Blue Jays: Why you should keep tuning in
The Blue Jays haven’t been mathematically eliminated from the postseason yet, but with their recent string of losses this week they’re all but guaranteed to miss the playoffs this year. With that in mind, what is there to keep us watching in 2017?
Another day and another Blue Jays’ loss, and with it, almost all of the remaining optimistic fans are accepting that this team won’t be making the postseason in 2017. At 60-68, they’re 6.0 games out of the second wild card spot with just 34 games remaining. When the week began there may have been a glimmer of hope, but going just 1-6 in their last seven has all but sealed their fate.
For some, that last bit of hope being taken away might be enough to finally put a damper on the fan support this year, which has been phenomenal throughout the campaign. Despite the team being in last in the AL East throughout the entire season, they’ve lead the American League in home attendance for nearly the entire year, with the Yankees just recently passing them in a per game ranking. Still, the Blue Jays currently host an average of 40,098 at the Rogers Centre, and have been receiving incredible support on the road as well.
Still, fans can’t be blamed if their attention starts turning elsewhere in a lost season, and that’s exactly what the fan base is staring at with about five weeks remaining in the schedule. That being said, I believe there are plenty of reasons for fans to keep tuning in, as the remainder of this season will go a long way to determining how the team looks next year, and beyond. There are also a few storylines that as Blue Jays, many of us will appreciate as well.
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The first of those storylines is the likely end of a long tenure for Jose Bautista in Toronto. The 36 year old came to Toronto in a small trade back in 2008, and transformed himself into one of the most feared sluggers in all of baseball. For all his struggles this year, anybody who has been following the team over the last decade has to have some sort of appreciation for his talent, and contribution to the franchise.
And yet, all good things eventually come to an end, and that’s the likely case for the marriage between Bautista and the Blue Jays. He was signed to a creative contract during this past offseason that includes a mutual option for 2018, but all reports are leaning towards the front office being ready to move on. “Joey Bats” has struggled at the plate this year, and the fact that he’ll be 37 when next season opens makes it hard to be optimistic for a turn around. His spot in the lineup is also one of the few places that could allow for a change next year, barring a trade of course, so his departure feels imminent on a roster that could use a shake up.
Even if moving on makes sense, it’s never easy to say goodbye to a beloved franchise icon, and Bautista is just that. He’ll likely sit on the bench a little more in September in favour of some of the call-ups, but at least we’ll get to watch him play in Toronto for another month or so, and as we so often do in Toronto, we can reminisce about the glory days with a player still in the uniform.
Speaking of veterans, Marco Estrada will be an interesting player to watch as the season winds to a close. As has been well documented, Estrada will be a free agent at the conclusion of the season, and his performance in will certainly be studied. There have been reports of mutual interest between the two parties, so it’s entirely possible he could return for 2018 and maybe more.
The Mexican born right-hander has had a very up and down season, and hasn’t been the same pitcher he was in 2015-16, when he was an All-Star and lead the Blue Jays’ staff during the playoffs. That being said, he’s shown plenty of promise both before and after his disastrous stretch in June and July, and there’s reason to believe he can offer value next season and beyond.
How he performs down the stretch could go a long way in determining interest from other clubs, and also what the Blue Jays may feel he’s worth as a free agent. There’s no doubt that his demands will be less than they would have been a year ago, but just how far remains to be seen.
The All-Star first baseman added his 35th home run of the season on Friday night, and with it became the Blue Jays’ all-time leader in single season home runs by a switch hitter. He passed the previous mark set by Jose Cruz Jr. with the solo blast.
Smoak has been a pleasant surprise this season, and watching him finish up the campaign and continue to further his career high marks is certainly something to follow. It would be more fun if he were doing it for a playoff bound team, but a feel good story is always fun, and Smoak’s emergence certainly qualifies.
Of course, we can’t forget about the minor leaguers that are about to be called up next week when rosters expand. The Blue Jays haven’t indicated for sure who they are going to add to the fold, but there are a few likely candidates for sure.
Anthony Alford had a brief stint with the big club earlier this year before he broke a hamate bone in his wrist and had to spent some time on the disabled list. It’s expected that he’ll be among those added, and the former two sport star should be someone to keep your eye on. He will likely need a little more seasoning in Triple A next year before making a full time move, but he’s got all the tools to be a successful big leaguer.
Speaking of talented outfielders, Teoscar Hernandez has been tearing the cover off the ball since arriving in Buffalo by way of the Astros in the Francisco Liriano trade. Hernandez was deemed expendable in a talented Astros’ outfield depth chart, but so far it appears the Blue Jays may have gotten a steal in the trade deadline swap.
Lourdes Gourriel is another talent that could get a look in September, especially because his positional flexibility allows him to play nearly anywhere on the diamond, save for pitcher or catcher. He’s been playing very well in Buffalo as well, and is expected to challenge for a spot on the big league roster in the spring.
Lastly, (and there could be plenty of others, I’m just speculating) Danny Jansen looks like he deserves a shot at the highest level, and he may get that with Russell Martin still on the shelf. Raffy Lopez and Miguel Montero are currently holding down the fort, but Jansen has been mashing the ball across every level he’s played at this year, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Blue Jays reward him with a September call-up.
Next: A look at some potential September call-ups
There’s no doubt that the team will add a few pitchers as well, and perhaps a few other position players, but these are the four I’m hoping to see called up and to get a look at in September. The opportunity to watch them, follow the other storylines above, and just enjoy baseball for another five weeks is enough for me to stick around, and I hope you’ll do the same. There’s plenty of good baseball to enjoy, even if it didn’t work out the way we’d hoped it would.