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Baseball Blue Jays’ roster calculus has shifted, GM Ross Atkins admits

Oakland’s Rajai Davis fails to beat Josh Donaldson’s tag at Rogers Centre on Monday.

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

While not exactly giving up on the team's playoff prospects for the current season, Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins is about ready to concede that the white flags of surrender are on order.

With less than a week remaining until Monday's Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline, Atkins says the front office's focus has shifted from this year to the next when it comes to considering improvements to the struggling lineup.

"A month ago, we were talking about the need for our team to play well and get hot," he said Monday while sitting in the Blue Jays dugout prior to the series opener against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre. "We didn't have to absolutely catch fire but we haven't done that. We haven't gotten hot. We haven't got on a streak.

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"Now we're in a position where it's a lot more difficult to add to a team like this objectively as you look at it. The scale of deciding whether we add or subtract [at the trade deadline] has definitely changed."

The Blue Jays were hoping to rally from a disastrous opening half of the season coming out of the all-star break with a 10-game road trip that took them to Detroit, Boston and Cleveland.

Instead, the starting pitching continued to be shaky. And the play of some of the higher-priced talent, most notably shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and third baseman Josh Donaldson, was lacklustre.

The result was a demoralizing 3-7 journey that dipped Toronto's overall record to 44-54, burying the Blue Jays in the AL East cellar – along with any realistic chance of making a third straight trip into the postseason.

As a result, Atkins said Toronto's focus to make any moves by Monday's trade deadline has changed somewhat, with an eye toward the 2018 season and beyond. "We were shifting that focus more toward [2018] in the last week," he said.

"And we have a very good feel for what's available to us to do that. We've also worked very hard to understand the needs of other teams and where that might match up, and we can align to make our organization better."

Atkins said that, whatever moves might be made, the overriding factor for the Blue Jays will be the long-term control of any player or players they would get back in a deal.

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"Again, it's about control," he said. "We still feel like we have a great team in 2018 that we'll need to add to. There's a way to do that. That could mean subtraction from this team, it might not. "You would hope to and like for this team to remain relevant and a contending team potentially. Now I think the odds of that have decreased dramatically, although we still feel confident that we can put a quality team on the field."

He said there are never really any untouchables on a team when it comes to who might be traded or not. "But there are a number of guys that we don't have many discussions about," he said, declining of course to name any names.

"When you think about an organization, it's really about young, controllable talent," he stressed. "So any way that you can do that, we'll look to do that.

"We feel like we have underperformed and underachieved offensively and defensively. Our relief pitching's been pretty strong. Our starting pitching's been okay until the last couple of weeks. So it's not position-specific right now. It's more about controllable young talent."

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