GM says Jays could be in trade market
Ricciardi says team's success in June could be key
TORONTO -- The thinking within the Blue Jays' front office has changed with every win the club has notched through the season's first two months. Toronto has enjoyed a much stronger start than anticipated, and that could play a role in how the organization approaches the July 31 Trade Deadline.
If the Jays are still within striking distance of the top spot in the American League East through June and into July, general manager J.P. Ricciardi may find that interim president Paul Beeston is more open-minded about adding to the roster. That wasn't necessarily the expectation after an offseason in which Toronto was the only team not to sign a free agent to a Major League contract.
"I think we'd be able to do something," Ricciardi said. "I think Paul wants to win. I think he understands the situation. If we're in it and we can go get someone, we owe it to the players to go do that. That's one thing Paul understands."
That makes the next month an important stretch for the Jays, who entered Sunday with a 29-23 record and were just 1 1/2 games behind the Yankees for first place in the East. In June, Toronto has 17 games at home, compared to 10 on the road, including three against the Washington Nationals, current owners of baseball's worst record.
In July, the Blue Jays play 17 of their 24 games against division rivals. Over the next two months, Ricciardi and club ownership will have much better indication of how Toronto realistically stacks up against the rest of the league and whether pursuing help via the trade market is a good idea.
"June is going to be a big month," Ricciardi said. "You'll find out how the division is going to play out, how you're going to stand up. You can be .500 and still be a game out -- you don't know how it's going to play out. The first two months, you kind of figure out what you're all about. Our guys have done a good job of holding the fort down."
Through April and May, the Blue Jays used a patchwork pitching staff and a strong offense to find success. Toronto's 4.21 ERA ranked fourth in the AL through Saturday and the offense led the AL in hits (528), average (.285) and doubles (122). If the team does look for help outside the organization, Ricciardi said he might be more inclined to go after another hitter.
"Our pitching hasn't been our problem," Ricciardi said. "Maybe one more bat, one more thumper in the lineup."
How much the club could afford to increase its payroll to possibly bring in an impact player is an open question. As things currently stand, the Blue Jays' payroll is around $83 million, and Ricciardi has indicated that there is little flexibility. On Sunday, Ricciardi said that could change, but it will depend on ownership.
"It all depends on who's available," Ricciardi said. "If I went to [Beeston] and said, 'Hey, this guy is making $10 million. Can we get him?', he may say we can't spend $10 million. He might say, 'We can spend this,' but he might say go get the guy. I don't know. Obviously, the situation has to dictate who's available.
"All indications I have is that we'd have no trouble adding, if we're in a situation to get somebody."
Entering the season, Ricciardi didn't expect that to be the case.
"That wasn't on our radar," Ricciardi said. "That's the one thing we're trying to do is still manage our expectations. When we started the season, we knew we were going to be very young in some areas. We've still got our feet on the ground.
"If you guys told me that, at the end of May, we'd be six games over .500 and a game out of first place, we would've taken that. We're in a good spot."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.