Blue Jays: Regarding the need for a veteran presence

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 3: Justin Smoak #14 of the Toronto Blue Jays and Kendrys Morales #8 look on from the top step of the dugout during MLB game action against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre on September 3, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 3: Justin Smoak #14 of the Toronto Blue Jays and Kendrys Morales #8 look on from the top step of the dugout during MLB game action against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre on September 3, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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Marcus Stroman was critical of the front office on several points, and one was the lack of a veteran presence. I would argue that shouldn’t be a problem in 2019.

By now you’ve likely heard about the comments that Marcus Stroman made about his own situation, his future desires, and the state of the Blue Jays at the moment. If you missed it, feel free to catch up, right here.

We can and have analyzed several of the things that Stroman said, and for the most part I generally agree with the statements that he made. I understand why he would want to see Vladimir Guerrero Jr. on the team from day one, and why he’s a little frustrated with the front office’s lack of spending. I also understand why he is annoyed that he hasn’t been engaged in extension talks, but that’s less pressing in my mind, especially after his tough 2018 campaign.

One point he made that I disagreed with though was the need for a veteran presence on the roster. Stroman is correct that the team looks a lot different than it has in recent years, but that’s because the Blue Jays were one of, and sometimes the oldest team in all of baseball. The right-hander has grown up in a MLB environment that had countless veterans he could turn to for advice, including the likes of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson, and pitchers like Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and more. Stroman has been lucky in that sense.

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Now that the roster has underwent some significant turnover, that luxury isn’t as prevalent as it used to be, and I can understand why Stroman is feeling the difference. That said, that doesn’t mean that the Blue Jays are undermanned in the department, even if I agree that I would have liked to see more money spent on bolstering the roster as well.

They might not have the pedigree of some of the names listed above, but the Blue Jays can turn to the likes of Kevin Pillar, Justin Smoak, Freddy Galvis, and Brandon Drury. On the pitching staff the expectation will be that guys like Clayton Richard, Ryan Tepera, Ken Giles, John Axford (if he makes the team), Aaron Sanchez, and even Stroman will need to set the example for the young guys. Most importantly, the Blue Jays kept Kendrys Morales around for just that reason, and in my mind it’s enough to reserve one roster spot for that designation, especially with enough experience on the rest of the team. I even wrote about that role for Morales a few months ago. 

We’ve already seen the evidence of that role laid out for Morales, as his locker has been situated right between Vlad Guerrero Jr., and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., two Spanish speaking youngsters who are going to be counted on greatly this season and going forward. Morales’ job will be more defined by how he mentors and guides those two and the rest of the young crop as much as it will by his performance in the batter’s box.

There’s no doubt that the young players could have benefitted from the tutelage of Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki, and other departed veterans of the Blue Jay past. However, just as the torch is being passed with the on-field responsibility to the new players on the roster, the remaining veterans must take up the role of leadership. There’s also the whole issue of roster space, something that’s quickly becoming a real thing for Charlie Montoyo and company to figure out. It might not be a championship roster, but there are plenty of ballplayers who are ready, and need the big league experience.

Next. Starting Galvis at SS comes at Gurriel's expense. dark

There should also be plenty of veteran leadership to guide those kids through the early stages of their MLB career, and part of that responsibility is going to fall on Stroman. Looking around the clubhouse, he might not see the same type of environment that he was lucky enough to benefit from in the first few years of his career, but there should be plenty of experience to draw from as it’s needed.