TORONTO -- Alex Anthopoulos has some tough decisions to make in advance of the upcoming non-waiver Trade Deadline on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET.
Toronto's general manager must decide what to make of his current core and what type of assets can be used to help upgrade the roster with an eye toward the 2014 season.
The Blue Jays expected to be aggressive Deadline buyers following a dramatic overhaul during the offseason, but things haven't gone according to plan. Toronto currently sits in last place in the American League East, and the disappointing record has a direct impact on the organization's goals for future moves.
"Where you are in the standings has a huge impact," Anthopoulos said late last week. "Clearly, we haven't played to expectations and what we hoped for. But there are still windows of [time] in the season where GMs are engaged to make trades. This is one of those times.
"I think anything we do -- if we can do something that can help currently, great, but even for the following year, as well, we'll look to do it. We're having dialogue [with other clubs], but I'd say every player we're having dialogue about are players that can help us beyond the current year."
In other words, the Blue Jays' approach to this Deadline is very similar to the one taken in each of the past three seasons. Anthopoulos will look to use some of his depth to take on a player that is signed beyond this season and has the potential to help the club in the future.
Toronto isn't in the market for a rental, but will rather look to package multiple players in a deal to acquire a long-term asset. It's similar to what the Blue Jays did in 2010 -- when they traded for shortstop Yunel Escobar -- and the following season, when Colby Rasmus was brought to town.
The only way this type of move can be made is if Anthopoulos gets creative. In the three-team deal for Rasmus, he packaged a left-handed specialist (Marc Rzepczynski), a once-promising prospect (Zach Stewart), a veteran outfielder (Corey Patterson) and a veteran reliever (Jason Frasor) to get an emerging player who was under control for several seasons.
Before Anthopoulos can take that big of a step, though, he must first decide which players on his current team are expendable and won't cause the organization to take a step back when it attempts to compete again in 2014.
"You're always evaluating," Anthopoulos said. "There are times when you think this player is going to be part of the core and then, all of a sudden, the evaluation changes. There's no question, some players you think they're going to bounce back. Others, you might not be as convinced. That's why you may see some change."
One area that is expected to generate a lot of interest prior to the Trade Deadline is the Blue Jays' bullpen. Toronto has one of the top groups of relievers in baseball, and with Sergio Santos nearing a return, Neil Wagner patiently waiting in the Minors and prospects Marcus Stroman and John Stilson not all that far off, there is plenty of depth to work with.
Veteran left-hander Darren Oliver is the only pending free agent in the group, so the club won't be forced into any deals. But if the right offer comes around, it will be tough for Anthopoulos to say no. Closer Casey Janssen is expected to receive consideration, while All-Stars Steve Delabar and Brett Cecil are known to be coveted around the league.
That doesn't mean there are any deals on the horizon, but even the normally tight-lipped Anthopoulos couldn't deny that other teams have been making plenty of inquiries.
"We're not shopping, but we are getting calls," Anthopoulos said. "You always get calls at this time on relievers. Any reliever deal, it could happen now or we could take it into the offseason and make a deal there. But I wouldn't rule it out because of that depth.
"I think by themselves, [it's tough to deal a reliever], a team needs a reliever. But the flip side is that I only want to pay so much for a guy that only pitches 40 innings, especially for the last two months. It's so difficult to equate just on a one-on-one deal, and that's why it's easier to make them part of a larger deal."
In addition to making relievers available, it's also possible the Blue Jays will look to do something with some of their more prominent players. But it certainly won't turn into a fire sale. Veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle is owed $38-million from 2014-15, and he could be up for grabs if another team was willing to add payroll. Adam Lind has a $7-million option for next season with a $2-million buyout, and could also be available.
There are a number of different options at Anthopoulos' disposal. But a lot of it will depend on how much other teams are willing to pay, as time before the Deadline continues to erode.
No matter what the club decides to do, expect whatever action is on the horizon to take place before the Deadline. Teams are allowed to make deals after that, but players would then have to pass through waivers before switching organizations -- and that's not something Anthopoulos is too keen to work through.
"I think there's a sense of urgency," Anthopoulos said of the non-waiver Trade Deadline compared to the one which takes place a month later. "It's so convoluted to get a deal done in August. Certain players might clear, so a guy with a big contract clears. But then, you have to give up players. And do your young players get through waivers?
"No one likes to have to wait until August to make a move, the chances of putting it all together are tough -- especially if you're trying to make a run at it. ... I still think it's a hard Deadline overall, because I think there's enough money and enough teams in contention to put in a lot of blocks."