After finishing the 2019 season with a 67-95 record, the Blue Jays made some significant strides in their rebuild, and should be shooting for a .500 record in 2020.
One of the sayings that has always stuck with me from my childhood is, “Rome wasn’t built overnight”, which was a tough concept for an impatient teenager to wrap his head around.
Fast forward to being an adult and that same concept can be applied to the Toronto Blue Jays, especially as they wrap up their somewhat disappointing 2019 campaign. Except that, for those of us that have been paying attention over at least the last few seasons, it wasn’t as disappointing as one would except given the results. I would argue that the numbers tell a far more negative story than the one that you got if you watched most of the games.
That’s because we witnessed a fairly hapless Blue Jays’ squad turn things around in the second half, mostly on the strength of the youth infusion that now represents the current and future core of this team. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and several other youngsters made a significant impression, and there’s good reason to believe that the rebuild in Toronto won’t take as long as we initially feared.
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I don’t know that pushing for a playoff spot in 2020 is a realistic goal, but I do think that the Blue Jays could push for a .500 record if they add a few decent arms. In fact, even with a skeleton starting rotation that at times featured just starters and a bunch of openers/bulk guys, this young Blue Jays squad finished with a 32-38 record in the second half (.457 winning percentage), which was much better than before the All-Star break when they went 34-57 (.374).
That’s a significant jump, especially when you consider that the Blue Jays moved on from several veteran contributors. The list included Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Joe Biagini, Daniel Hudson, David Phelps, Eric Sogard, and Freddy Galvis, all of whom made a contribution in one way or another before being dealt. And yet, even the Blue Jays improved despite turning the keys over to the next generation on the fly.
There are tweaks that need to be made, and a lot of experience that needs to be gained for the young lineup, but realistically they are probably just a couple pieces and some time away from having one of the scariest batting orders in baseball. That might sound like an exaggeration, but when you consider that the Blue Jays have all the payroll space in the world to add to a group that includes Guerrero Jr., Bichette, Biggio, Gurriel Jr., Randal Grichuk, Danny Jansen/Reese McGuire, and more, offence shouldn’t be the problem.
It’s the pitching staff that will ultimate determine how much of an improvement the Blue Jays can make in next year’s standings, but I think there are reasons for optimism even before the front office looks at adding. Trent Thornton was the one constant in the rotation throughout the year, and he looked very strong down the stretch, likely securing himself a place in next year’s starting five. There are others with upside as well such as Anthony Kay, Jacob Waguespack, T.J. Zeuch and more, and I suspect that Nate Pearson will arrive sometime next year. Still, the rotation in particular needs help, and the front office has even admitted as much and hopefully will address it this winter.
That said, I believe the Blue Jays could be a .500 team even without significant rotation help, provided the core of this young team stays healthy. I also think that should be a realistic goal for next season, and a solid stepping stone toward working toward getting back to being a playoff contender, hopefully as soon as 2021. Rome may not be built overnight, but at the rate these kids are making an impact, I think setting a goal of winning 14 more games over the course of next season is reasonable, and even attainable.