Do you think the Blue Jays are going to trade Marcus Stroman? I hope not but there have been so many rumors!
-- Stephanie T., Waterloo, Ontario
Here's the problem with trading Stroman: Who replaces him in the rotation? And I'm not referring to just this season but also 2018 and beyond. The only starting pitchers Toronto has under control beyond this season are Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ. Joe Biagini likely becomes the fourth but that still leaves a big hole, and another would be created by trading Stroman. If Toronto made that kind of move, it would not only be punting this season but also 2018 and possibly even '19. He remains under control through the '20 season, and it's possible a time will come when the club looks to deal him, but that time is not now.
If the Jays go for the rebuild, would they consider trading Justin Smoak? And if so what kind of return would they get for him?
There has been a lot of talk this week about dealing Smoak -- a first-time All-Star who had 23 home runs and a .936 OPS before the break -- when his value is at its highest. The insinuation is that his performance will crater in the second half and the Blue Jays should get top prospects in a trade. The problem with that stance is that it assumes general managers around the Majors are willing to pay top-prospect capital for someone who has been playing at this level for three months. The reality is that's unlikely to happen.
Keep in mind that Jose Bautista's breakout season came at age 29. When he signed a five-year deal at the time, there was a lot of criticism for handing out a contract to someone who did not have a lengthy track record of success. Smoak is one year older than that now, but teams won't necessarily be lining up to give top-level Minor League players in return quite yet. If he keeps this up for another year, it's a different conversation. Right now, his value is likely not as high as most people believe. For the Blue Jays, that's OK too because Smoak is under club control for two more years and No. 6 prospect Rowdy Tellez still has a lot to prove at Triple-A Buffalo.
Given the season Bautista is having, do you think the mutual option will be exercised?
There's a greater chance of the option being picked up now than there was earlier this season, but I still do not expect it to happen. If Bautista gets hot in the second half and finishes strong, he'll likely want to re-enter the free-agent market. If Bautista struggles, Toronto likely would prefer to let him walk away at the end of the year or instead sign him for fewer dollars than the $17 million option for next season. After Bautista's market failed to develop over the winter, he'll likely want to return, but how receptive the club is remains to be seen.
What do you think the Blue Jays will do at the Trade Deadline?
-- Alex W., Halifax, Nova Scotia
Club president Mark Shapiro has been pretty clear about his team's intentions, and the strategy should be considered more of a retooling than a total rebuild. Toronto will explore the market for pending free agents Joe Smith, Marco Estrada, Francisco Liriano and possibly Bautista, but bigger moves involving the more controllable players seems unlikely.
This situation is pretty similar to the one that was taken by former GM Alex Anthopoulos for years. Anthopoulos focused on adding controllable players such as Happ and Colby Rasmus at previous Trade Deadlines when the team wasn't contending, and those are the types of moves Toronto likely would be after this time as well.
Name one Blue Jay you think will have a rebound with a highly improved All-Star-like second half. Why this player?
The obvious candidate is Josh Donaldson. He started to heat up before the All-Star break, and there are plenty of reasons to believe that a typical monster second half is in order. Donaldson's right calf is healthy, his left knee no longer appears to be an issue, and four days off over the break could go a long way to revitalizing him for the next stage.
Donaldson is pretty obvious, though, so my secondary pick would be Estrada. The veteran righty enters the break amid the worst stretch of his career with a 9.78 ERA over the past seven outings. But people are too quick to forget that he was Toronto's best starter over the first two months of the year with a 3.15 ERA at the end of May. I don't think Estrada is even close to being done, and I fully expect him to rebound.
How would you evaluate Joe Biagini's stint as a starter? Do you think he has a future in the rotation?
-- Kendall N., Ottawa, Ontario
Biagini's first stint as a starter was a mixed bag. At times, he showed promise, and at other points, he looked overmatched. That should hardly come as a surprise for someone who prior to this season had not started above Double-A since 2015. There have been bumps along the way this year -- as evidenced by a 5.60 ERA as a starter -- but there were some positives as well.
Biagini could emerge as a viable arm in the back end of the rotation next year. One thing he'll need to do is start using a windup instead of always pitching out of the stretch. He wasn't comfortable making that step in 2017, but a full spring to work on his mechanics should help. With Estrada and Liriano set to hit free agency, there's a good chance Biagini has a strong chance to win a starting job next year.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.