It’s time to get real Blue Jays fans, the odds of Toronto doing anything special this year is truly slim. Yeah, maybe on paper Jays fans might like to think this team stands a shot at finishing with a 79-83 record. In all fairness, maybe they do, but can an impartial fan really see the Jays winning the Americal League East? Many Toronto Blue Jays fans will stutter when asked because they already know the truth and living in denial is the best way to swallow the pill of another mediocre season. Blue Jays fans would rather opt to take the blue pill and let the story end rather than take the red pill and see how deep the rabbit hole goes. It’s easy to understand why Blue Jays fans want to run away from the truth that haunts them – their best days are over. That’s why it’s time to start the rebuild.
Toronto Blue Jays Rebuild Need To Happen
A Glance at the AL East
The American League East is going to be dominated by the Bronx Bombing, New York Yankees. The team went out and stacked their roster by bringing in Giancarlo Stanton to play with great ballplayers like Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, and Gary Sanchez. Not to mention, the Yankees still have a solid starting rotation that includes the lights of Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Luis Severino. The scary thing is the Yankees bullpen has yet to be mentioned. A bullpen that is ranked number one by Sporting News. The Yankees bullpen is so deep that Tommy Kahnle is third on the depth chart behind David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman. Dellin Betances hasn’t even been mentioned! On paper, the Yankees are more stacked than Lance Armstrong on PEDs.
Last Word On Baseball’s own Robert Deininger predicts that the Yankees will finish with a solid 95-67 record and finish first in the AL East. Further solidifying how good of a team the Yankee is on paper.
What about the Red Sox?
What baseball fan could forget about the Boston Red Sox? They have a team that could easily rival the Yankees this year. The Red Sox don’t have the power that the Yankees do, even with the signing of slugger J.D. Martinez, but they do have a solid all-around team that can produce runs. The Red Sox have one of the best young shortstops in the game in Xander Bogaerts. Their outfield is solid with players like Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. catching the flyballs. The Red Sox rotation is pretty good, if healthy, of course. They have David Price, Chris Sale, and Rick Porcello. That’s a fine top three. It always helps that the Red Sox have Craig Kimbrel in the bullpen too. That makes for a strong team. Definitely a Wild Card team.
The Rest of the Division
In all honesty, it’s nothing special. Baltimore wants to think of itself as a “Wild Card contender”. The fact of the matter is they aren’t. Too many hills to climb and too little time to do it. Manny Machado, Chris Davis, and Mark Trumbo ain’t going to cut it for them. Tampa Bay is no better. The only thing that separates them from Baltimore is that they accepted their fate and are at peace with it. They’re willing to invest in their future and count their loses. I.e., not managing to do anything outside of going to the World Series with Evan Longoria. Instead, they traded him away and invested in a future pennant race.
A Quick Look at the Jays
Okay, the Jays aren’t a “terrible” team. They have a lot of talent on their roster. Their rotation looks something like this: Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, and Jaime Garcia. Even with veteran shortstop Troy Tulowitzki aging, the Jays have a decent infield. Josh Donaldson is one of the best third basemen out there. Devon Travis, when healthy, is a solid second baseman. Justin Smoak isn’t bad either. The outfield is iffy, but it’s not all that bad. If the Jays were in another division maybe they could be considered playoff threats, but in this year’s version of the AL East, not so much. The Jays are the “Stifler’s Mom” of baseball. They’re not bad, they’re not good, but fans would cheer for them if they knew they had a chance.
If the Blue Jays are Somewhat Good, Why rebuild?
Josh Donaldson says he and #BlueJays just aren’t there on extension talks. He’s expecting to hit free agency. Happy to play for #BlueJays, happy with front office, but “turning the page” on extension talks to focus on field, he said
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) February 19, 2018
Outside of 2018, the Blue Jays don’t look like a team that will be contending for a playoff spot, let alone the World Series. The team’s best player, Josh Donalson, just told the media that if he doesn’t get an offer that meets his market value next summer, he’s going elsewhere. As it sits right now, ownership isn’t going to give the Jays front office the money that GM Ross Atkins and President Mark Shapiro would need to sign Donaldson and field a winning team. That becomes problematic because the front office has to make the tough choice of where they want to allocate the money that they have in their budget. The Jays already have a lot of future holes to fill and they have backloaded contracts that they need to pay off. There’s no escaping from it. The front office took an educated gamble by not trading Donaldson last year; this year it seems like a must.
Another Brick In The Wall: Blue Jays Ownership.
The Toronto Blue Jays are owned by Rogers Communications. In Dec 2017, there were reports that Rogers Communications was evaluating the sale of the Toronto Blue Jays franchise. Usually, when an ownership group is considering the sale of a franchise, it means that they’re not willing to put more assets into it. They’re most likely looking to extract as many assets from the team as possible. In English, Rogers isn’t putting any more money into the team then what they already have to. The Blue Jays already have the ninth highest payroll in the MLB. There’s no way Rogers is sinking more money into the team. Most likely they’re going to want to rid themselves of backloaded contracts. Due to the fact that Rogers won’t throw more money at the team, the writing on the wall is quite clear for Donaldson and the Blue Jays – they’re done one way or another. If there ever was a team time consider rebuilding – the time is now.
An Unholy Confession
Although it makes all the sense in the world for the Blue Jays to rebuild, ownership is telling Atkins and Shapiro that they want them to put a winning team on the field with a minimum budget. The reason why ownership wants that is to have another good year of revenue before the inevitable happens and mediocrity kicks in. That puts Atkins and Shapiro in a position where they have to upset some of the team’s key pieces moving forward. Like the “Yes Men” Atkins and Shapiro are, they’re going to stick with that plan until they hit puberty and their balls drop.
Outside The Wall
But, most Jays fans wouldn’t be surprised to see Donaldson shipped away before the trade deadline. After all, it makes sense to acquire assets for the future. Especially looking at the Jays prospects coming down the pipeline like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Anthony Alford, Nate Pearson, Lourdes Gurriel, and more. Bring in a few good prospects from the Donaldson trade, let them develop. Five years down the road, the Jays could be where the Huston Astros are now. If there’s one thing Atkins and Shapiro know how to do, as evident in their time in Cleveland, is build a team from the bottom up.
Some might say that the Jays can’t take that Cleveland philosophy and use it in the AL East. Maybe that might be true but think about it this way. If management develops enough good players to put on the team and make them playoff worthy, management can go to ownership and tell them, “Hey, we’re going to need to spend some money in order to make some.” This then puts pressure not from management, but from the fans, on ownership to open up their wallets and make the team a contender. Rogers will do that if they know there is a profit to be made. Case in point, the 1992 and 1993 Toronto Blue Jays teams.
The bottom line
Yes, as of now, the Blue Jays look decent on paper, but are they playoff decent? Maybe. Are they World Series decent? No. The team is getting older by the year. Ownership won’t spend the money to keep its star players. The Blue Jays are much better off rebuilding and creating a team that can be a winner for a decade rather than fostering an old team that can be a winner for a year. As cliche as it sounds, there is always darkness before the dawn. The sadness comes before the pity. The pity comes before relief. The more change, the less one feels. That’s going to be the Blue Jays case.
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