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GM Atkins not waving white flag on Blue Jays season just yet


TORONTO — As his team returned home seven games under .500, Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins stood in front of the media Thursday afternoon and took a realistic approach to the situation his team faces at the midway point of the season.

“We’ve obviously put ourselves into a tough spot over the last seven days,” Atkins said. "Ten days ago, we were feeling like there was positive momentum and that has gone away. So, at this point, because we’ve put ourselves into a tough spot, we really need to look at one day at a time and one pitch at a time to get things turned around to be in a position to buy. Having said that, that’s where we’re focused.”

The tough spot part is very realistic.

At this point, however, the second part of that statement — the potential for this team to be a buyer at the upcoming July 30 trade deadline — does not currently seem realistic.

But there’s no white flag waving or proclaiming to be a seller just yet.

The reason — other than leverage, and make no mistake that’s part of this equation — is simply because they don’t need to truly decide right now, even if behind the scenes Atkins’ front office is putting multiple scenarios in place.

The 16 games between now and the trade deadline will be the decider.

“We need to go day-by-day and be prepared to pivot in either direction … so, right now, all of our energy and focus is on the next several weeks,” Atkins said. "We’ve put ourselves into a tough spot, but we’re going to try to correct it.

“The coming days are exceptionally important to us,” the ninth-year GM added. “Understanding the market is also exceptionally important to us either way. So we’re focused on winning. We’re focused on building the best possible team that we can this year, supporting it the best possible way that we can, and if we get to a point where we need to adjust, we’ll be prepared to do so.”

Even as Atkins spoke, there didn’t seem to be much conviction.

In this sport, you never know when a run can happen — in either direction — but watching this team for 80 games and three full months has left many wondering what the front office truly sees in this group.

The writing seems to be on the wall, with injuries and poor performances throughout the roster.

At one point, the postseason projections still had confidence in the Blue Jays. 

Now, even what the computers had has evaporated, thanks to their poor play.

“Right now, the projections aren’t great,” said Atkins, who is very aware of FanGraphs giving his club just a 4.6 per cent chance to make the playoffs coming into Thursday’s series opener. "We’ve dug ourselves a hole, we acknowledge that hole, and I’m accountable for that. Also, right now, we’re in the position to focus our energy on one day at a time. We understand that needs to turn into a streak for us to be back in it. It doesn’t mean we have to win every game, but we do need to play a lot better and win a lot more games.”

That started Thursday against the New York Yankees, with a win pulling the Jays to within six games of .500.

Internally, there’s belief if the club can get back to even by the all-star break, they could at least investigate the possibility of adding a piece or two and hope to get hot in August.

That would mean going on an 11-5 run over the next two-plus weeks, but the gauntlet of teams after the Yanks includes the Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners, San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks.

There are zero pushovers in that bunch, especially when you’ve proven to be a mediocre team yourself.

Atkins was hesitant to say they’d be a seller regardless of the situation and that seems to be derived from the idea that they won’t be dipping into a full-scale rebuild just yet.

They’re much more likely to reboot for 2025, meaning there’s a team control tap-dance to be done with any moves made at the deadline.

It doesn’t mean the Jays won’t market assets with team control, but it could also lend itself to “adding” assets creatively in order to improve for next season.

“We’re always focused on winning,” Atkins said. “Right now our focus is on the ’24 team. With every decision that you make, regardless of stadium renovation or the state of your organization, you have to be thinking about the future as well. But as you’ve seen from the last four years, we’ve poured a lot into the current team from a financial standpoint, from a trade standpoint, from a resource standpoint, and we’ll continue to do that until it doesn’t make sense to do so anymore.”