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Blue Jays spot in trade market can crystallize after MLB Draft, Olney says


The Toronto Blue Jays enter play on Tuesday 8.5 games out of the final wild-card slot in the American League, with five teams between them and the Boston Red Sox.

With the trade deadline three weeks away, the clock is ticking for general manager Ross Atkins to make moves to either improve the roster for this season or for the future.

ESPN's Buster Olney joined First Up on TSN1050 on Tuesday to discuss where the Blue Jays stand in the trade market, which players could fetch the most value and how significant the roster teardown may be if it ends up happening.

"The message I hear from teams in the business [from the Blue Jays] is 'Look, if we decide to sell, we'll take a look at it here in the weeks ahead,'" Olney said.

While Toronto has won four of its last 10 games and has struggled to make meaningful progress in the standings, Olney concedes that trade talks around the league will not likely heat up until after the draft, which is scheduled from July 14 - 16. 

"From talking to executives around baseball, they feel like the trade talk is beginning to percolate ... But probably, you won't necessarily see any real trades until after Sunday's draft, which is the focus of a lot of front offices right now," Olney said.

Buyers and sellers at this year's trade deadline are not easy to identify, Olney said, which may play to the Blue Jays' advantage.

Veteran starting pitchers Chris Bassitt and Yusei Kikuchi are two players Olney thinks will be coveted on the trade market when talks start to heat up, because of the lack of sellers around the league.

"So many teams watched last year, [as] the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Texas Rangers evolved from wild card contenders barely getting into the playoffs to playing in the World Series," said Olney.

"A lot of teams will hang on to hope, where some of them are maybe hoping to win the lottery ... The Rangers come to mind, actually - they've had a bad season, they're five games under .500, but I think because of their experience last year they're going to be very reluctant to sell.

If they sold, Nathan Eovaldi would be on the market, Max Scherzer would be out there, but I don't think that's likely, so guys like Kikuchi, Bassitt, Garrett Crochet [of the Chicago White Sox], there is going to be an absolute premium on those starting pitchers."

Kikuchi, 33, is in the final year of a three-year, $36 million deal, and holds a 4.18 earned run average with 98 strikeouts in 94.0 innings across 18 starts this season. Bassitt, 35, has another year of control beyond this season, and holds a 3.43 ERA in 102.1 innings pitched.

"Bassitt is, without a doubt, the person when I'm calling around to teams weighing what might be out there, what's available, Bassitt is someone a lot of other teams would love to have," Olney said. 

Rumours have continually circulated regarding a potential deal for young stars Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., but Olney is less confident that that is on the horizon for Toronto.

"A lot of times the message will be 'If you want to try to pry them away, go ahead, sure,' but the body language is that they have no intention of selling these guys," said Olney. "I haven't heard anything that would indicate that those two guys are actually going to be [available for trade]."

Olney has suggested recently that, due to a lack of contract extension at this point, the Blue Jays may be inclined to trade their two young franchise cornerstones away, however the timing may not be right for these players now in July.

"There aren't so many teams that have that need [at first base or at shortstop] in the marketplace," Olney said.

"Which is why general managers say if you're going to trade position players, the easier time of year to do it is in the winter time, when clubs can make room for a player."

The Blue Jays, who are sitting at 41-49 after winning two of three against the Seattle Mariners over the weekend, open a three-game series with the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday.