seal former manager Charlie Montoyo’s fate has been undone with a 9-2 run since then, and his situation has largely stabilized.

Clear needs remain, but as the market unfolds (the New York Yankees struck first, acquiring Royals outfielder Andrew Benintendi), the Blue Jays are debating internally how best to augment their bullpen. Does going all out for a starter like Luis Castillo or Frankie Montas have more of an impact? Are you charging for one, if not two, impact relievers and moving up to an elite bullpen? Go crazy and get Juan Soto, even if he goes after 2024, pitching be damned?

Even though they sacrificed their 2020 and 2021 first-round picks last summer (Jose Berrios) and this spring (Matt Chapman) on futures deals, the Blue Jays still have the potential capital to make more deals. His players “have done an incredible job of putting themselves in a position where we have to think about it,” Atkins said. To reward this effort and stimulate the group, they will have to do more than think about it before next Tuesday.

“We feel good about the depth,” Atkins said of his team’s farm system. “You never feel good about subtracting (prospects), but we feel like we’re in a good position to be able to make a decision if it makes sense for us.”

What makes sense to them will, to some extent, be determined by what the market presents.

But it’s no coincidence that Yusei Kikuchi parachuted back into the starting rotation Thursday when the Blue Jays might have waited until Saturday. Having at least a small indicator of how much you can count on the enigmatic lefty will certainly inform your decision making.

There is some optimism about the changes Kikcuhi made while on the disabled list, particularly in stabilizing his release point, using more of his athleticism in his delivery, nailing a consistent slider, and if he can consistently be a five-inning, four-run guy, that will be enough.

At the same time, with Hyun Jin Ryu done for the season, Ross Stripling already in the rotation and Max Castillo seemingly the last line of defense, adding to the rotation seems prudent.

Whether he should be a Luis Castillo/Montas-level complement is another matter, but the action is hot even for lower-market starters with a thin offering. Someone in the Chad Kuhl/Drew Smyly mold could make sense, as long as he doesn’t cut the Blue Jays off from adding to the bullpen.

It can be said that even with Kikuchi’s uncertainty, adding more flavor to a bullpen that is 18th in the majors with a strikeout rate of 8.69 per nine, the sixth-highest homers per nine at 1.24 and a ยท collective 1.1 WAR, as estimated by Fangraphs, who is tied for 22nd, is a bigger priority.

Atkins noted that “swing and miss is definitely effective, and I think that would be the one area where if we could add more swing and miss, that would be a positive.”

There’s also the possibility of in-house help in that regard, with Julian Merryweather pitching bullpens, Nate Pearson pitching 60 feet and prospects like Hayden Juenger, recently promoted to triple-A Buffalo, and Yosver Zulueta, to double-A New Hampshire, making progress , progress.

Having any of these may not be responsible, especially if there is no longer an August waiver period. Kikuchi, Merryweather and Pearson are talents, but attractive for now.

“We think about how we can support them, how we can put them in the best possible position to give us depth,” Atkins said. “But we have to think about how we can also provide depth externally.”

Deepening the bullpen (how about a reunion with 2020 setup man Anthony Bass?) would allow the current relievers to play a role, giving interim manager John Schneider more options early in the game.

An example of how it could play out was Wednesday in the fifth inning, when Kevin Gausman had two runners on with two outs and Albert Pujols coming on. Schneider in this case walked Trevor Richards, who ended up giving up a three-run homer that put the Cardinals up 6-1, so the play in this case backfired.

“It’s a tough call, obviously Gausman is one of our guys,” Schneider said. “I was just trying to figure out how he was going, where his location was. Obviously we like his velo a little bit better against Albert. He had a little bit of trouble getting it to stick at the top of the zone tonight. So he working like a new arm seemed like the best option. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Scheneider noted that Richards has been pitching well lately and it’s true. But what if David Phelps or Adam Cimber, for example, weren’t needed later and could pitch in that spot? Having multiple relievers adept at putting out fires allows for the kind of creative use of the bullpen that tends to play out in the postseason. It’s a way to help the Blue Jays get there now and succeed later.

“We’re based on how the game goes, who we have available,” Schneider said of identifying relievers for those situations. “I honestly enjoyed that game. I’ve said it a lot, where you’re trying to put guys in a three-hit pocket where they’re going to be successful and it was just a poorly executed pitch by Trevor. It’s something we’d do again and we’ve got multiple guys that we trust in this place.”

Either way, it may make more sense to focus resources on bolstering the bullpen instead of doing everything possible to boost an already dominant offense.

“Making even incremental improvements to our roster of position players is not the easiest thing to do,” Atkins noted, so unless they add elite impact like Soto or a mid-level talent like Ian Happ (a changer). hitter that provides another left-handed option), the best shot for their potential prospect will likely come elsewhere, especially if that prevents them from adding pitching.

That view among the Blue Jays isn’t unanimous, and ultimately they may face blocking the most consequential set of moves possible. One way or another, decision time is approaching, high prices or not.

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