With most of the Blue Jays veterans in the rumour mill as trade targets, it’s possible we could be looking at a very youthful lineup in 2019. There are certainly pros and cons to consider when it comes to the concept.
The Winter Meetings have come and gone in baseball, which means the rumour mill is bound to slow down a bit until after the holidays. When it comes to the Blue Jays and Ross Atkins, I’d be surprised to see anything significant happen before Christmas, but I’ve been wrong before.
We have heard a lot of rumours when it comes to the Blue Jay veterans, and it seems that anyone who has been around for awhile might be deemed expendable in the early stages of a rebuild. Troy Tulowitzki has already been released despite being owed 38 million dollars, and other veterans like Russell Martin, Justin Smoak, Kevin Pillar, and even Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez have been rumoured trade targets. I’d be surprised if all of those players were moved before Opening Day, but it’s clear that Atkins is considering tearing things down to the bone this winter.
Let’s pretend for a minute that the Blue Jays are able to move all of Martin, Pillar, and Smoak in trades this winter, and have a gander at what that might mean for the everyday lineup.
C- Danny Jansen
1B- Rowdy Tellez
3B- Vladimir Guerrero Jr./Drury
CF- Randal Grichuk
LF- Billy McKinney
That’s just one example of what things could look like, but youth is the thing that sticks out the most. In this scenario Drury and Travis would be the veterans in the lineup, which will almost certainly include Kendrys Morales as the designated hitter as well.
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There are pros and cons to such an approach, and I have no doubt that the front office has considered as much. It’s clear that winning immediately is not going to be the priority, and Atkins made it clear that was the case when he was asked about the roster build a weeks ago, and made reference to looking at things beyond the 2019 lens. With that in mind it’s okay for the Blue Jays to accept that next year will be about growth more so than losing. The playing time will be valuable for young men, and it will also help Atkins and company sort out who will be a part of the long term future of the franchise.
On the other hand, having little to no veterans on the diamond is going to come with it’s lumps, and hopefully the fan base and even the pitching staff is ready to take on the challenge. You hear people talk about veteran leadership all the time, and it’ll be something that Morales will be heavily tasked with, as well as maybe others like Grichuk and Travis, which would be a new role for them. It will require patience through some tough nights and even losing streaks, knowing and hoping that the experience will make each youngster a better player in the long run.
As I mentioned as well, the pitching staff could very well be effected, especially if the Blue Jays do move on from guys like Pillar and Smoak. Pillar is well known for his defensive heroics, and while Grichuk is an adequate defender in his own right, it will take the group a step back, and the same goes for a swap of Tellez for Smoak. It also looks like Gurriel Jr. is going to be the every day shortstop to start the season, and while he looks to have all the tools to have success at the position and I’m high on his potential there, he does need some work to smooth out the rough edges. As for Vlad Jr., we still don’t know what he’s capable of with his glove, especially at the highest level.
For what it’s worth, I’m okay with Atkins tearing things right down, but I do hope that the new coaching staff is prepared to handle things without a lot of veteran leadership on the roster. Guys like Morales, Stroman and more will step up no doubt, but it’ll be a far different culture in the Blue Jays locker room next season, especially if all or most of these rumours come to fruition.