With the pending free agency of Justin Smoak and the questionable futures of Devon Travis and Ryan Tepera, the last of the playoff teams in 2015-16 may be erased this winter.
For the casual Blue Jays fan that only really watches when their team is in the playoffs, a lot has changed since Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and many others etched their way into our hearts with the 2015 and 2016 playoff runs.
It was a great time to be a Blue Jays fan, and as someone who “suffered” through the playoff drought since celebrating as a nine year old when Joe Carter walked off the Phillies in 1993, I didn’t mind how big the bandwagon got when things were good. It was a great team that deserved the city’s, and the country’s attention with what they were doing at the time.
Fast forward to today and there are barely any remnants left of those teams. We had a reunion with Donaldson this week, who now plays in Atlanta. We’ll get to see the Yankees next month, who currently employ Encarnacion. We just finished seeing Russell Martin with the Dodgers as well, and there are plenty of others still kicking around the big leagues, even if they’re not in Toronto anymore.
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When I took a scan of the 40 man roster, I see only three names left that had anything to do with those playoff runs: Justin Smoak, Devon Travis, and Ryan Tepera. Dalton Pompey made some appearances as well, and he’s still around too, but he was designated for assignment earlier this year and removed from the 40 man roster. The rebuild was needed in Toronto, but it’s pretty crazy to think that it was less than three years ago that this team was built around veterans who were pursuing a World Series championship.
There’s a chance that the remaining group could be in their final month as Blue Jays as well, even if they’re in different situations. Smoak is a pending free agent, and while there is a solid argument for bringing him back on a short term deal, it remains to be seen if the front office will deem that necessary, or if they’ll turn the keys over to Rowdy Tellez next year.
For Travis and Tepera, unfortunately I think there’s a very real chance that they’ll meet the same fate. We learned that Travis will not return to the field this year after struggling to recover from knee issues, and I can’t see how the Blue Jays avoid non-tendering him this winter. They just have too many middle infield options, and while Travis wasn’t expensive this year, he couldn’t even get on the field to battle for his job. It’s a shame, but hopefully a fresh start somewhere else will find him in better health.
Tepera had surgery to remove bone spurs from his pitching elbow earlier this season, and he hasn’t been able to make it back to the mound with the Blue Jays yet. He only managed 11 innings over 12 appearances in the big leagues around the injury problems, and we really didn’t get to see the formerly effective reliever at his best. That said, he has been healthy and pitching in Triple-A for the Buffalo Bisons lately, and chances are we’ll see him in the big leagues again before the season is over.
If he can perform well and re-establish himself, perhaps the Blue Jays keep him around for 2020, or maybe even see if they can trade him this winter, although that doesn’t seem terribly likely. He will have two seasons left of arbitration eligibility before becoming a free agent though, and the 31-year-old likely won’t be getting a raise from the 1.525 million he made this year. As for Pompey, unfortunately injuries have really derailed his career so far, and chances are a fresh start somewhere else could help his career as well.
It’s possible that the Jays hang on to Tepera, or even re-sign Smoak this winter, but I think it’s equally likely that the last of those playoff rosters from 2015 and 2016 may be wiped from the slate this winter. All good things must come to an end, but it’s crazy to think that the entire playoff roster is all but gone.