The Toronto Blue Jays are having a rough go of late, but there’s plenty of time and options for the club.
That was the mantra about this time last season for the Toronto Blue Jays, and it fits well again for this season’s club. After an excellent April, which few of us saw coming, the Jays have taken a nosedive in May. A lot of that was because they actually had to start playing good teams, like the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners and Oakland Atheletics (they’re better than you think), the latter two being teams they have to beat in order to maintain a shot at the wild card.
— Andy (@_rallycap) May 18, 2018
Much of the fall has been health related: Marcus Stroman is on the DL with shoulder fatigue. Jaime Garcia is on the DL with something similar, compounded by a case of being ineffective on top of that. Randal Grichuk messed up his knee. Steve Pearce, half of a great platoon in LF with Curtis Granderson, is also hurt. As are short stops Aledmys Diaz and Troy Tulowitzki. Aside from maybe the Washington Nationals, no team in the hunt has had as many injuries.
And then there’s the utter ineffectiveness that leaked into the team’s offense in May.
What’s left is this awkward squad of guys just scraping by until some of the regulars return, either from the DL or their early-season swoons. This isn’t going to happen overnight, and the schedule isn’t going to lighten up any time soon. Another Wild Card foe comes to town Tuesday night in the Anaheim Angels before hitting the road to the less-than-friendly cities of Boston and Philadelphia.
the Angels are going from "your rich neighbors who don't put up holiday decorations" to "showing up at the neighborhood meeting proposing a $300/mo HOA increase to ensure a 'certain standard of living' for the area" realllll quick https://t.co/yv6vjrxXlq
— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) May 21, 2018
Of late, the front office is just trying to maintain some grasp of the very good team of April, but the limites of their depth have been tested, and the bodies shuttled back and forth from Buffalo and New Hampshire haven’t impressed. Lourdes Gurriel wasn’t quite ready for a full-time gig. Anthony Alford‘s injury in spring training didn’t help prepare him for a role this early in the season. Dwight Smith Jr. is what he is – a competent fourth/AAAA outfielder with some speed, but he shouldn’t be looked at as a saviour – not that anyone was really asking for that.
In the infield, we’re seeing a lot of Gio Urshela, whose acquisition baffled me a bit, a player with limited MLB success, taking a 40-man spot from organizational guys who have earned their own – guys like Jason Leblebijian, Tim Lopes, and others. Meanwhile, Devon Travis has hit in eight-straight games with Triple-A Buffalo, but he has no more than one hit in each game. Josh Donaldson has struggled with the bat, and after playing Sunday’s game with a glove made out of stone, the only consistent contributors to the team in 2018 have been Justin Smoak, Kevin Pillar, and – just as we all drew it up – Luke Maile.
Where do we go from here?
There’s a few directions this team can go right now. It’s only May 21st, and it would be foolish not to let this thing play out until the All-Star Break before even considering selling off assets. So right now, you play to win, and hope more injuries don’t sidetrack the team even more and that Justin Smoak, Kevin Pillar and Luke Maile* continue carrying the offense.
Eventually, the injured Jays will be back. Slotting Steve Pearce back in against left-handed pitchers can go a long way. Perhaps a little rest is all Marcus Stroman needs, and he’ll come back strong. The rest of this rotation can’t possibly be this bad (right?!) But supposing these issues don’t fix themselves, the team cannot passively improve itself to the point of competing in 2018. Or beyond.
The offensive struggles of the team are most glaring at DH, and the Blue Jays’ DH this season has been more valuable as a reliever than as a hitter, the position he is contracted to fulfill. Morales’ struggles have been mighty, and despite a pair of hits on Sunday, it’s hard to envision him busting out of this 13-month slump. At some point, you have to cut bait and free up a roster spot for…virtually anything of value. But we can’t expect this to happen overnight, as Rogers will surely force the front office to exhaust every possible scenario, including calls to the other 29 organizations and maybe even some Korean ones. And of course, this conversation doesn’t even start until all both of Randal Grichuk and Steve Pearce are ready to rejoin the team.
On Josh Donaldson
The Blue Jays will need Josh Donaldson to contend. Despite Sunday’s grotesque effort, Donaldson is still far and away the best player on the Blue Jays. Yet any resurgence on Donaldson’s part cannot push this sub-.500 team into the playoffs alone, and without improvements from the rotation and the other eight in the lineup, the team will remain where they are.
That being said, of course Blue Jays fans will start pondering what he could potentially net at the trade deadline. Unfortunately, he hasn’t made much of a case for his services, and his trade value, at the moment, isn’t high. There’s concerns over his ailing shoulder, his lack of production thus far in 2018, and the fact that whatever his price tag is at the trade deadline, someone will best it for Manny Machado instead.
If they get it together?
Then you play it out. And if the offense is struggling at any point while back in contention, you bring up Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and take the growing pains with the 450-foot bombs and mediocre defense (which really isn’t that bad – yet.)
There are other options, as well. Gurriel still has time to figure out how to not swing at everything. Ryan Borucki and his battery mate Danny Jansen are about as near-ready as possible, both with nothing left to prove at Triple-A. There’s speed and athleticism in Buffalo as well, with Anthony Alford and Roemon Fields.
Essentially, as quickly as this season has fallen apart, the pieces can be put back together into a competitive team again. And if not, at least we have an interesting one with a glimpse at a bright future.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.