The Toronto Blue Jays began a critical six-game trip against American League East rivals in New York against the Yankees on Monday night, the outcome of which will likely determine if the club is active when the trade deadline rolls around at the end of the month.
And if they choose to be a buyer, there are plenty of interesting names the pitching-thin Blue Jays could try for, including the likes of Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke – and maybe even Canadian Ryan Dempster.
Those are just some of the more intriguing players who are reportedly being dangled on the open market as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches in what is shaping up to be a hectic period.
"I'm getting more calls than I ever have at the deadline," Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers told USA Today.
Towers has let it be known that virtually everyone on his roster is available, including Justin Upton, the 25-year-old outfielder who finished fourth in voting last season for the National League's most-valuable player.
"I don't know if it's because of Upton's name being out there or what," Towers said. "There are just so many people in the buy mode."
The NL Central-contending Pittsburgh Pirates, who are eager to break a 19-year losing streak, are said to be among a handful of teams exploring the possibility of going after Hamels, a pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies. That is, if the Phillies don't re-sign Hamels to a long-term deal worth upward of $120-million, as is also being reported.
With the addition of a second wild-card playoff berth in both leagues, as many as 13 teams remain within striking distance of securing a post-season spot.
That includes the Blue Jays who, despite a middling 45-44 record heading into Monday's game, remained just 11/2 games out of the running for the second AL wild-card berth.
Which is why the Jays' agenda this week – a weekend series in Boston against the Red Sox after three in New York with the Yankees – will have such an impact .
The Yankees continue to lead the AL East by a comfortable margin while the Red Sox and the Blue Jays are neck and neck with six teams for wild-card positioning.
A good showing against their East Division foes – say, taking four of six games – would enhance Toronto's wild-card position and put more pressure on general manager Alex Anthopoulos to make a move.
With the likes of starters Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison all on the disabled list, along with closer Sergio Santos, the Blue Jays have relied on a powerful offence to keep them afloat.
Rumours continue to persist that the Jays have a strong interest in Matt Garza, the veteran pitcher of the Chicago Cubs.
The Blue Jays, along with the Angels, Mets, Braves, the Red Sox and the Yankees, are also believed to have an interest in Minnesota left-hander Francisco Liriano.