The Blue Jays have many reasons to try and improve their roster before the 2020 season, and showing faith in their young core may be the most important one.
This off-season could very well end up as an important crossroads for the rebuild of the Toronto Blue Jays. If Ross Atkins and the rest of the front office can take some significant strides in their roster build, this could be a potential playoff contender, maybe even as soon as 2021.
And if they don’t, it could be another long and frustrating season for this young roster and the fan base.
Patience is important when it comes to a rebuild, and expecting the Blue Jays to become a playoff contender for the 2020 campaign is probably a little unrealistic. However, after an exciting second half and some significant growth from their emerging core, there are reasons to believe that they could push for a .500 record next season, assuming they get an improved performance from their starting rotation. To that end, the front office has talked quite a bit about making impactful improvements, but so far things have been pretty quiet.
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Atkins did make a trade with the Brewers to acquire Chase Anderson, and while he’ll certainly help, he’s not going to be enough to make a significant difference on his own. Thus far they’ve also dragged their feet on re-signing Matt Shoemaker, although I imagine we’ll know more on Monday when the arbitration deadline comes up, and that he’ll eventually end up back for next season.
Adding Anderson and Shoemaker to a young group that features Trent Thornton, Ryan Borucki, Jacob Waguespack, Anthony Kay, and T.J. Zeuch will help, but the Blue Jays could really use another impact arm or two see a significant difference. The problem is, their free agent options are starting to fall off the board, and so far the front office has continued to operate with the restraint they’ve become known for. They didn’t offer enough to get Jake Odorizzi to turn down his qualifying offer in Minnesota, nor could they convince Kyle Gibson to come north of the border over joining the Texas Rangers.
Assuming that the Blue Jays won’t seriously bid on Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg (they’ve already more or less said as much), that leaves a handful of truly impact starters left on the free agent market. You could include arms like Zack Wheeler, Dallas Keuchel, Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and a lower tier of starters such as Michael Pineda, Wade Miley, Tanner Roark, Alex Wood, and a few others. Beyond those options, you’re mostly looking at a roll of the dice, and that didn’t work out so well in 2019 with veterans like Clay Buchholz and Clayton Richard.
Atkins and company could also pursue the trade route, but getting a controllable, impact starting pitcher is a costly venture, and I don’t know that the Blue Jays have the assets to return in order to get something significant done, at least not without subtracting from their core. Add it all up and it’s looking like there’s potential for another disappointing off-season for the Blue Jays. While I think that was okay last year, I don’t think anyone should be satisfied with that outcome this time around.
A year into the rebuild, they have a solid young core that gave the fan base a reason to tune in again last season, and for the rest of the league to take notice. As a team made up mostly of rookies, they had their ups and downs, but there was some exciting baseball from the likes of Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and many more. That young core is the reason I believe the Blue Jays can push for a .500 record in 2020, but they’re going to need an improved performance from their pitching staff to get there. More importantly, showing that faith in this new core and investing toward competing in (at least) 2021 should be a priority.
Building a winning culture is almost as important as adding talent to the 40-man roster, and I believe now is the time for the front office to show this emerging core that they believe they’re on the right track. As important as it will be for the position players to see that improved performance from the pitching staff, I think the young arms of the organization will benefit in a big way as well. If young pitchers like Borucki, Kay, Waguespack, and even Thornton have to earn their way into the rotation, that’s not exactly a bad thing. Sure, they’ll need the MLB experience at some point, but it usually takes at least 10 starters or more to get through 162 games anyway. They’ll get their chance, and that depth will go a long way.
I don’t expect that the front office will or should go crazy, but I sincerely hope they follow through on improving the starting rotation. Even if it’s one solid piece like Wheeler or Keuchel, that will go a long way toward helping this team in the future, even if the investment is a year early. On the other hand, I don’t believe it would be “too early” even then, as it should be important to show this emerging core that they’re believed in, and that this organization is serious about winning.