With the looming offseason of potential changes, where do the Blue Jays stand if some of the possible free agents leave? The solid core of players remaining could signal a culture change or new team focus that could have the Blue Jays still being a favourite in a crowded AL East.
The Blue Jays have a ton going for them as they head into the offseason, but they clearly have some decisions that will shake the foundation of this team that has been a force the past two seasons. Franchise players Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion could possibly be on their way out. Both players will be given qualifying offers by the Jays but rumour has it that Bautista is already prepared to decline the offer. This could signal a move that could push the team in a new direction from the perennial powerhouse to a more rounded team.
This team will be cemented in a solid work ethic around the grinder mentalities of Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, and Russell Martin. These players have different styles of being clubhouse leaders but they are winners that will grind out every pitch of a game. This combined with the heart of players like Marcus Stroman, Kevin Pillar, and Aaron Sanchez on the youth movement could be a hell of a spark for a team.
Over the years the Blue Jays clubhouse has been a melting pot of different mentalities. There have been numerous stories of how certain players on past rosters not appear to consistently put in the work. Some other players played with reckless abandon and continually got hurt. I will not name names, but fans have a sense of who I may be alluding too. Going into this offseason the Jays will look to build on a sold offence that could be more well-rounded than in previous years. The rumour mill is in full swing and the names that have been tossed around with the Jays thus far are rather intriguing. They also appear to be well rounded team players similar to the new core of Tulo, Donaldson, and Martin.
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One such name is Joey Votto who the rumour mill just refuses to stop tying with the Jays over the better part of two seasons. Votto is a solid player that never takes a pitch off. The Canadian played for a Cincinatti Reds team this season that finished in the lower ranks of the National League but crushed out some great numbers regardless. Many would chalk this up to good players produce good numbers, but Votto ever phoned in a performance. He batted a mere .326 while driving in 108 runs and scoring 101 times. He also hit 29 homers and 30+ doubles for the 2nd year in a row. Votto is a winner and solid leader that fits the mentality the Jays are looking for this offseason.
The Blue Jays, for the first time in a long time, appear to be looking to build a team around their solid pitching. Toronto has arguably never had the amount of talent that is in their starting rotation right now. With the entire rotation locked in for the next season it will be fun to not have any big rotation questions for the first time in recent memory. Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, and Francisco Liriano form a solid 1-to-5 rotation and the depth might be just as good. There has been talk that Joe Biagini may get an audition as a starter come Spring Training and there is more talented youngsters on the way. Top Prospects Conner Greene, Sean Reid-Foley, Jon Harris, and a few others might be ready for a chance to prove their stuff soon.
The pitching staff is not the only place that could be using an influx of youth. Dalton Pompey will more than likely get a strong look heading into the spring. Pompey has been a part of both the Jays post season runs and was meant to be the secret weapon. Pompey has a lot of upside and could become a big part of an outfield that already boasts the talents of Superman (also know as Kevin Pillar).
Pompey might have some company as well. The Minor Leagues have been unable to slow down Rowdy Tellez and Richard Urena over the past couple of seasons. Tellez spent the past year with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in double-A and figured things out after a rough start to the season. He finished the campaign with team MVP calibre numbers as he posted a .297 batting average with 23 homers and 83 RBIs.
Richard Urena has had his pedal to the metal as he has shot through the Jays Minor League system thus far. The now 20-year-old started the past season in Dunedin where he batted .305 in 97 games. He earned a call up to double-A and got off to an incredible start before cooling off to a .266 batting average. Urena did collect 11 extra base hits and 18 RBIs in just 30 games in double-A. The two could eventually force the hands of the big club for a shot at something more and Tellez could make things interesting as the team is looking to fill a 1B/DH spot this offseason.
The offseason Hot Stove is about to kick into full gear and look for the Jays to fill a mould as they add complementary parts to a lineup that still has plenty of thunder. The possible shift to a quicker, well-balanced lineup could push the Jays over the hump in the ALCS that they just can not seem to get over the past two years. They’ve have a culture of great leaders in their locker room the past few years and the combination of hard work and playing with a fire in your belly could bring them to victory. Let us all hope that the Jays continue to find grinders this offseason and keep the winning culture alive. The fans will be there ready to watch and thirsty for more as well.