Toronto Blue Jays: An ever-shifting window of contention

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 17: Cavan Biggio #8 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. #13 after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 17, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 17: Cavan Biggio #8 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. #13 after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 17, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

The Blue Jays entered a full-scale rebuild last off-season, and since then there have been plenty of changing variables in their next window of contention.

It wasn’t easy watching the slow decay of a once-championship calibre roster in Toronto, and a little more than a year ago Ross Atkins and the rest of the front office ripped the bandaid right off. Most of the last remnants of the playoff teams of 2015 were traded (Russell Martin, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, etc), or even just released, as they did with Troy Tulowitzki.

The keys were turned over to the next generation of the Blue Jays, with the next faces of the franchise including a 20-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and a 21-year-old, Bo Bichette. With that in mind, many of us were bracing for a long rebuild in Toronto before this youthful group would rise to relevance in the AL East. That said, things keep changing in that equation, and suddenly it doesn’t seem ridiculous to think they could be very competitive in 2020.

It started with the development of that young core including Vlad Jr., Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and more. The Blue Jays suddenly have a young core that not only looks to have a bright future, but could push their division rivals as soon as this season. The kids pushed the winning percentage from .374 in the first half up to .468 in the second half, and that was in the rookie season for many of these young stars. Another team of development, and don’t be surprised if they’re over that .500 mark and pushing for more.

More from Jays Journal

To help them get there, the Blue Jays sped up their chances of contending by addressing the starting rotation in a big way over the winter. They signed Hyun-Jin Ryu to a four-year, 80 million dollar contract to anchor the rotation, and also added Tanner Roark and Shun Yamaguchi as free agents, Chase Anderson through a trade, and brought back a healthy Matt Shoemaker. When you consider that they’ll return young arms like Trent Thornton, Ryan Borucki, Anthony Kay, Jacob Waguespack, and could eventually get Nate Pearson to the highest level as well, a glaring weakness is now arguably a strength of the club.

As if those two variables haven’t helped the Blue Jays enough, it would appear that the Red Sox are now entering a bit of a soft rebuild as well. It doesn’t appear that they’ll tear down the roster and trade away cornerstones like Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez and more, but they’re certainly not in a full court press mindset entering the new season. If they were, they wouldn’t have traded away arguably their best player in Mookie Betts, or one of their best starting pitchers in David Price. Sure, they’ll save a ton of money and create a lot of flexibility for their payroll going forward, but this is the Red Sox we’re talking about.

In my mind, the Blue Jays should now set their sights on passing the Red Sox for third place in the AL East this season. Don’t get me wrong, that won’t be an easy task even without Betts or Price in Boston, but it now feels like a possibility, and even a realistic goal. They’ve still got a lot of work to do to enter the tier of the Yankees or even the Tampa Bay Rays, but the 2020 campaign will be significant in moving toward that goal.

dark. Next. Post-Betts trade power shift in the AL East

Roughly a year ago I remember telling people that I believed this rebuild would require two years of “suffering” in 2019-20, a year of transition in 2021, and a return to relevance in 2022. With the way things have developed over the last eight months, I believe that timeline has moved up by at least a year. I also think the front office showed some faith in the same idea by signing Ryu in December, and in some of the conversations they had this winter. Add it all up, and this talented young team could be playing “meaningful” baseball before we know it.

facebooktwitterreddit