The success that the Toronto Blue Jays had in 2015/2016 was always going to be short lived.
From August-October 2015 the Toronto Blue Jays were among MLB’s best, if not THE best team. But for a few bad breaks/bad calls, that team might have won it all.
A rainy day in Baltimore in late September that might have cost them home field advantage in the ALCS. An easy pop up in ALCS game 2 that slick fielding Ryan Goins catches 99 times out of 100 that wasn’t caught and opened the floodgates for the Royals. The “home run” in game six that should have been called fan interference. The brutal strike call on Ben Revere late in that game with Dalton Pompey representing the tying run on third.
As a Jays fan, 2015 was the most fun I had had since 1993. I wouldn’t give that up for anything.
But it was never going to be a long run.
That was a great Blue Jays team but as MLB teams go they were an old team. It was never realistic to believe that that group would continue to be that good for much longer.
Some Jays fans seem to want to blame the current front office for everything that is wrong with the franchise. Three straight losing seasons from 2017-2019. Declining attendance numbers.
There are many reasons why fans go to see games. One of the biggest draws is a winning team. Those same fans stay away when teams are losing.
What could they have done differently in order to field a more competitive team?
Keep the 2015/2016 team together?
To this day I still see people on Twitter saying the Jays should bring José Bautista back.
It is possible to be a Bautista fan for life while recognizing that he is no longer that player.
Many of the players from those two great years are no longer playing in MLB. With a few noteworthy exceptions, those who are are well past their prime and no longer able to help an MLB team win. Still others have had great potential seemingly derailed by injuries year after year (Devon Travis and Aaron Sanchez are two notable examples).
In 2015 the starting line up of position players posted a very impressive 36.2 fWAR. 29 year old Donaldson led the way with 8.7 fWAR, on his way to AL MVP honours. The next three top WAR performers were all on the wrong side of 30 (34 year old Jose Bautista, 5.2 fWAR, 32 year old Edwin Encarnacion, 4.5 fWAR, 32 year old Russell Martin, 4.5 fWAR).
In 2016, the starting Jays starting lineup had an fWAR of 23.9, once again led by Josh Donaldson at 7.6. The seven pitchers used as starters chipped in with 13.6 fWAR. It was good for a wild card berth and the team got hot enough to make it to the ALCS, only to be overmatched by Cleveland.
Flash forward to 2019. That same group of 2015 Jays starters (those who played in MLB) managed 10.5 fWAR, 4.9 of which came from 33 year old Josh Donaldson who is still an all star caliber player when healthy. Those same starting pitchers from 2016 (again those who played major league baseball in 2019) were good for 6.1 fWAR. 3.9 of that came from a career year from all star Marcus Stroman.
It’s pretty clear that keeping the band together wouldn’t have gotten the Jays any closer to competing in 2019. They would also be further away from getting back to contention in the future.
Improve through free agency?
For many reasons, this wasn’t a realistic option.
There were too many holes to try to fill. Signing Donaldson and Stroman to long term deals to keep them in Jays uniforms wouldn’t have changed that.
Even if there were enough quality free agents available. Even if enough of them were willing to sign with Toronto (which, as Jays fans know all too well, is often not the case). The cost of signing that many free agents would have been prohibitive. The luxury tax system is designed that way in an attempt to maintain competitive balance.
When a team has built a solid core of players who can contribute to winning, that’s the time to spend on big free agents to put a team over the top.
Go with young players in the system?
That’s what they started to do in 2019. Prior to that, the high ceiling players they had were not yet MLB ready.
It also took a few years to rebuild the farm system. In putting together MLB teams built to “win now”, Alex Anthopoulos traded away a significant number of minor league prospects and not just from 2014-2015. Who can forget Noah Syndergaard for reigning NL Cy Young award winner RA Dickey in the winter of 2012.
Looking at the 2015 playoff performances by Syndergaard and Dickey, it’s possible that this one trade may have cost the Jays a berth in the World Series that year. We will never know for certain.
When Mark Shapiro took over as Blue Jays team president in 2015, the organization had one of the lower ranked farm systems out of 30. It has taken time to build that back up.
19 rookies took the field for Toronto in 2019. The hope is that several of them will lead the team back to contention in the future. The difference between this group and the 2015/2016 teams is that today’s Jays are much younger. They have a chance to be good MLB players for a lot longer.
This is not to say that Blue Jays management is doing everything perfectly. Raising ticket prices three years in a row when the team had a sub .500 record was ill advised. The interactional part of the fan experience can be better at times. But that’s a whole other article.
Bautista, Encarnacion and Donaldson were all late bloomers, which is part of the reason the Jays were able to trade for them. Had they not been, and if the Jays had been fortunate enough to draft all of them, they may have been able to put together a longer run of contending years.
That’s not what happened though.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
HEAD ON OVER TO THE JAYS FROM THE COUCH VS ALS STORE AND GET SOME GREAT SWAG THAT YOU WILL LOOK GREAT IN AND YOU CAN FEEL GREAT ABOUT.
YOU CAN ALSO HEAD TO OUR JAYS FROM THE COUCH VS ALS FUNDRAISING PAGE TO MAKE A TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATION DIRECTLY TO ALS CANADA.
THANK YOU FOR VISITING JAYS FROM THE COUCH! CHECK US OUT ON TWITTER @JAYSFROMCOUCH AND LIKE US FACEBOOK. BE SURE TO CATCH THE LATEST FROM JAYS FROM THE COUCH RADIO