Blue Jays: There are two different best case scenarios in 2019

SURPRISE, AZ - NOVEMBER 03: AFL West All-Star, Vladimir Guerrero Jr #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats during the Arizona Fall League All Star Game at Surprise Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
SURPRISE, AZ - NOVEMBER 03: AFL West All-Star, Vladimir Guerrero Jr #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats during the Arizona Fall League All Star Game at Surprise Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

In the early stages of a rebuild and with a talented young foundation brewing in Toronto, there are arguably two best case scenarios for the Blue Jays in 2019.

Throughout the winter I’ve had a lot of different people ask me what I expect from the Blue Jays in 2019, and it’s honestly not a simple answer. Of course I expect the team to go through growing pains this year with several inexperienced players, but I can honestly say that I don’t know how things are going to go, or even what I hope will happen in some cases.

On one hand, you could argue that the best thing that could happen for the Jays this year is a soft “tanking”, which would allow them to play their developing youngsters with regularity, and maybe even to earn one of the top picks in next year’s draft. Tanking isn’t quite as popular in baseball as it might be in football or hockey, but there are more people starting to make an argument for that strategy. While I don’t think the Blue Jays will intentionally lose by any means, there is a valid point that finishing near the bottom has more value than being in the middle of the pack.

In the scenario that has the Blue Jays struggling throughout the year, the other key to success will be the individual performance of some of their veteran players. In fact, if all goes well the Blue Jays are probably hoping that they can put half of their roster on the trade block this summer, a list that could include players that were brought in this offseason, and a few leftovers from the last generation of this team.

More from Jays Journal

The biggest area of potential trade assets is probably the starting rotation, but a lot of the value is going to depend on the health of their most talented arms. The potential prizes are Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, but neither former first rounder was very valuable at all last season, and Sanchez hasn’t been an elite arm since 2016 due to various issues with his pitching hand. That said, those two have the potential to pitch like a top of the rotation starter, and if they’re healthy and performing they’ll have plenty of trade value, especially with an additional year of contract control for each player.

The Blue Jays also brought in a trio of veteran starters that could be used as trade bait as well. They traded for Clayton Richard from the Padres earlier in the winter, and they signed both Matt Shoemaker and Clay Buchholz as free agents. The latter two arms have reasonable upside, but injuries will play a big key in both of their seasons and their respective trade value. Each of those starters will be on an expiring contract, and will make complete sense to flip for minor league assets.

In the bullpen it’s possible we could see the Blue Jays look to flip a couple of their newer arms as well, including new additions like David Phelps, Bud Norris, or even closer Ken Giles. It wouldn’t shock me if the Blue Jays decided to see what they could get for Ryan Tepera either if he’s having another good season, and he’ll have two additional years of arbitration eligibility to help his sale tag.

As if there weren’t enough possible trade candidates on the pitching staff, the Blue Jays could look to trade a few of their lineup fixtures as well. Justin Smoak will be on an expiring contract, as will Kendrys Morales and new addition Freddy Galvis. Kevin Pillar and Randal Grichuk are each under contract control for the 2020 season as well, but it’s possible that one or both could be shopped this summer as well. Personally, I’m hoping that Grichuk has a big year and becomes an extension candidate, but if he’s playing well that could enhance his chances of being dealt too.

And now that I’ve said all of that, I’ll mention the second “base case scenario” that I could see playing out. The more I look at the Blue Jays’ roster, the more I could see there being potential for an improved team from last year.

With health from their pitching staff, I would suggest that they should be much improved from the 2018 version of the team, and the same likely goes for the underachieving offence as well. Add in the excitement around guys like Vladimir Guerrero Jr.Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Danny Jansen, and the possible arrival of Bo Bichette later in the year, and there’s reason to believe this team could compete for a Wild Card spot, even if I wouldn’t necessarily put money on it. The fact is, there aren’t a lot of teams that are actively trying to compete in the American League, and if all the right breaks go in favour of Ross Atkins’ club, it might get interesting. It’s a “glass half-full” way of looking at things, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Next. How many rookies could we see in 2019?. dark

They’re obviously going to face some stiff competition, especially from their own division rivals, but there are a lot of positive things that could happen for the Blue Jays this year, regardless of what happens in the win column.