Despite the disappointment of this offseason, the groundwork has been laid for the Toronto Blue Jays be successful now and in the future.
When Alex Anthopoulos left the Toronto Blue Jays, it sparked an outrage in the fanbase. After all, he was departing as the Bringer of Banners. How easy it was to forget the years of calling for his removal as GM. But that is what winning can do for you. Now, the Blue Jays are the defending American League East champions and people miss AA.
His departure was really just the start of a series of disappointments Blue Jays fans would suffer this offseason. From losing David Price to failing to address the bullpen (thus far) to bringing back J.A. Happ, fans of the Blue Jays can’t help but wonder just how this team will repeat its 2015 success.
But, that line of thinking is missing several factors that make the Toronto Blue Jays a competitive team…now and in the future. This team has been put in a solid position moving forward.
Firstly, the offense that has been assembled in Toronto is without an equal in baseball. Of course, many different fans of many different teams could try and make the case for their team. But, the Blue Jays scored 127 more runs than any other team in baseball in 2015. They also led MLB in HR with 232, total bases (2518), RBI (852), OBP (.340), SLG (.457) and were 2nd with an average of .269. And, this lineup is set to get a full year out of Ben Revere and Troy Tulowitzki (fingers crossed). It is the same lineup that features reigning AL MVP, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
This trio combined for 120 long balls in 2015. That type of power is going to cost you on the open market. What are the Blue Jays paying for their services in 2016? Bautista will make $14M, EE will get $10M and Donaldson is expected to earn somewhere around $12M. That is $36M for 3 of the best hitters in all of baseball. That is the kind of value that teams would drool over. That kind of financial flexibility certainly sets a team up for success in the immediate future. What the club does with that flexibility is another matter.
Speaking of financial issues, we should also consider that the Blue Jays have Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna under team control until the year 2021. By then, they’ll each be a part of the starting rotation. The way the free agent market is shaping up, the cost of starting pitching in a few years will be mind boggling. So, having these 3 in the fold for that long only benefits the club in the long run.
The additions of Tulo, Donaldson and Revere cost prospects. So too did the rental of Mark Lowe, LaTroy Hawkins and Price. That is where some of the pessimism over the club’s future is coming from. AA certainly traded away a lot of talent this past summer. But, the cupboards aren’t empty. Think about the future of Anthony Alford, Sean Reid-Foley and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Think back to just a few months ago when Rowdy Tellez opened some eyes in the Arizona Fall League.
All of these names (and more, like Conner Greene, Jon Harris and Richard Urena) should be players we are getting excited about. They may not crack the major league roster for a couple years, but they don’t really need to. The big league club is set up to buy time for these prospects to grow. Not that anyone is suggesting that they’re just buying time for the kids, but that is kind of what is happening. Right now, there isn’t a whole lot of room to plug in green prospects in the hopes of exciting a fanbase. Yes, there is a gap between the major league roster and the prospect talent listed above, one that is likely larger than we’d like. But, it certainly is not dire. The timing could very well work out nicely.
The Blue Jays very well could have made a big splash this winter by signing a coveted free agent, depending on what you believe about payroll. Things could have gone differently. But, when you stop and think about it, this club is in good shape heading into the 2016 season and beyond. They have an elite offense at a relatively discounted price, they have young, talented players under team control for several years and they have a level of prospect talent that should be ready to slide in to the big league level at the right time. It can be easy to follow the hot takes and see the Blue Jays’ glass half empty, but that woudln’t exactly be seeing things clearly.
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