By Danny Gallagher
Canadian Baseball Network
Top market share. Solid television and radio ratings. Merchandise sales through the roof. Impressive ticket sales. Fabulous attendance. A brand name that is one of the best known in the country.
For all those reasons, Toronto Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins have to keep Blue Jays fans in mind as they ponder how to deal with a lethargic team that has not played up to snuff this season.
The trade deadline approaches and Shapiro and Atkins will definitely do something to shake up the roster but they have to be careful not to tinker with all the elements listed above by doing a large dismantle of the team.
It's called fan loyalty. You don't go busting up the team and hope that the fans don't go away. There's a fine line that the Jays' brass must consider when trading away players.
As Shapiro and Atkins assess their band of mostly underperforming athletes, they bandy about the idea of trading pitchers Francisco Liriano and Marco Estrada, both of whom are free agents after this season. Both have been puzzling, Estrada in particular.
There's the temptation to trade franchise great Jose Bautista, whose name someday should be on the Level of Excellence at the Rogers Centre. You don't dare trade J.A. Happ or Marcus Stroman, whose names have come up in trade speculation.
Do you look at trying to unload Troy Tulowitzki's mammoth contract that runs through 2020 with a team option for 2021? His offence is not near where it should be, despite his 4-for-7 night on July 18. No, you keep the veteran shortstop for his leadership and again, fan loyalty comes into play. Management must think of stability in the face of wanting to shed salary. The same could be said for slumping catcher Russell Martin, whose deal runs through 2019. He's a piece of the pie you don't trade.
When assessing the trade picture, the Jays' brass must take into consideration the large number of players who will be eligible for salary arbitration next winter. That group includes first-time eligibles Roberto Osuna, Kevin Pillar, Aaron Sanchez, Devon Travis and Ryan Goins to go along with those already in the arbitration loop: Ezequiel Carrera, Aaron Loup, Josh Donaldson and Stroman.
Bringer of Rain is earning $17-million this season and would likely get over $20-million next season, even though he has largely been unproductive this season. He just has not been the offensive player he usually is. Like Tulowitzki and Martin, Donaldson has been an offensive enigma.
Again, you keep Donaldson to keep the fans' faith. He doesn't become a free agent until 2019.
And talking of contracts, I wouldn't be surprised if the Jays announce soon that they will exercise the $6-million option for 2019 on Justin Smoak's inexpensive deal negotiated in 2016 by little known agent Dustin Bledsoe.