Seeing the talent in their MiLB pipeline has guys like Marcus Stroman excited about the future in Toronto, as they should be with Vlad, Bo and more coming.
The 2018 season could be an interesting one for the Blue Jays for a number of reasons. Right now I would argue that they’re well built to win as long as their veteran roster can mostly stay healthy, even if the Yankees and Red Sox also have highly talented teams as well.
In the same breath, if the Blue Jays aren’t playing well into the summer and in the playoff hunt, they’re also built to tear down quickly, especially with a number of expiring contracts for useful veterans like J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, Curtis Granderson, Steve Pearce, and of course, Josh Donaldson.
That’s not an exhaustive list either obviously, so the ball will be in the court of the players this season, who I would argue have been well equipped by the front office with the amount of depth acquired around the diamond. This roster could be very similar in 2019, or it might look almost recognizable from today.
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One thing that’s stuck out to me about this spring training is the excitement around the youngsters, especially the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Bo Bichette, Anthony Alford, and others. It’s not just dreaming about the long term future with these guys either, as their performance and poise on the field makes them look ready for another leap. I’m not arguing that they’re ready for the big leagues just yet, as Marcus Stroman mentioned in an interview the other day, but I’m not sure they couldn’t handle it either.
Even if their time doesn’t come in 2018, it won’t be long before some of the most exciting prospects to come through the Blue Jays’ system in, well ever, will be at the highest level. That will have a ripple effect on the roster in a ton of ways, giving them young and controllable talent that costs a minimum and looks like it’ll make a major impact. That sort of thing has the potential to ignite a fan base, and allow a front office to build a roster of useful veterans around a young core. I’m no expert, but that’s always sounded like a winning recipe to me.
And that’s where the major point of this article comes in (finally..). I really believe that Toronto will be a place where free agents want to come, and veterans want to stick around, especially over the course of the next 7-8 years. It’s not just Guerrero, Bichette, and Alford, as there are high level minor leaguers like Nate Pearson, Ryan Burocki, Danny Jansen, and many others that could form a championship core. I’m more than aware they all have to prove it at the big league level before I can start making bets or anything, but I can’t remember a time with this much potentially elite talent brewing in the pipeline.
With that in mind, guys like Marcus Stroman will likely want to stick around longer than the three years he’s currently slated as a Blue Jay. He has said he would be interested in talking about an extension this winter, and mentioned the other day how he believes Guerrero and Bichette could play with the Blue Jays now, so you know he sees what’s going on. He’s also developed a nice market for his brand in Canada, and is smart enough to see a bright future north of the border.
There are obviously others that will be a similar situation like Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna for instance, who are both set to become free agents after the 2020 season just like Stroman. A lot can happen in three years, especially when it comes to pitchers, but with a cheap and useful position player core there could be room to spend on elite pitching.
Then of course are the expiring contracts, and chief among them to discuss is the pending free agency of the “Bringer of Rain”, Josh Donaldson. We know that his agent and the Blue Jays couldn’t find a common ground this past offseason, but it’s entirely possible they could have better luck a year from now, especially if/once he hits the open market. It wasn’t very kind to players north of the age of 30 this year, so it’s hard to say if Donaldson will hit big as he probably should, or if he’ll be left scratching his head like many were this year.
Combining that with the fact that there is a bright future ahead in Toronto, and I’m sure Donaldson is open to remaining with the Blue Jays, at the right price of course. He’s a very competitive player and will want to play for a contender on what could be the last contract of his career next offseason, and Toronto could theoretically offer that in spades with the in-house talent that should be ready, maybe even as soon as next season. They also shouldn’t have a problem fitting his contract into their long (ish) term plans.
Never mind that Guerrero Jr. is a third baseman as well either, as there’s the possibility that he doesn’t stick there as a big leaguer defensively, and could end up at first base or in the outfield. If he can handle the hot corner as a big leaguer, that doesn’t mean that Donaldson can’t move around the diamond later in his career either. To think that there’s not enough room for both is foolish, especially after an offseason that gave us moves like Dee Gordon being moved to centre field as a free agent.
My ultimate point here is that baseball is starting to take huge notice of the kids in the Blue Jays’ system, and don’t think for a second that the veterans on the roster aren’t watching as well. For many of them that makes sticking around an attractive idea, even if the future is reasonably bright for their division rivals as well.
Ultimately, contract security and the highest figure are the usually the biggest factors in free agency, but if you don’t think that a place to have a real chance to win plays a role, then you’re not giving the players any credit. Guys like Donaldson, Stroman and others are fiery competitors, and it’s probably pretty tempting to stick around for the next generation of Blue Jays. They’re coming sooner than later, and the future is bright in Toronto, so who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?