Under The Bleachers: Players For Sale

How do you tell a team that’s won five games in a row, and 10 of their last 12, that they need to get better, that their players aren’t good enough to win?

You don’t. What you do, if you’re Blue Jays’ general manager Alex Anthopoulos, is nothing at all. 

Thursday’s MLB trade deadline came and went without a peep from the Jays, despite many analysts expecting—and fans hoping—the team would add a top-shelf free agent or two. Anthopoulos undoubtedly had some irons in the fire, but wisely chose not to mess with what has surprisingly become a very good team. Sure, they still give fans that little twinge of “when are they going to blow it? They’re so going to blow it.”  But they keep winning. And winning.

On paper, the Jays look either like a prototypical contender—a couple of inning-eating starters to complement hard-throwing youngsters; two of the league’s best power hitters in Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion; baserunning savvy and defensive prowess in Anthony Gose and Jose Reyes. But most of their key players have missed time with injuries, and they’re strung together their current run without Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Brett Lawrie, winning with an infield patched together from spare parts.

It must have been really, really tempting for Anthopoulos to make a play for Stephen Drew, who said before the season he’d be happy to switch to second base if the Blue Jays would sign him up, or Asdrubal Cabrera, who eventually went to Washington. And surely he was racking his brain for a way to get David Price or Jon Lester into a Jays uniform without mortgaging the whole farm system.

But he’s obviously learned a little restraint and patience over the past couple of seasons—he sees how his team is playing and realizes it isn’t broken, so there’s no need for him to break it.

(The Blue Jays even responded by coming from behind to beat the Houston Astros hours after the deadline—no real feat, but still.)

With 52 games left, and only a game and a half back of Baltimore for the division lead—not to mention 11 more games against the Orioles—Toronto has a chance to author their own fate. They’ve played impressive baseball while missing important players, they’re getting great performances from unexpected sources—Munenori Kawasaki is batting .287; Juan Francisco has 16 homeruns; rookie Marcus Stroman is 7-2 in 11 starts—and they can only get better as the team gets healthy. Just think: in a couple weeks they’ll be adding one of the league leaders in homeruns without having to make a trade, and if they make the playoffs they’ll likely be sending an 8-5 starter to the bullpen, not to mention possibly welcoming Brandon Morrow back after a three-month absence.

Some GMs tinker at the deadline hoping to add one magical player who’ll carry them to a World Series; smart teams realize that, while players win games, teams win championships. Even if the Jays don’t go all the way this year, they’ll be starting 2015 with an even better team than they did this year.

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