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Tough choices facing Blue Jays ahead of trade deadline

Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista are both in the final year of their contracts. Kevin Sousa/USA TODAY Sports

There were good signs all over the place for the Blue Jays Wednesday and Thursday at Yankee Stadium. The dormant Russell Martin erupted for his first two homers of the season, and Devon Travis, who had a major impact in 2015, returned to the Toronto lineup for his first game since last July. On Thursday, J.A. Happ threw another strong outing, and Toronto won a showdown in the Bronx, as Richard Griffin writes.

The Jays are within a game of .500, with 113 games remaining for growth.

But with Boston's offense surging, the Blue Jays are six games out of first place in the AL East, and Toronto has lingering problems with its bullpen and with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who was out of the lineup Wednesday, has hit .224 in 86 games with the Jays and has an OPS under .700.

Unless the Jays recover from their slow start, they will continue to barrel toward a wrenching set of circumstances, with new president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins perhaps forced to take a difficult path sooner rather than later.

The top of the Toronto farm system is thin in prospects, and unless the Jays play a lot better -- very soon -- Shapiro and Atkins will have to decide whether the best big-picture play for the franchise is to take advantage of a relatively thin trade market and become sellers before the Aug. 1 deadline.