The Toronto Blue Jays set a goal of getting younger and more versatile in 2018. They’ve accomplished half of that.
The Toronto Blue Jays entered the offseason with a stated goal of getting younger and more versatile. Positional limitations were made ever so clear when injuries took a major toll on the 2017 roster. An aging roster means the potential for injuries is higher, a lack of versatility means that a club has a more difficult time covering for said injuries. So, it only made sense for GM, Ross Atkins to set about addressing these issues.
Now, in an offseason, accomplishing the goal of becoming younger is not as easy as one might think. If you’re looking to free agency, you’re not going to find the youngest talent there. Instead, you’re going to find those who have played through the first years of their career to get to free agency. It’s where you’ll find players like those Toronto signed this offseason.
Looking at the acquisitions likely to make the team out of Spring Training, they are not exactly fresh faces. Curtis Granderson (37 yrs old), John Axford (34 yrs old), Seung Hwan Oh (35), Tyler Clippard (33), Al Alburquerque (31) all represent veteran presences that go against the idea of getting younger. If we add to the ages of returning players to this list, it looks a little more worrisome. Russell Martin is 35, Kendrys Morales is 34, Troy Tulowitzki is 33. Heck, Josh Donaldson is 32. ESPN has the Blue Jays as the 3rd oldest team in baseball with an average age of 28.8.
Granderson was signed for $5M and Oh for $2M guaranteed. The rest of the new additions do not cost a whole heck of a lot, so there is that. But, time and time again, we hear that an aging roster leads to problems. Injuries pile up. Whether the player is making $20M or the league minimum, his absence from the roster has the potential to cause havoc for a team trying to compete.
Not only does lost time remove the potential impact the player may have – think about how much better the Blue Jays would be with a 100% healthy Tulo – it forces the team to have to cover for them. We saw how much of an issue this was last season.
Luckily, Toronto has addressed its versatility. The way the versatility was added was via the trade route. Yangervis Solarte, Aledmys Diaz, Randal Grichuk all were brought in to provide positional flexibility. Grichuk can play all outfield positions. Solarte and Diaz can play multiple infield positions each. As our Jeff Q pointed out, if they hit, these two could fill in at short stop rather nicely. The versatility can also be used as a preventative approach by providing days off to multiple players. So, maybe, this will help mitigate the age factor. Maybe.
While one might look at the collective age of this group and complain, it needs to be stated that the Blue Jays’ current situation dictates that they do exactly what they did this winter. In reality, they are trying to maintain their competitive window one year at a time. Doing so means multiple deals like we saw this winter. Minor league, one year deals from the open market and trades for guys who are relatively cheap and on longer term contracts. Grichuk and Diaz represent those.
Until the likes of Anthony Alford, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr are ready to contribute at the big league level, we can expect Toronto to continue propping its window open with a dusty book from the shelf. The organization is on its way to creating those waves of talent making their way to the big leagues. But, until that happens, we can expect at least another year of these types of moves.
That is not to take away from the talent that the Blue Jays have brought in. Granderson, Oh, Clippard, Axford very well could have an impactful season for Toronto, proving that age ain’t nothing but a number. Atkins didn’t just sign age. He potentially signed some real talent. For any team, ‘trying to get younger’ is often accomplished one way: selling off talent and regrouping, leading to a commitment to losing for a few years.
The Blue Jays have not done that. They have put a lot of effort into maintaining a competitive lineup. As such, that means they have done little to address the overall age of their team. Time will tell if this will backfire on them.
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