Bautista: 'We don't want this group broken up'

Jonah Birenbaum
Tom Szczerbowski / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Jose Bautista believes.

Mired in fifth place in the American League East and five games back of a wild-card spot as the season's unofficial second half looms, the Toronto Blue Jays could easily end up selling if things go poorly over the next few weeks. But while several players on Toronto's roster - including Bautista himself - continue to pop up in trade rumors as the July 31 deadline nears, the 36-year-old right fielder reaffirmed Friday that the 25 guys in the clubhouse still have faith in one another.

"We don't want this group broken up," Bautista told Sportsnet's Arash Madani ahead of his club's series opener against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.

"I'll tell you what, we're confident in the group we have right here," he continued. "We feel like we can accomplish what we set out to at the beginning of the season with the group we got right now."

Though Bautista can ensure he stays in Toronto by virtue of his 10-and-5 no-trade rights, the Blue Jays will have to come out of the All-Star break strong to convince president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins not to send impending free agents Marco Estrada, Francisco Liriano, and Joe Smith to contenders ahead of the trade deadline. Shapiro recently downplayed the possibility of trading third baseman Josh Donaldson, effectively quashing any notion of a rebuild, but if the Blue Jays, 41-47, are unable to inch closer to a postseason berth over the next few weeks, a less dramatic retool is likely.

"We're all very confident in our ability," Bautista said. "We just got to go out there and do it."

For now, however, the top priority for the Blue Jays is winning games, and the front office recently tinkered with the active roster and bolstered their organizational depth to that effect, acquiring veteran catcher Miguel Montero from the Chicago Cubs and signing outfielder Michael Saunders, an All-Star with Toronto a season ago, to a minor-league contract.

And, like Bautista, Shapiro also has faith in his guys, at least for now, saying earlier this month that "we have enough of a base of talent here to still contend."

"I can't tell you the exact blueprint or plan right now, but I think there's still quite a bit of talent here, both veterans and guys in the prime of their careers," Shapiro told Sportsnet's Shi Davidi. "We clearly need to continue to compete, we clearly need to continue to get more talent around those existing players but yes, we have enough of a base of talent here to still contend."