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Jays' issues a referendum on front office, core's future

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It should be no surprise that the Toronto Blue Jays turned to the home run jacket in an attempt to save their season.

Given their other options, they might as well try an injection of vibes.

It was time, then, to send Vladimir Guerrero Jr. into the basement with a sledgehammer and have him break open the vault that contained the fabled blazer.

For a day, at least, it worked. The Jays piled up nine runs - a week's worth of offense for this team - against the woeful Chicago White Sox. Bo Bichette hit just his third home run of the season. The Jays won a series for the first time since April. Yes, it was against the White Sox, but the games still count the same.

That the Jays were at a smash-glass-in-case-of-emergency point is in little doubt. Even after Wednesday night's outburst, they remained four games below .500, in last place in the AL East, and having scored the second-fewest runs in the American League (behind only those White Sox, who had no intention of being competitive this season).

The reclamation of the home run jacket is particularly apt given Toronto's mystifying loss of pop in this campaign. Three of the Jays' most reliable power hitters - Guerrero, Bichette, and George Springer - have combined for 10 home runs so far. Former teammate Teoscar Hernandez has already hit 11 for the Dodgers this year.

Steve Russell / Toronto Star / Getty Images

The desperate feeling of the season that is not yet two months old, and the remarkably tepid offensive performance, have sparked local discussion of the previously unthinkable: trading Bo or Vlad. Or, gasp, both.

There's even some cold logic to such a move. Both players are entering their final Years of Control - shoutout Ross Atkins! - and would be free agents after the 2025 season unless they sign contract extensions. Their trade value is probably less than a Jays fan (or executive) might imagine, but dealing them now would fetch significantly more than doing so in their walk year. If Toronto's wet-noodle bats keep floundering about for much longer, getting some sort of return for those guys would be better roster management than losing them for nothing.

Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro and general manager Atkins only have to gaze down the street in the direction of Scotiabank Arena to see examples of the risk of inaction. The Raptors waited too long to break up a flawed roster and ended up dealing Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby without much leverage. The Maple Leafs didn't break up their core despite years of playoff failure and are now stuck trying to move guys who have no-movement clauses.

Trading Vlad and/or Bo might make sense, then, for the long-term health of the roster. But it would also be madness.

Those two players have been the prized assets of the Jays' system from the moment Shapiro and Atkins arrived in Toronto. Even as they awkwardly oversaw the decline of the roster that their predecessors built - the 2015-16 playoff teams that rekindled widespread Jays fandom in Toronto - the front-office tandem slowly assembled what was supposed to be a World Series contender with those two homegrown, second-generation baseball All-Stars at its core. It's literally the Jays' marketing slogan this season: To The Core.

If you trade those guys for picks and prospects, what's left to sell people on watching the team? Danny Jansen, when he's healthy? The rusted-out husk of Springer? There have been some positives, admittedly, but they would be a challenge for the sales department. Blue Jays Baseball: The Pitching Is Pretty Good, Actually. Daulton Varsho: Now With More Walks!

Thomas Skrlj / MLB / Getty Images

Even if Blue Jays fans would coolly rationalize the asset-maximization strategy of trading their two favorite stars - which they absolutely would not - they really wouldn't accept the tactic from this particular front office. Shapiro and Atkins are in their ninth season and haven't won a playoff game since the team they inherited did it in 2016. They moved on from that team's stars, oversaw three grim rebuilding years, and built toward their long-promised window of contention - which is now wide-open, even if the Jays have flown straight into the frame. If there are other examples of a management team doing all that, and then being allowed to hit the reset button and start the process all over again, they do not come to mind. Actually, one does: Jerry Jones, but he also owns his team.

Letting Shapiro and Atkins jettison the core and shut their window seems like a recipe for fan backlash right at the moment when the Rogers Centre is full of expensive and newly refurbished seats.

Which is why that same front office, more than anyone, has to be hoping that the home run jacket works its magic. Vibes, sorcery, serendipity, whatever it takes.

Hope is not a strategy, as the saying goes. But it might be the best one for the Blue Jays right now.

Scott Stinson is a contributing writer for theScore.

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