No. 3: Injuries to Brett Cecil or Russell Martin
Injuries. If the Blue Jays see their season derailed in 2016, chances are it will have something to do with the talent sitting on the disabled list, but listing “injuries” alone is too simplistic.
Yes, Jose Bautista or Troy Tulowitzki missing time will stretch the Blue Jays very thin, but with suitable depth (especially in the outfield) and a lineup that could still top the Major Leagues with a star bat on the shelf, we need to be a little more specific.
This leads me to two positions where the Blue Jays may not have a “next man up” that instills a great deal of confidence: Catcher and left-handed reliever.
Beginning with Brett Cecil, a seventh-inning reliever may not appear overwhelmingly important, but the 29-year-old has quietly become one of baseball’s top lefties out of the bullpen. With 146 strikeouts over 107.2 innings pitched these past two seasons, he’s also developed into a high-leverage jewel.
Cecil becomes even more important, though, when considering who the Blue Jays current “second lefty” is.
Ryan Tepera. A 28-year-old right-hander with 33.0 career Major League innings.
He’s got the ability and the backing of John Gibbons, but with Aaron Loup injured (and 2015 still fresh in the memory), Toronto’s lefty depth isn’t terribly encouraging. Expect to see switch-pitcher Pat Venditte surface this year, perhaps even the young Chad Girodo, but Cecil’s loss would not be a simple fix.
A more devastating injury, of course, would be one to Russell Martin. As one of the game’s premiere catchers, not only at the dish but behind it, losing Martin for any extended period of time would represent a drop-off in talent that could weigh down the bottom third of Toronto’s roster.
Josh Thole will open the season as the primary backup and work with R.A. Dickey, but unless his offseason swing overhaul brings surprising results, the lefty bat does not have starting value. Tony Sanchez could be tempting as a call-up option, but just like with Cecil, a direct replacement for Martin’s exact skill set is nowhere to be found.
Next up, a challenge facing Toronto’s starting rotation…
Next: No. 2: Quality innings are great, but what about quantity?