The Toronto Blue Jays made a lot of moves in the final days of July. They imported a pair of stars in Troy Tulowitzki and David Price, a pair of right-handed relievers in LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe, and a bit of outfield speed in Ben Revere.
The Twins made one move: They traded for Kevin Jepsen, basically the equivalent of one of the Toronto relievers.
The Jays were the more aggressive team in the trade deadline period. They are going for it.
If you simply look at the standings, you would be justifiably mystified by that. On July 31 -- deadline day -- the Twins had the better record (53-49 to the Jays' 53-51). The Twins were eight games out in their division but in second place; the Jays were six game behind the Yankees in their division, but had an extra team to climb over.
And if you skip back to when the Jays began their roster revamp (July 28, when they acquired Tulowitzki and Hawkins), Toronto was actually below .500, 50-51, and in fifth place.
Jays management obviously deemed their team capable of a surge. And they had reason for that belief: Run differential.
That mediocre won-lost record hid the face that the Jays had the best run differential in the American League. The "pythagorean theorem" devised some 30 years ago by Bill James says the Jays "should" have a 64-43 record coming into Tuesday's game, not the 55-52 mark they actually have.
There shouldn't be an question that the July trades made the 2015 Blue Jays a better team (and probably subtracted talent from future seasons). The suspicion here is that they would have had a better record in August and September had they not made those moves, simply on the basis of the luck factor evening out. They were a good team with a poor record. With the reinforcements, they are quite capable of not merely taking a wild card berth but of winning the divisional title.
The Twins' trade season caution was justifiable under this analysis also. Their record at the end of July was slightly outdoing their pythagorean mark, and that continues during their current slide. Their won-lost record is deceptively good. The wild card is the realistic peak of their regular season ambitions, and even that goal was probably remote enough that wisdom dictates husbanding the resources for the future.