TORONTO — The pre-trade deadline jockeying in the American League East kicked off with the Tampa Bay Rays acquiring slugger Nelson Cruz from the Minnesota Twins and sending lefty Rich Hill to the New York Mets, and yeah, the Toronto Blue Jays noticed.
“During this time of year, it’s, ‘Well, that team just got better,’ or ‘This team is not as good anymore,’” manager Charlie Montoyo said Friday before his club dropped a third straight, 3-0 to the Mets. “This is the time when people say stuff like that. Cruz is going to add to that team, for sure.”
Beyond the talent and impact clubhouse presence, Cruz’s pickup also provides a win-now boost for a Rays team that typically doesn’t make this type of bold rental. Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins, who has repeatedly said his team has earned further augmentation, won’t suddenly adjust his plans in direct response to that deal, but the AL East landscape is certainly shifting on him.
More pertinent to his approach ahead of July 30, perhaps, is the club’s suddenly less certain catching situation, with Danny Jansen returning to the injured list after straining his right hamstring again, and the club expecting him to be out “for a while,” according to Montoyo.
Alejandro Kirk is back and he lined a base hit in three trips to the plate, and the plan is for him to split duties with Reese McGuire, who’ll be tasked with…