Dear young Jays fan,
This offseason that the Toronto Blue Jays are currently facing may seem bleak with some of our favorite players possibly leaving. This is unfortunately nothing new to some of us older Jays fans. Over the years, until their recent successes, the Jays have bled out talented players to their competitors. There is plenty to be excited about, so I want to give you a quick history lesson and give you some reasons to be optimistic about what is going on. Hopefully I can provide you with some light among the darkness that you may possibly be feeling.
Over the years Blue Jays fans have had to watch players like Roberto Alomar, Carlos Delgado, and Jimmy Key leave the team during free agency. Free agency can be exciting for a team or demoralizing. Watching one of my favorite pitchers in Jimmy Key become a New York Yankee really stung when I was a kid. This off-season we could very well watch one of Toronto’s biggest sluggers go to an AL East rival.
There is no band-aid big enough for watching your once-favourite player go to a team you despise, but for every player that the Jays have let loose over the years there has been a solid player that came to Toronto. The Jays might not have paid Jimmy Key after the 1992 World Series win but, they did go out and spend on Paul Molitor and Dave Stewart.
This year the Hot Stove season is still young and the Jays are still in full pursuit of Edwin Encarnacion. The money appears to be there if the Jays want to use it, given the reports of a four-year $80 mil offer that was reportedly offered to Encarnacion. They have also spent on Kendrys Morales with $33 mil over the next three years. Many think this is a reason the Jays will not go after Encarncion, but the Jays feel Edwin is more of a first-baseman than a DH at this point. That could still be a powerful tandem at 1B/DH.
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The Blue Jays also have a lot more going for them this offseason then they have had in previous big free agent departures. The Jays were one of the best teams in total attendance this year as they ranked 3rd in all of baseball, and fans like you all have brought this team back from the brink of destruction. The player’s strike in 1994 killed baseball for many older baseball fans. The greed-soaked game of the time needed an awakening. Jump forward to 2014 when a winning team brought back an entire nation of fans. The Jays ticket sales skyrocketed which will continue to translate into money being spent on the team. The idea of “If you build it they will come” is alive and well in Toronto. The Blue Jays still have a winning team that could look much different come opening day 2017. This new team built around a solid core and starting pitching is going to win plenty of games.
The current state of the team’s roster is also why the Blue Jays would entertain bringing back Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. After the 2004 season was over, the Blue Jays had every opportunity to resign Carlos Delgado. They did not want to tie up to much of their salary on the fringe Hall of Famer. Delgado was the face of the franchise and arguably one of the biggest names to ever come through the Jays organization. The 2004 Blue Jays finished dead last in the AL East with a 67-94 record. This did not put the Jays in a great position to pool all of their money on one player with so many blatant holes in the roster. Looking at the season the Jays just had in 2016 they are in a much better position to be spenders. They theoretically have fewer holes to fill and could spend on Edwin or Jose to keep the band together.
The Blue Jays are also learning from their past. The team is not looking to dump too much money into one player and piece together the rest. This plan should avoid things like the Vernon Wells contract from ever happening again. For the benefit of those who do not remember, that was when the Jays dumped money on Wells with a seven-year, $126 million dollar deal. At the time it did not seem like a bad deal because Vernon Wells had won three gold gloves and was in the MVP conversation each of those years.
Injury issues and inconsistency would make this deal look like one of the worst contracts in Jays history. With Encarnacion and Bautista getting older you can see the reasons why management may want to see what their other options could be. We have seen Bautista have issues staying on the field. Could this coming season be more injury prone?
I know this coming season looks like it could be rough. This season could have far fewer parrot walks and bat flips but this does not mean this team is heading to the showers early. There will be plenty of fans still cheering “HE-YO TU-LO” and tons of rain in the forecast. This team will now centralize around a young core of pitchers in Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman. Their swagger coupled with the veteran leadership of Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson will translate to a great locker room environment. This team will be built on winning and unfinished business from the past few years. Look for management to piece together another potent lineup as they built up the pitching staff prior to the past season.
Relax, young Jays fans. We have been here before and in much worse situations. The Jays will have a solid team ready for spring training. Once the Boys of Summer return there will be some new faces and possibly some rookie surprises that could lead us all the way this coming season.
Craig Borden (aka DocDelgado12 @ JaysJournal)
PS -Go Jays Go! Can’t wait for spring