When you think back to the glory days of the Blue Jays most recent playoff appearances, it’s hard not to get attached to the players who contributed to making it happen.
Myself, I am a massive Jose Bautista fan. If I were general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays I might have offered him a contract for this year regardless of his play deteriorating over the last few seasons. Would it be a smart move?
Yet I, like many Blue Jays fans, relish in the memories of the past success that those 2016 Blue Jays brought to the table. I miss every aspect of those teams (besides Troy Tulowitzki) and wish that somehow the Blue Jays could have bridged some of those players over into the new generation.
When you look at the numbers though, it’s very clear that Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins did the right thing when they blew up the roster that so many of us loved. Out of the 49 players who suited up for the Blue Jays in 2016 only 38% of them remain playing in the major leagues this season. 40.8% of those players not in the majors are retired and out of the game completely, while 20.4% of them are now playing somewhere in the minors.
Those numbers paint a very ugly picture of how depleted the Blue Jays farm system was at the time, and how old in general the team was at that point. It was no secret that the Blue Jays had the oldest team in baseball in 2016, so when players like Jason Grilli, R.A Dickey, or Joaquin Benoit left town there were little complaints from fans. Fans expected some loss of experience in an attempt to lower the average age of its core. However, when the Blue Jays were unable to sign Edwin Encarnacion, and traded Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin, and Kevin Pillar over time, it struck a nerve with some fans as a form of sacrilege to have none of those players stick around.
Remember how awesome it was when any player had the possibility of going yard at any time? This video sure brings back memories:
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Glory and home run’s aside, in the end, it came down to a hard and unpopular decision that needed to be made by the Blue Jays management, and they made it. When it’s three years later and only 38% of your past team is still in the majors, that’s a problem with sustainability, and cutting down the roster was the right decision. We keep hearing that phrase being tossed out by management a lot.
It makes sense. If the Blue Jays had the core of prospects it does now reaching the top-level in 2016, maybe the teardown would not have been so drastic. In the future, maybe the Blue Jays will be insulated from having to make that kind of tough decision to cut loose most of its roster because it will have waves of cheap talented prospects arriving, a strategy that so many teams are trying to implement these days.
So while it’s hard to see so many of our former idols playing for other teams, or not at all, it should leave Blue Jays fans with some confidence that if management does this the right way now, maybe we won’t have to go through this type of full rebuild again for quite some time. In case you are wondering what some of those 49 Blue Jays from 2016 are up to currently, I have included a small blurb below for each:
Out of Baseball:
Dustin Antolin: Pitched 2 innings for the Jays in 2017.
Darwin Barney: Last played for the Blue Jays in 2017.
José Bautista: Played last season for the Mets, Braves, and Phillies.
Joaquin Benoit: Last played for the Phillies and Pirates in 2017.
Ezequiel Carrera: Tried out for the Dodgers in 2019, and played in 10 games for their AAA affiliate, but was ultimately released this past May.
Darrell Ceciliani: Last played in 2017 with the Blue Jays and Bisons. Had five at-bats for the Blue Jays in 2017.
Scott Diamond: Last played for the Blue Jays in 2016 where he posted an ugly 27.00 ERA over his lone inning pitched at the major league level.
R.A. Dickey: Last played for the Braves in 2017 before retiring at the end of the season.
Matt Dominguez: Last played in 2017 for the Boston Red Sox AAA affiliate.
Scott Feldman: Last played for the Reds in 2017 where he posted a 4.77 ERA over 111.1 innings.
Gavin Floyd: Posted a respectable 4.06 ERA for the Jays before hanging them up after the 2016 season.
Chad Girodo: Split time in the minors between Toronto and L.A. Dodgers in 2018 before calling it a career.
Jason Grilli: The former Blue Jay tried one more time to reclaim his former glory for the Rangers in 2017 before ultimatly calling it a career.
Junior Lake: Last played for Boston’s AAA affiliate in 2017 where Junior hit .246.
Arnold León: Played 2.1 innings for the Blue Jays in 2016 before calling it a career at the end of the season.
Franklin Morales: Only pitched 4.0 innings for the Blue Jays in 2016 before calling it a career at season’s end.
Jimmy Paredes: Last played in the 2016 season for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Michael Saunders: Saunders finally called it a career last season after playing exclusively in the minors for all of 2018.
Bo Schultz: Bo was cut by the Orioles this past March after posting a 16.20 ERA in spring training. He has yet to sign on with another team in 2019.
Melvin Upton Jr.: Melvin last played for the Giants AAA affiliate in 2017.
Playing in the Minors:
Danny Barnes: Yet to make his MLB debut for 2019. 11.74ERA in 7.1IP in Buffalo
Andy Burns: Hitting .264 in 284 AB for Buffalo in 2019.
Chris Colabello: At 35 years old, Chris is still playing for the Atlantic League’s Sugar Land Skeeters in 2019.
Matt Dermody: Owns an 8.64 ERA over 8.1 innings in Buffalo
Ryan Goins: The fan favourite and Blue Jays pitching legend is enjoying a productive season in AAA batting .319 with 8 home runs.
Drew Hutchison: Bounced from New York to Minnesota’s AAA team in 2019. Has a combined 5.64 ERA over 83 innings pitched.
Dioner Navarro: After stepping away from the game to care for his wife in 2016, Dioner has resumed his career in 2019 batting .195 in 41 at-bats for the Cleveland Indians AAA affiliate.
Dalton Pompey: Late into spring training Dalton suffered a concussion and has just started his minor league season in single-A Dunedin recently.
Drew Storen: Drew was attempting a comeback to the majors pitching for the Royals AA affiliate earlier this season before being cut loose in June.
Josh Thole: Josh has spent all of the 2019 season bouncing between the Dodgers AAA and AA affiliates. He is batting .245 between the two levels.
Still in MLB:
Joe Biagini: 2019 Blue Jays active roster. 4.05 ERA in 40IP.
Brett Cecil: Has not played yet in 2019 due to carpal tunnel surgery, but is expected to return to the Cardinals at some point this season.
Jesse Chavez: Pitching well for the Rangers in 2019 with a 3.30 ERA.
Josh Donaldson: Batting .250 with 18 home runs for the Atlanta Braves in 2019.
Edwin Encarnación: Recent New York Yankees addition has 25 home runs in 2019, but is batting only .123 since joining New York.
Marco Estrada: Suffered a back injury early into this season and is currently rehabbing in an attempt to rejoin the Athletics in 2019.
J.A. Happ: Sporting a 5.02 ERA for the New York Yankees in 2019.
Francisco Liriano: At 35 years old, Francisco is still producing posting a 3.09 ERA for the Pirates as a reliever.
Aaron Loup: Playing for the Padres in 2019, Aaron suffered an elbow injury and is not is expected to return until sometime in August.
Russell Martin: Playing for the Dodgers in 2019, Russell is hitting .240 with two home runs.
Roberto Osuna: Sporting a 1.95 ERA with 19 saves for the Astros, Roberto continues to be one of the most dominant closers in all of baseball.
Kevin Pillar: After starting the season with the Blue Jays, Kevin was dealt to the Giants early on in the season. He is hitting .256 with 12 round-trippers in 2019.
Aaron Sanchez: It’s strangely possible that Aaron could end up in the minor league category by season’s end due to a horrendous 6.16 ERA over 92 innings.
Justin Smoak: For now still a Blue Jay, Justin is a prime trade candidate this season as he is playing on an expiring contract.
Marcus Stroman: 2019 All-Star Marcus Stroman is having a career year on the rubber. A constant talking point for Blue Jays trades, Marcus may not be a Blue Jay for much longer.
Ryan Tepera: Ryan’s 2019 season has been one of injuries and disappointing results on the field.
Devon Travis: I suppose you can say Devon is still in the majors at this point occupying a roster spot, yet, Devon has yet to debut in 2019 and there is no timetable for his return.
Troy Tulowitzki: It only took 11 at-bats for Troy to re-injure himself again in 2019. His 2019 season highlight is pimping a home run off Marcus Stroman in spring training. Touch em all Troy.
Pat Venditte: Believe it or not, 34-year-old Venditte pitched for the Giants this season. Unfortunately, Pat has posted a 16.20ERA over 3.1 innings.
It’s pretty crazy how quickly things can change. For the former Blue Jays’ roster from just a few seasons ago, it’s night and day.