As the Winter Meetings inch closer it will be interesting to see where the Toronto Blue Jays future plans unfold. They have been preaching a competitive rebuild and their plans are about to be brought to light as the offseason kicks into full swing.
The Blue Jays have already made one trade and grabbed a couple players off of waivers but other than building on depth, they have been holding their plans rather close to the chest. They have said they are going to remain competitive while they rework their roster to become younger. They are in a great position to do this with a solid veteran and youth mix within the team’s core. Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Smoak, Josh Donaldson, J.A. Happ, and Marco Estrada form the old guard. Over the past few years, the Blue Jays have had some homegrown talent establish themselves as well. That lists includes Kevin Pillar, Devon Travis, Roberto Osuna, Aaron Sanchez, and Marcus Stroman. This is the foundation of a solid team that definitely can compete this coming season on that basis pretty much alone.
With that core that will be together at least one more season in its current form, the Blue Jays have some decisions to make on how they fill in the gaps. Do you go all in on the free agent market, do you trade from a fruitful Minor League system, or do you allow the youngsters a chance at the MLB level? These are the questions that the Jays brass are facing and there are many paths they can take to accomplish this.
My first fear is that the Blue Jays dive into the deep end and go on a spending spree. This would be a first for the franchise to the extent the budget would be if they spend on A-level free agents. The last time the Blue Jays spent heavily on the free agent market they brought in A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan. This did not work out too well for the Blue Jays in that era and looking at this year’s high end names does not fill me with a ton of hope for something different. Jake Arrieta became a Cy Young level pitcher with the Cubs organization but still had some struggles this past season after finally bringing a Championship back to the Chicago. Yu Darvish is another big name that after having plenty of success just suffered a horrible offseason with the Dodgers. Are these names worth spending crazy amounts of money on?
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The Blue Jays should look to expand their core this offseason. This could be through trade or through free agency. As the Blue Jays veterans age, there needs to be some backfill. Their Minor league system is in a great place to help but there are some places that are still thin in the system. Grabbing players like Chris Owings, Nick Markakis, or Cory Spangenberg gives the Jays some extra MLB ready talent that can help them run through the next few years while some of the Top Prospects refine their game. Free agents like Tyler Chatwood are solid players that need a new home but will not break the bank to bring into the fold. The Blue Jays need to build depth with above replacement level players. Have players that are ready to fill key roles for veterans that may not see 100 games in a season again.
Light the fuse and see if some of these youngsters can show off some fireworks. The Blue Jays have a very underrated Minor League system but now boasts the best prospect in baseball. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. probably is not ready for his MLB debut this season after becoming a Florida State League Champion. Bo Bichette is another big name that was the Midwest League MVP this season and played with Vlad on the championship Dunedin Blue Jays team in Single A. There are plenty of names that are ready to join the Blue Jays even though there best prospects may be coming in the next couple years. Danny Jansen, Ryan Borucki, Anthony Alford, Roemon Fields, Richard Urena, Carlos Ramirez, and Lourdes Gurriel will be getting extended looks this Spring. This is a very welcomed problem as the team has not had this much talent ready to push onto the MLB roster in a long time.
This youth movement should not be ignored but can be supplemented with the addition of the other talent that could be on the market. This infusion of depth can carry this core of players and will only be further reinforced by the coming of more prospects to the Major League level. The Blue Jays have a rare opportunity that many teams do not get the chance to have. That is to have a solid sustained foundation in which they can keep the window open for an extended run of competitive baseball.
The pipeline of youth is ready to go and they have some financial flexibility to fill in the holes. Keeping key players like Josh Donaldson, Marcus Stroman, and Roberto Osuna need to be extended to form the core of this club. The next few weeks should show what the management is plotting.