As Troy Tulowitzki’s tainted popup staid into Carlos Santana’s glove for a final out of Game 5 of a ALCS behind in October, denying Toronto thoroughfare to a World Series for a second true season, a Blue Jays immediately shifted from win-now mode into something most some-more nebulous. Given a circumstances, many reasonable people suspected it was fate for a pretender juggernaut that had enchanted a city and nation ever given Alex Anthopoulos went bananas during a 2015 non-waiver trade deadline.
Jose Bautista, a authorization cornerstone station on second bottom when Tulowitzki doinked that season-ending popup, was headed for giveaway agency, and so too was Edwin Encarnacion, set for a vast payday. With those dual out a door, and too many tumbleweeds down on a farm, a intentions of this newly commissioned front bureau – distrusted by a vast cube of a fan bottom notwithstanding a plain initial year in energy – were unclear. Even with Josh Donaldson underneath agreement for dual some-more years and utterly a bit of maestro talent still in place, maybe it was time to demeanour to a future.
Like a wintry winter breeze ripping down Spadina Avenue, a suspicion had Toronto fans jolt in their boots: Maybe a Blue Jays missed their chance.
Four months later, a front bureau doesn’t consider so. Chalk it adult to a potentially meddling ownership, a enterprise not to divide a 3.4 million fans that ambled by a turnstiles a year ago, genuine certainty in a talent leftover from 2016, or all of a above, yet after Encarnacion deserted their take-it-or-leave-it offer of $80 million over 4 years, a Blue Jays’ front bureau rolled adult their sleeves, churned out a crowbar and a crazy glue, and did their best to column that rival window open for during slightest one some-more summer.
“We have a group that we design to be contending,” Ross Atkins, a Blue Jays’ ubiquitous manager, pronounced during a new interview, according to Robert Macleod of a National Post. “We also have some sensitivity in a players that things could go very, unequivocally good and we could be an well-developed team.”
Skepticism is understandable, even if that spiel came from someone not obliged for putting this register together. With a initial central examination for pitchers and catchers looming, it unequivocally looks like Justin Smoak is going to get a bulk of a personification time during initial bottom – a idea clearly in dispute with any expectancy of contending – while a indeterminate left-field crew of Ezequiel Carrera and Melvin Upton Jr., competence indeed be softened if Charlie Sheen, a star of Platoon (1986), started opposite right-handed pitching.
The rest of Toronto’s lineup, meanwhile, could be charitably characterized as post-prime, with a exceptions of Kevin Pillar, a 14th-worst competent hitter (87 wRC+) in ball over a final dual seasons, and Devon Travis, a earnest immature hitter clearly hold together by popsicle sticks. Bautista, one deteriorate private from a .913 OPS (145 OPS+), re-upped with Toronto when he couldn’t find a multi-year offer value signing this offseason; Tulowitzki, given undergoing hip medicine in 2014, has been a league-average hitter; Russell Martin indispensable dual additional months of open training to get prepared for a deteriorate – he strike .197/.259/.272 by May; visitor Kendrys Morales, who usually generates value in a batter’s box, strike worse than Elvis Andrus in 2016; and it’s not crazy to advise that Donaldson, now 31, has already authored a excellent deteriorate of his career.
Still, operative in unison with a surprisingly overwhelming rotation, this creaky core of players, and Encarnacion and reduction Morales, warranted 89 wins and a mark in a American League wild-card diversion final summer, and fell usually dual wins shy, by a way, of their expected 91-71 record, subsequent from their run differential. And yet Blue Jays fans have spent all winter bemoaning a fact that their favorite parrot has migrated to Cleveland, it’s distinct to remember that: A) retrogression isn’t linear; B) their whole revolution is entrance back; and C) this front bureau has done several critical additions this winter that will assistance Toronto replenish a extrinsic wins mislaid by Encarnacion’s (and Brett Cecil’s) departure.
Detractors competence mutter on about a event cost of regulating adult twice as many register spots to replenish those wins, yet a Blue Jays now have a descent reinforcements and bullpen assistance they indispensable to keep adult with a Boston Red Sox, and also have a handful of resources that are most some-more disposable come July, should a group flop. It wouldn’t take most nudging to get a contender to supplement Howell to their payroll for a widen run. The same can’t indispensably be pronounced about Cecil, who’s removing upwards of $7 million per deteriorate by 2020.
But unloading during a trade deadline is a strait plan. For now, even with an shocking miss of abyss and critical issues during a bottom of their lineup, a Blue Jays look, objectively, fine, and they competence even be really good, if certain things go their way. Just ask Atkins.
“… if we get a finish year out of Devon Travis, a finish year out of Jose Bautista, a finish year out of Steve Pearce, a healthy Kendrys Morales,” pronounced Atkins, “if we get a identical opening out of a starting pitching and feel good about a additions we’ve done to a bullpen, afterwards we’ll be a very, unequivocally good team.”
That isn’t spin or sad meditative so most as a reasonable projection. Even if a bulk of their players perform closer to their tenth-percentile – i.e. slightest assured – PECOTA projections, a Blue Jays aren’t going to be some unwatchable disaster in 2017. But with so most variability in terms of health and probable certain retrogression from their core players, personification time during certain positions, and intensity expansion from their immature stars, there’s a non-zero possibility Toronto will indeed be a very, unequivocally good team, one able of competing with a Red Sox for a multiplication title.
And vocalization of Boston, a unreserved 2017 AL East champions, maybe let’s rage a expectations usually a dwarfed bit for a group set to strike Pablo Sandoval, Mitch Moreland, and possibly Sandy Leon or Blake Swihart during a bottom of their lineup. Their revolution is bananas, though a doubt, and Dave Dombrowski did a excellent pursuit restocking his bullpen, too, yet a step retrograde from Mookie Betts and/or Hanley Ramirez could leave Boston’s offense, a best in a joining final year, sputtering a bit.
Projections are for nerds, and Travis is going to get hurt, and Tulowitzki isn’t that good anymore, and yada-yada-yada. Still, usually 3 teams had 6 or some-more position players accumulate during slightest 2.4 WAR final year, according to Baseball Reference: a St. Louis Cardinals (86-76), Boston Red Sox (93-69), and Chicago Cubs (103-58). (And, again, that’s usually a position players; a Blue Jays also have a revolution fronted by AL ERA champion Aaron Sanchez; Marcus Stroman, who posted a 3.24 ERA and 3.90 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his final 13 starts of 2016; and newly minted All-Star Marco Estrada).
“We feel good about a group entrance into 2017,” Atkins pronounced Monday during an coming on Prime Time Sports on The Fan 590.
Most ubiquitous managers are confident, publicly, during least, in a center of February, yet Atkins – giveaway of a nauseating connection to Encarnacion that’s preventing a lot of fans from noticing his clever work this offseason – has a convincing explain to optimism. The primarily short-term, low-risk deals they sealed this winter are a transparent denote that a Blue Jays are coming a tail finish of their window to win a World Series, yet until they infer otherwise, they’re a contender.