Yankees fans knew the Jays would be a thorn in their side this year, but not like this. Toronto is 33-30 heading into this week’s three-game set, but that doesn’t tell the story of exactly how impressive they’ve been.
The Blue Jays have managed to persevere without star free agent acquisition George Springer, who has played in only four games. They’ve lost key bullpen arms in Kirby Yates, Julian Merryweather and David Phelps right from the jump.
They lead the league in home runs. They’re second in batting average and OPS. They’re top six in runs scored and RBI. That’s helped buoy them while their pitching staff has sat firmly in the middle of the pack (14th in MLB) in ERA (4.13) and WHIP (1.27).
How does this affect the Yankees? Well, if the Blue Jays feel they can contend and continue to roll for the next six weeks, expect them to be active at the trade deadline.
A few additions could clearly push this team over the edge if New York’s underachieving ways persist and if the Boston Red Sox eventually come back down to earth (they probably will).
The Blue Jays attacking the trade deadline is bad news for the Yankees.
If the Yankees even consider any deadline moves to fortify the roster (at this point, we’re not even sure they will), we’re under the assumption they will be operating under a strict budget constraint. Barely under $2.2 million under the tax, to be exact, which won’t get them much of anything.
The Blue Jays? Absolutely no restrictions (you’d have to think). They have a $116 million payroll and enough capital in their farm system to swing deals, which is their best chance to acquire star players without having to convince them to play in Dunedin/Buffalo/Toronto.
New York will always have the upper hand in free agency, but at this moment, the Jays, it would seem, carry an advantage heading into this year’s trade deadline. And if they get better? Forget about it. The Yankees won’t stand a chance. They already can’t beat them with this current roster.
The Jays don’t have to look for trades that will solely improve them this year, either. They can look to 2022 and beyond depending on who’s available, which would be the more prudent move and further put the Yankees in a bind.
This is especially a problem because the Yankees now have a dire need for starting pitching. With Corey Kluber out, Jameson Taillon on the verge of no longer being a member of the rotation, and Domingo German still unable to consistently find his footing, a starter may all of a sudden turn into a necessity in a month or so. No Luis Severino comeback, no hope.
The Yankees do have other needs, like an outfielder and/or a left-handed bat, but the Jays need a whole lot of starting pitching. If they can box out general manager Brian Cashman on the trade market and get a whole lot better, 2021 will continue its journey down the toilet for the Bombers, who already appear as desperate as ever on a week-to-week basis.