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Uncertain times inside Jays clubhouse as season spirals


TORONTO — The month of July can bring a wide array of emotions into a big-league clubhouse.

When you’re in the situation the Toronto Blue Jays find themselves in as a franchise — in the midst of a truly disappointing season with a number of key decisions looming in the coming months — the uncertainty can be a delicate thing to manage.

Take Yusei Kikuchi for example.

Following Wednesday’s loss to the Houston Astros, the free-agent-to-be admitted his situation is affecting him on the mound, saying “I’m going out there with mixed feelings — you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

On the other hand, Kevin Gausman, who’s signed for two more seasons, intends to focus on the task at hand and block out the noise.

“To be honest, we’re not really focused on those things,” Gausman said. “It’s part of the game that can happen, but we’re more so focused on trying to get ourselves in the best situation possible and play better baseball.

“We’re focused on turning around the group that we have in this room right now. We’re not necessarily focused on guys coming in or guys leaving just yet.”

Now heading out on the road nine games under .500 after a dismal showing against the red-hot Astros, the group of Blue Jays on the charter flight to Seattle will be laying their season on the line.

Mathematically, it’s already a tough sell for anyone to believe they can jump back into the race before the July 30 trade deadline, but the upcoming nine-game road trip leading into the all-star break is this club’s final chance to right the ship.

A 7-2 trip maybe gives the front office a hope-and-hold narrative heading into mid-July. More .500 baseball or worse and the story on the rest of the 2024 season will likely be written.

“We put ourselves in a hole,” Gausman said. “I think I can speak for all of us when I say we definitely didn’t expect to be at this point back in spring training.”

While manager John Schneider isn’t viewing the next nine games as a make-or-break trip, the front office will need to have a direction in place by the middle of the month.

The worst plan would be not having one at all, and with the state of the club’s minor-league system, selling and restocking for 2025 and beyond seems like the reasonable thing to do.

But there’s still baseball to be played. Lots of it, really.

“Everyone around the league understands the nature of the business and they understand where they are with contracts and what record is,” Schneider said. “The message is pretty simple — it’s go out and control what you can control and prepare to win every single day.

“It’s part of the business. I haven’t been through it, either, as a player, but it’s our job as coaches and as the manager to stay in touch with them on a daily basis.”

A couple of times over the past month, GM Ross Atkins has gone on record to say a fire sale won’t be happening and they have no interest in trading Bo Bichette or Vladimir Guerrero Jr., which would signal much more than a retool for 2025.

Veterans like Gausman know how to view those things realistically.

“Ross has said before that it doesn’t make sense for us to move certain guys, and I agree with that,” Gausman said. “But that can all change. Really, all it takes is one offer to kind of change your mind a little bit.”

Contract situations can change, too, but rarely are long-term extensions finalized midseason, leaving a whole lot of uncertainty when it comes to Bichette and Guerrero.

“Man, I don’t want to leave,” Guerrero Jr. said. “I want to stay here all my life. But this is business.

“Whatever they decide, to sign me or not, I’m going to be happy with whatever they do. To me, it’s play every day, one day at a time, and whatever happens, happens.”

With extension talks going nowhere up to this point, Vladdy Jr. — one of the few Blue Jays meeting expectations this season — is just focusing on his at-bats.

“I haven’t heard nothing,” Guerrero Jr. said. "Probably my agent, they talk, but I haven’t heard nothing serious or nothing about an extension. Like I said, it’s part of the business and we have to understand this and go out there and play hard every day.

“I don’t think about my contract … I just think about how I can help the team win. If you think a lot about your contract, you’re probably going to do nothing on the field. My time is going to come. I don’t know if it’s soon or not, but it’s going to come.”