Blue Jays: What to like vs. the rest of the AL East
There’s a good chance that several roster moves remain for teams in the AL East, but as things stand right now, how do the Blue jays compare to their rivals?
Let’s just get it out of the way off the hop that I fully recognize there are more than 90 free agents still available, and the teams within the AL East could drastically change in the next month. I recognize that, but for the purpose of this article we’re talking about how things stand as of today. Okay? Cool. Let’s get to it then.
The Blue Jays have made some under the radar moves this offseason to improve their roster, but they haven’t exactly lit up the hot stove either. They signed Curtis Granderson to a free agent deal, made separate trades for Yangervis Solarte, Aledmys Diaz, and Randal Grichuk, and have agreed to a few minor league deals as well. There is more work to be done, and while the time is starting to tick pretty loudly, remarkably there are still plenty of options available on the open market.
The good news for the Blue Jays within the division, is that it’s been pretty quiet for the rest of the teams as well. Save for the Yankees trading for Giancarlo Stanton (which feels like a long time ago now, doesn’t it?), and the Rays shipping out Evan Longoria, there haven’t been a lot of noteworthy moves for the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, or Orioles. As with pretty much every other team in baseball, there have been a ton of rumours and not a lot contracts getting signed.
Which leads me to the focus of my ramble today: How do the teams currently compare? Let’s break it down a little and see what we’re looking at. I’m also not using projections for this particular article, so I fully realize I’m opening myself up to criticism and ridicule here. Have at ‘er.
There was another Pitch Talks event in Toronto on Thursday evening, and Mike Wilner was one of the main guests on the panel. At some point in the discussion, Wilner mentioned that the Blue Jays could have the best rotation in the division, and for once I agree with him.
The key of course is health, mostly for star pitcher Aaron Sanchez who was limited to just eight starts last season. If he can join a healthy top four that includes Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, and Marco Estrada, there’s a lot of upside there. To me, the biggest remaining need is in the rotation to round things out, and if they could bring in an Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn then they would really stand out. Even a lesser name like Jason Vargas or Chris Tillman would likely help.
Here are how the other teams are looking, again, as of this writing:
Yankees: Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, C.C. Sabathia, Jordan Montgomery,
Red Sox: Chris Sale, David Price, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez
Rays: Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell, Jake Faria, Matt Andriese
Orioles: Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, ????
If we’re talking about the word potential like we have with the Blue Jays, then the same exists for both the Yankees and Red Sox as well. The Rays still seem like a good bet to move one of their better starters, and who knows who will be pitching in Baltimore this year.
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There’s also a decent chance the Yankees add one more arm, which would push back Montgomery and give them the depth they probably need in the area. As good as Severino looked last year, he’ll need to prove he can sustain that level of success in order to be a true “ace”. The Yankees could be good, but I like the Blue Jays’ rotation more.
As for the Red Sox, they’ll need a big bounce back year from David Price, and they’ll hope to get the good side of Rick Porcello as well. Chris Sale looked vulnerable down the stretch, but should be poised for another run at a Cy Young trophy if he’s healthy.
- Blue Jays
- Red Sox
- Rays (assuming they make a trade)
Despite the fact that the Blue Jays sacrificed Dominic Leone in order to acquire Randal Grichuk, they still have a lot of talented pieces in the bullpen. Lead by Roberto Osuna, they have a strong group from the right side, and with one more addition and/or a step forward from one or both of Tim Mayza or Matt Dermody, this could be a quietly stellar group.
However, for as much upside as the Blue Jays’ group has, the Yankees are the class of the division in this area. Aroldis Chapman returns to headline a group that only includes Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, and more. If the starter can hand them the lead in the six or seventh, Aaron Boone is going to like his new role as a big league skipper in New York.
The Red Sox and Rays both have some talent in this area, especially at the back end with closers Craig Kimbrel and Alex Colome, assuming Colome doesn’t get traded either. The Red Sox had solid performances from the likes of Tyler Thornburg, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, and more last year, but they turned heavily to Price in the playoffs as well, and seem hard pressed to keep their group ERA as low as it was last year. The Orioles suffered a big blow losing Zach Britton to an achilles injury, but they have some solid depth with Brad Brach and Darren O’Day among others.
- Orioles (assuming a healthy Britton returns)
- Blue Jays
- Red Sox
This is where things could change the most before Opening Day, especially if the Red Sox eventually sign someone like J.D. Martinez, or end up bringing in another power bat to compliment their talented young lineup.
And as talented as the Red Sox core is, once again the Yankees are the class of this area of the game. Adding Stanton to a lineup that featured other dynamic young sluggers like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Did Gregorius and more, is the stuff of nightmares for a pitcher. Their rotation may have a few question marks, but it’s going to be hard to out-slug the Yankees in 2018.
The Orioles have went back and forth when it comes to trading their franchise face in Manny Machado, but he remains in Baltimore and will be moved to shortstop. They could have used a lineup tweak or two to be certain, but there is still talented bats like Adam Jones, Jonathan Schoop, and Chris David, to name a few. The Rays? Offence has never been their strong suit, and it’s going to look weird to see their lineup without Evan Longoria.
For the Blue Jays the biggest difference will be depth, and how much better it should be with the likes of Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz around to cover the infield. The Jays have a much stronger outfield group as a whole as well, and it injuries hit the, as fiercely as they did in 2017 they should be set up to withstand the blows a little better. Lead by Donaldson and with other talented veteran hitters, the group could surprise with enough healthy bodies.
- Red Sox
- Blue Jays
- Orioles (I don’t think the big bats last the season)
Of course it takes more than these three components to equate to success in Major League Baseball, and I’m not going to bore you with a summary of my thoughts on things like intangibles, minor league system, or even the coaching staff. However, the more I break down each area, the more I think there is to like about the Blue Jays in 2018.
Next: Why hasn't Danny Jansen gotten more attention?
Do I think they’re going to challenge for the division? Not likely, a lot would have to go right for them, and wrong for the Yankees and Red Sox. But do I think they could challenge for a Wild Card spot next season, thus justifying why they kept Josh Donaldson all along? Absolutely.