Blue Jays: Who is a part of the future core?
The Toronto Blue Jays are mired in midst of a miserable 2018 season. With the trade deadline looming and the Blue Jays set for a retool, it’s a great time to ask the question, “who is really a part of the future core?”
Current: John Gibbons
Talking about John Gibbons requires an article in itself – it’s difficult to assess the quick-witted, personable and oft-ejected manager. While Gibbons is said to be a calming influence around the clubhouse, too many of his decisions during games (e.g. handling the bullpen, arguing with the umpires) are questionable at best.
In my opinion, the MLB is evolving faster than Gibbons, an “old-school” manager, can handle. Many teams are already selecting a new generation of managers best-fitted to follow the rapidly-evolving game of baseball (e.g. Gabe Kapler, Kevin Cash, Alex Cora) and it is in the best interest of the Blue Jays to follow suit and find a new leader for the future.
Current: Josh Donaldson, Yangervis Solarte, Devon Travis, Aledmys Diaz, Justin Smoak, Russell Martin
Future: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Cavan Biggio, Danny Jansen
The infield is where the most change is likely to occur within the next couple of years for the Toronto Blue Jays. Donaldson is a free agent, Travis has struggled to repeat past success, and Diaz has been mediocre. Furthermore, Justin Smoak and Russell Martin are under contract for just one more year. The only player who could stay in Toronto for the foreseeable future is Yangervis Solarte, but there is a real possibility that the front office looks to trade Solarte when his value is highest.
As for the future core, Guerrero Jr., Bichette, Biggio, and Jansen should take over third base, shortstop, second base, and catcher, respectively, while Gurriel Jr. molds into a valuable super utility player. The one factor that could change this is if Devon Travis returns to being a quality regular at second base. If so, Cavan Biggio (19 HR, .957 OPS in 82 Double-A games) may be asked to play third base while Guerrero Jr. plays first.
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Current: Curtis Granderson, Kevin Pillar, Randal Grichuk, Teoscar Hernandez
Future: Teoscar Hernandez, Randal Grichuk
Unlike the infield, the majority of the Blue Jays’ outfield may already be playing in the MLB. Teoscar Hernandez has impressed in left field and Randal Grichuk (.906 OPS after June 1) has bounced back from a disastrous first month to provide hope for becoming Jose Bautista‘s successor in right field.
**WARNING: Kevin Pillar fans should probably skip the following paragraph.
Sorry Superman fans, but Kevin Pillar should not be a part of the Blue Jays’ future. Don’t get me wrong, Kevin Pillar isn’t a terrible player – he just isn’t a good one. As we all know, much of Pillar’s value comes from his defense. However, Pillar is an awful hitter and hasn’t shown signs of improvement since his debut in 2013. To put it into perspective, Pillar’s wRC+ this year is 84, 16% below league average. As Pillar ages (he’s 29 right now) and starts to lose his value on the field, his future value will plummet. Enjoy what Pillar has to offer right now, but hope for a new center fielder once his contract ends.
Rather than summarizing the 2018 pitching staff of the Blue Jays, I’ll highlight the pitchers who should play a big role for the organization in years to come. Starting pitching wise, Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, and Ryan Borucki will likely lead the rotation in 2019 and beyond as the contracts of Happ, Estrada, and Garcia end. If all goes to plan, then some combination of T.J. Zeuch (3.29 ERA in A+/AA), Sean Reid-Foley (3.11 ERA in AA/AAA), and Jordan Romano (3.91 ERA in AA/AAA) should round out the rotation. However, it should be noted that a core piece may also be added in free agency.
As for the bullpen, the only pitcher I would consider as part of the core is Roberto Osuna. Assault case aside (this article isn’t for debating whether or not Osuna should be a Toronto Blue Jay), talent-wise, Osuna is a proven, top-level closer that every team needs to have. Under contract until 2021, the Blue Jays are fortunate to have Roberto Osuna closing games for the foreseeable future.
Next: Blue Jays Report: Cubs may have interest in J.A. Happ
Sure, it’s been a miserable time to be a Blue Jays fan these last couple of years. However, the future core, consisting of both familiar faces and top prospects, should bring hope of better times to come. To borrow a line from Joel Embiid and the 76ers: “Trust the process.”