With the AL East in a vulnerable state at the moment, the the Blue Jay might be wise to push up their plan for their next window of contention in Toronto.
As frustrating as it was to watch the Blue Jays struggle through patches of their 2019 season, I have to admire the front office for at least one thing. They were committed to a rebuilding season, and they didn’t waver from their plan to strip things down and start over with their talented kids, which also meant they lived through a learning year from many of them.
Now that we’re through all but 11 games of the 2019 season, I really do believe that the experience has been incredibly value to the young players that will make up the core of this team going forward. There were some disappointments throughout the season for sure, but for Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire and more, the hands-on learning experience is invaluable.
Despite the fact that the Blue Jays will end up with somewhere around 95 losses on the season, I believe this young talent has shown the front office that their next window or contention isn’t as far away as many of us believed a year ago. In fact, there’s a good argument that the Blue Jays should start pushing for a playoff spot as soon as next season.
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That statement might sound a little ridiculous, but there are a few reasons I believe it to be true. First, this Blue Jays team shouldn’t be judged on the entire 2019 season, at least in my opinion. In the first half they hadn’t brought up the likes of Bichette, Biggio, and more, and the team entered the All-Star break with a record of 34-57. With their win over Baltimore last night the Jays are now 60-91 on the year, and 26-34 since the All-Star break. They’re also 18-24 since Bichette arrived at the highest level at the end of July.
I’m aware that every one of the records I just listed off are below .500 and wouldn’t bring the team even close to a sniff of the playoff race. However, I’d be very surprised if the majority of this talented generation doesn’t take another step forward in 2020, and there’s also a lot of room for improvement in what the front office can bring to the table. In fact, with a young core on minimum MLB contracts, the Blue Jays should have the payroll space to do pretty much whatever they need to.
The argument against that, of course, is that this team isn’t quite ready to compete in the American League playoff race, and I would agree with that statement. However, the more I look at the rest of the AL, and in particular within the East division, the more I think the Blue Jays should start making their push for the playoffs next season.
The Yankees are a beast, and that isn’t going to change any time soon. As for the rest of the AL East, it’s as vulnerable as it’s been in a decade or more, and the Blue Jays should take advantage. The Orioles are a long way from being relevant, much further back in their rebuild than the Blue Jays are today, and the Red Sox have had a difficult season that will lead to them missing the playoffs in their bid to defend their World Series title. They could also lose Mookie Betts and/or J.D. Martinez, and it sounds like ownership. The Rays are in the playoff race again this season, and always find a way to be competitive, but they also have a long history of trading their best players when they get too expensive.
If watching budding teams like the Atlanta Braves, or even the Yankees over the last couple of years (Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Luis Severino, etc, are still REALLY young) has taught us anything, it’s that baseball is evolving into a younger man’s game all the time. As this next generation of Blue Jays continues to move in the right direction, they’re going to need some help on the pitching staff, and maybe a finishing touch or two in the lineup as well. In my mind, the front office should start aggressively looking for those pieces this winter.