Blue Jays: How division rivals should affect the future

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 01: (L-R) Greg Bird
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 01: (L-R) Greg Bird /

With the Yankees and Red Sox both looking like powers in the AL East again, how does that affect the future for the Blue Jays?

If you were following baseball in the 90’s and into the 2000’s, you’ll remember a time when the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox were the two greatest superpowers in baseball, and they acted like it too.

During that stretch, if there was a big time free agent to be had on the market, you can bet both teams would be calling. Sometimes, they called and even made deals, just to make sure the other wouldn’t be able to improve their roster. For the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Rays, it was a dark time as far as competitive seasons went.

From 1995-2007, the Yankees never missed the postseason, and not so coincidently, the Blue Jays never qualified during that stretch. The Red Sox made the playoffs nine times from 1995-2009 themselves, so there weren’t a lot of playoffs years for the East that didn’t belong to one of the two franchises. The second Wild Card position just started in 2012 as well.

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This season both teams are in full-on contention mode, with both clubs acquiring players at the trade deadline to bolster their chances. The Yankees brought in the likes of Sonny Gray, Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle, while the Red Sox shored up their infield with Eduardo Nunez at third base. They did a lot of heavy lifting (i.e.. Chris Sale) in the offseason as well.

We knew the two franchises wouldn’t stall forever, but it’s disappointing that the Blue Jays’ window closed this season (for now anyway), while both teams took significant steps forward. We expected it from the Red Sox, but the Yankees have had greater performances than expected from the likes of Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, and others, which has sped up their rebuild a bit.

The question is: Should the success of their division rivals change the Blue Jays’ course of action at all?

I would argue that the front office is very aware of where things are at in the division. Both Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins appear to have one eye on the future, while also realizing the core of this team is pretty solid already. Yes, the Blue Jays have been a major disappointment in 2017, but with pieces like Josh Donaldson, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Roberto Osuna, etc, in line to return next year, a few tweaks could make a major difference in 2018.

After that, Donaldson will be gone unless he’s re-signed beforehand, but that also means the next core of the Blue Jays will be another step closer to the big leagues. We talk about them a lot here at Jays Journal, but Vladimir Guerrero Jr and Bo Bichette are two of the most exciting offensive prospects the Blue Jays have had in years, the latter of which hit over .400 in Low A, and is doing the same now that he’s in Dunedin.

Knowing that and having the talented trio of pitchers that they’ve already got in house, the Blue Jays would be foolish to roll over and let the newest Yankee-Red era of domination begin. Sure, the division just got a lot more difficult, but this isn’t a team that’s set up for a complete tear down, and the front office would be making a huge mistake if they chose that route.

It appears they are of the same mindset, as they chose to go with some minor tweaks at the non-waiver deadline, sending just Francisco Liriano and Joe Smith away, and actually bringing back some value in return. It won’t be easy for the Blue Jays to return to contention next year, but if we’re playing the “poke holes in the roster” game, they have the potential to return to contention with a healthy roster, maybe just as much as a revamped Yankees team. It just got a little more difficult now, that’s all.

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