The Toronto Blue Jays have yet to concede the season, though it appears the front office has a contingency plan should they fall further out of the playoff picture in the next few weeks.
Sitting 8 1/2 games back in the division and five out of the second wild-card spot at the All-Star break, the Blue Jays have reportedly started notifying teams that they will listen to offers for impending free agents Francisco Liriano, Marco Estrada, Joe Smith, and J.P. Howell, league sources told Robert Murray of FanRag Sports.
The Blue Jays have teetered between buyers and sellers over the last month and their success on an upcoming 10-game road trip to start the second half of the season could dictate the front office's direction. Toronto opens with a three-game series in Detroit, followed by four games against the Boston Red Sox, before wrapping up with a three-game set against the Cleveland Indians.
General manager Ross Atkins and president Mark Shapiro have been adamant that their goal at the non-waiver trade deadline is to improve the team. Should the Blue Jays be out of the playoff race before then, the club could deal Liriano, Estrada, Smith, and Howell in order to receive some sort of compensation, rather than see them walk at the end of the season for nothing.
The issue with dealing any of the four players is that none of them are having particularly great seasons, which will limit the return. Estrada owns a 9.46 ERA over his last seven starts, Liriano has been wildly inconsistent, Smith has been a reliable arm out of the pen but is on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, while Howell has been out since early June with his own shoulder issues.
Murray adds that players such as J.A. Happ and Steve Pearce, who are free agents after next season, could also be moved, though the front office is prioritizing players whose contracts expire at the end of this year.
Third baseman Josh Donaldson, who is a free agent after next season, would likely land the largest return, however, Shapiro said last week that it would be hard for him to imagine that he'd trade the former AL MVP, and sources told Murray that the Blue Jays have no intentions of trading Donaldson unless they are blown away.