07/31/08 8:00 PM ET
Jays' Deadline efforts yield no change
Potential deals collapse late; August may bring second chance
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
The Blue Jays took negotiations down to the wire, though no deals were realized in the hours leading up to the 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline. Up until about a half-hour before the Deadline, Toronto believed it might be able to complete a trade, adding a bat to boost its inconsistent offense.
The Jays engaged in serious talks with the Mariners, who bowed out of a proposal that would have sent outfielder Raul Ibanez north of the border. Toronto also looked into acquiring Jason Bay from Pittsburgh, which sent the outfielder to Boston in a three-team blockbuster after the Jays backed out of the discussion.
"We had some really good talks with Seattle," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "I'd say they were pretty intense and pretty in-depth. We thought, at one point, there was a possibility to get something done there. But it just didn't come to fruition."
It's believed that the Blue Jays were willing to send two players from their active roster to the Mariners in exchange for the 36-year-old Ibanez. Toronto was more than ready to put the final touches on the trade, but Seattle pulled the plug on the swap at the last minute, leaving little time for the Jays to look elsewhere.
"We were ready to go forward," Ricciardi said. "Both parties worked hard. At the end of the day, they probably weren't as comfortable making the trade as we were. That happens."
As for the Pirates, who sent Bay to the Red Sox in a trade that also sent slugger Manny Ramirez from Boston to the Los Angeles Dodgers, they simply asked for too much from Toronto, according to Ricciardi. Pittsburgh reportedly asked for Travis Snider, Toronto's top outfield prospect, as well as starter Shaun Marcum, for starters.
"It was pretty steep for us," Ricciardi said. "At the end of the day, we may have been able to get the player, but it would've been at a very, very steep price, and I don't know if that would've helped us going forward, as opposed to maybe setting us back a little more."
The Jays -- 6 1/2 games back of the top slot in the American League Wild Card race entering Thursday -- still believe they can make a late-season run, but the club didn't want to make a deal that could also put its future at risk. That's one reason Toronto appeared to be in more of a buying mode as the Deadline rapidly approached.
"I think we're in it," Ricciardi said. "We're relatively within striking distance in the Wild Card, and there's still two months to play. I don't think we've ever thought about us saying, 'Hey, we're going to be sellers.' I think the thought process is, if we can continue to add without taking anything away going forward, that we would try to do that."
"All we can control is what we do," he added later. "We've got 54 games left, and we've got to play our best baseball these last 54 games if we want to leapfrog some people in the Wild Card and catch anybody else in the division."
That mind-set played into the Jays' efforts to add another bat, and it was also a factor that led Toronto to declare starter A.J. Burnett unavailable earlier this week. Burnett, who can opt out of his contract and become a free agent after this season, was involved in numerous trade rumors over the past month.
The Jays decided against trading the right-hander, choosing instead to take the risk that Burnett will walk away from the $24 million he's owed over the next two years. Should Burnett elect to test the free-agent waters, Toronto would likely receive two first-round Draft picks as compensation.
Ricciardi indicated that there was only minimal interest in Burnett in recent weeks, and Toronto's GM said Thursday that he fielded no calls about the pitcher. Teams may have been more aggressive in their pursuit of Burnett if it was known whether the pitcher was going to opt out or not.
Beyond Burnett, all three of Toronto's shortstops -- Marco Scutaro, John McDonald and David Eckstein -- as well as catcher Gregg Zaun, outfielder Matt Stairs and a few relievers, had their names surface in recent rumors. Each remained with the Jays, though the club could retool its roster some in August.
During August, teams can still trade players who successfully pass through waivers, or give up players who are simply claimed. Eckstein, Zaun and Stairs could potentially fall into that category for the Blue Jays. Eckstein and Zaun are free agents after this season and have slipped into backup roles, while Stairs has performed below expectations.
"You're at the disposal of who gets claimed," Ricciardi said when asked if he might make any deals in the coming month. "So it's hard to answer that without knowing who gets claimed and seeing if people want to do something. We'll go through the exercise and put most people through and see if anything gets brought to our attention that makes sense to us."
The Jays had attempted to trade Zaun, who has grown increasingly frustrated since losing the starting job behind the plate to Rod Barajas. Earlier this week, Zaun admitted that he'd be open to being dealt, though Ricciardi noted that Toronto received no interest in the catcher on Thursday.
While Toronto's roster remained intact as this year's Deadline came and went, the AL East rival Yankees and Red Sox were plenty busy. New York acquired outfielder Xavier Nady and lefty reliever Damaso Marte from Pittsburgh and catcher Ivan Rodriguez from Detroit. Boston nabbed Bay and finally parted ways with an unhappy Ramirez in the process.
"It's nice to see Manny out of our division," Ricciardi said with a slight laugh. "That's probably the only comment I have on that."
Even without Manny's presence in the heart of Boston's order, the Blue Jays will have their work cut out for them down the stretch. Toronto currently sits in fourth place in the AL East and has five teams -- the Red Sox, Yankees, Twins, Tigers and Rangers -- ahead of them in the Wild Card standings.
"It's all in front of us," Ricciardi said. "But we just have to get more consistent as a club. We haven't had that all year. We win five in a row, and then we kind of go back a little bit. There's a reason why we're .500. We just have not taken off.
"I guess the good news is we haven't dug a hole for ourselves and been in a mode where we're totally thinking of next year already."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.