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Toronto Blue Jays: New Year, New Team
- Updated: January 7, 2017
Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays came into the 2016 season with question marks in their rotation and one of the best line-ups in all of baseball. Many expected Toronto to win the AL East crown, and contend for the top spot in the American League after a disappointing loss to the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS after a memorable ALDS match up with the Texas Rangers. Having made the postseason for the first time since 1993, the Jays felt like they had a strong core to build around and could contend for a World Series trophy despite the loss of David Price in free agency.
Marcus Stroman was supposed to lead the Blue Jays rotation just a year after coming off ACL surgery. He was to be backed by R.A. Dickey, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada and either Gavin Floyd, Jesse Chavez or possibly last year’s 8th inning man Aaron Sanchez at the number five spot. Stroman would go on to struggle in the first half of the season, while the best pitcher was Aaron Sanchez; the only starter to not be a lock coming out of spring training. Sanchez would go on to lead the American League in ERA and win percentage. This rotation was supposed to be Toronto’s weak point but ended up being one of their strengths.
A batting order that has a former home run champion, three players who hit 40 home runs last year, last year’s MVP and a healthy Troy Tulowitizki should be enough to strike fear into any opposing team. While the names of power were there for the Blue Jays after dominating the league in home runs and runs scored in 2015, they struggled to be the offensive juggernaut many thought they would be. They would go on to lose slugger Jose Bautista to numerous injuries, Josh Donaldson was bothered by a hip ailment most of the season, “Tulo” had trouble staying healthy as usual, and Russell Martin even went on to get hurt. A line-up that was supposed to beat teams into submission on their way to the ALCS and World Series, could just not get firing on all cylinders for a consistent stretch.
Ultimately, it would be the offense going cold at the wrong time that led to the Blue Jays departure from the playoffs. After a dramatic Wild Card win in which Edwin Encarnacion blasted a walk off home run in the bottom of the 10th, and then they would go on to sweep the Texas Rangers in a rematch of last years ALDS. Losing three of the first four games to the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS, the Jays were gifted with what many thought would be a chance to get back into the series by facing rookie Ryan Merrit in a pivotal Game 5. Jose Bautista would be quoted saying “He’ll be shaking in his boots” but the vaunted offense couldn’t get anything going against the rookie, who won Game 5 and ultimately sent the Indians to the World Series.
The Toronto Blue Jays would go on to lose franchise corner stones and fan favorites Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Cecil to free agency presenting the new management with a hard decision as to which way the club should go. They would also lose R.A. Dickey and Michael Saunders as well, leaving them with no starting outfielders. While management did offer Edwin Encarnacion a four-year, $80 million contract before the winter meetings, they wasted no time in signing back up plan DH Kendrys Morales to a three-year, $33 million deal, a move that many saw as the precursor to Encarnacion not coming back.
While Morales presents a nice option at DH, management and Encarnacion’s agent are to blame on not getting a deal done. Management was in to much of a rush to allow things to carry on and Encarnacion’s agent misread the market as he would settle for a three-year, $60 million deal with the Cleveland Indians. While many fans were very upset with the loss of the slugger, not many were bothered with the loss of Cecil to the St. Louis Cardinals or Dickey to the Atlanta Braves.
The only two major league signings by the Blue Jays to this point would be Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce. While neither signing is that impressive by management in a win now market, they both could provide great value for the club in a desperate attempt to recoup some of the power they lost to the open market.
Expectations For 2017:
The Toronto Blue Jays will ultimately take a step back this year following a break out campaign from Devon Travis, Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini. The young players will play well and give the fan base hope, but ultimately they will finish third in the AL East behind a strong Red Sox team, and a surprising New York Yankees squad. Stroman and Sanchez will emerge as a legitimate 1-2 punch in the rotation for the Jays, as they look to possibly see some of their prospects crack the line-up down the stretch.
The Toronto Blue Jays lost a lot to free agency this year, and management has been unable to replace the talent level that they lost despite trying to remain a contender in the American League. The Jays will not make the postseason in 2017, but should have strong campaigns from some of their younger players. Ultimately the management team will have to let down some fans by not being able to keep Edwin, or by not making a splash. No matter what kind of blowback they get from fans, they did what was right for the franchise by not digging themselves into any further of a financial hole.