Sanchez a factor in Blue Jays' Deadline plans

Sanchez a factor in Blue Jays' Deadline plans

The Red Sox made their moves and there's a good chance more transactions are on the way. Now the question is what -- if anything -- the Blue Jays and Orioles will do to respond before the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

With 2 1/2 months remaining, the American League East is completely up for grabs. Baltimore entered play on Monday with a two-game lead over Boston and a three-game lead over Toronto for first place. At this point, it's anyone's game.

That's one of the main reasons the Red Sox decided to strike early. Boston recently completed a pair of deals for Drew Pomeranz and reliever Brad Ziegler. The moves didn't come cheap as the Red Sox parted with top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza, but such is life when doing business in a market where pitching is king.

"It's really more indicative of the alternatives, or lack thereof," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said over the weekend when asked about the Pomeranz deal. "There just aren't a lot of [starters]. I'm not so sure it's going to increase the market drastically.

"There's just more buyers than there are sellers at that position. The market was already set very high based on the alternatives. It wasn't surprising to see that's what it took to get some deals going."

With that in mind, here's a closer look at Toronto's situation with two weeks to go before the Deadline:

The Sanchez factor

Toronto's needs are directly tied to the future of Aaron Sanchez. The organization had been saying all year that Sanchez would end up in the bullpen because of an undisclosed innings limit, but that stance might be changing. The right-hander has yet to show any signs of fatigue, and the club does not seem as adamant as it once did that Sanchez's transition to the 'pen is inevitable.

If Sanchez moves to the bullpen, then Toronto would turn to Drew Hutchison or seek an upgrade through trade. If Sanchez remains in the rotation, the Blue Jays have to acquire at least one more reliever. The needs are based entirely on Sanchez's role, and the best guess here is that Sanchez will remain a starter and Toronto will look to add another setup man.

The rotation

There's no David Price available at this year's Deadline, and even if there was the Blue Jays likely would not have the pieces to get a deal done. Oakland's Rich Hill remains one of the top arms on the market, but he's currently dealing with a blister and considering the lack of alternatives his price tag will not be cheap.

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Atlanta's Julio Teheran is another possibility, but he's signed through 2019 and would cost even more than Hill. Another starter would be nice, but at this point, a move for a notable name would come as a surprise. If Toronto makes a deal, it would likely be a minor move for depth more than anything else.

The bullpen

Toronto's lone move this year was acquiring Jason Grilli from the Braves. It was a minor deal at the time, but it has worked wonders for the bullpen. Grilli has since become the primary setup man to closer Roberto Osuna, and he's posted a very respectable 2.45 ERA in 14 2/3 innings.

Grilli quickly snags liner

The expectation here is that the Blue Jays will look to make another move like that before the Deadline. Some names to keep an eye on: Milwaukee's Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress, Arizona's Tyler Clippard, Oakland's Sean Doolittle and John Axford, the Angels' Joe Smith and Minnesota's Fernando Abad. There are a lot of options here, but forget about New York's Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller, they'll be too expensive.

The offense

The Jay Bruce rumors to Toronto just won't seem to go away. The Blue Jays nearly acquired the All-Star outfielder during Spring Training, only to see the deal fall apart at the last minute. One bonus here is that he has another year of control remaining on his contract, and that's a big positive for an organization that has eight pending free agents at the end of the season.

Bautista on being placed on DL

Even so, making a move for another position player won't be easy. The Blue Jays remain adamant that Jose Bautista will return to right field upon his return from a left foot injury, which is expected to happen at the end of the month. If Bautista was moved to designated hitter, then Edwin Encarnacion would have to play every day at first base and that could create some issues for both his legs and back. Adding more offense would be a bold move, but it might not be the worth the headache that would come with it.

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.