TORONTO — The next two weeks will shape the Toronto Blue Jays’ plans for Major League Baseball’s upcoming trade deadline.
It’s not just that other teams decide their needs within days. The Blue Jays will also know if Hyun-jin Ryu and Chad Green will return from Tommy John surgery.
Toronto general manager Ross Atkins said if Liu can return to the rotation and Green can join the bullpen, the Blue Jays’ front office will be able to focus on other needs ahead of the Aug. 1 deadline.
“We feel very strongly about their track record, their playoff experience and their overall experience as very good performers,” Atkins said Wednesday at the Rodgers Center home dugout. “We are optimistic that we will certainly have them as an option, but we also have to plan in case someone has a setback, performance issue or injury.
“But that’s true for everyone. You can never throw enough pitches like they say. So we have a contingency plan, but it’s good to have that as a starting point.”
Liu underwent Tommy John surgery in June 2022, but continued his recovery efforts at the Rogers Center on Wednesday.
Last Saturday, he started 65 pitches for Triple-A Buffalo and allowed three hits and one run in the fifth inning as the Bisons beat the Toledo Mud Hens 8-2. Hyun-jin Ryu, who struck out five and didn’t walk a batter in the win, will start again for the Bisons on Friday with an 85-pitch cap.
Atkins said Toronto could rotate with a six-man squad of Kevin Guzman, Chris Basit, Jose Berrios, Yusei Kiuchi and Alec Manoa from late July to mid-August if Ryu continues to develop.
“There are a few reasons to consider it. I think we could play 17 games in a row without time off, so[a six-man rotation]is something we’re talking about,” Atkins said. “There are a lot of variables, but it would be nice to have that as an option.”
Green underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2022 while still with the New York Yankees. The elite reliever signed with the Blue Jays in the offseason and is expected to join the team before the trade deadline. He will make his first appearance in rehab on Saturday for Toronto’s Class A affiliate team in Dunedin, Fla.
“We’re seeing progress every step of the way and he’s feeling great and recovering very well,” Green’s Atkins said. “We have the ingredients and I think it will continue to be a good trend.
“I think the hard part is coming up with a concrete schedule, but the fact that he’s going to play a game on Saturday and be umpired against hitters is the next step.”
With Ryu and Green returning in a timely fashion, the Atkins and Blue Jays front offices will likely turn their attention to the team’s offense. The trick would be to add scoring power without trading Toronto’s current core player.
“We trust this group so much that we need to work hard to achieve it without some degree of subtraction in order to be better,” Atkins said. “I think there is a way to add a little bit more offensive power to the team without losing anyone.”
Toronto (53-42), third in the American League East, faces the visiting San Diego Padres on Wednesday night. The Blue Jays held second place among the three wild card slots before the friendly.
As a playoff contender, Toronto will no doubt be a buyer before the deadline, but the trade market remains fluid as other teams assess their position, Atkins said.
“If you look at all the teams that are statistically in this category, say they’re in, or say they’re somewhat on hold, there are over 20 teams in that category,” Atkins said. “I don’t think it will happen in two weeks.
“This is one of the reasons why most action usually happens right before the deadline.”
This report by the Canadian Press Agency was first published on July 19, 2023.
John Chidley Hill, Canadian Press