Blue Jays- The real evaluation of Charlie Montoyo starts now

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 21: Manager Charlie Montoyo #25 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on to the field during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Dodger Stadium on August 21, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 21: Manager Charlie Montoyo #25 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on to the field during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Dodger Stadium on August 21, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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Charlie Montoyo can’t be blamed for last year’s 67-win season, but his real evaluation with the Blue Jays will begin here in 2020.

Through the struggles the Blue Jays faced during the 2019 season, I was pleased that I didn’t see many fans blaming the team’s new skipper, Charlie Montoyo. In reality, last year’s dreadful total of just 67 wins had almost nothing to do with Montoyo’s work.

It was a rebuilding season that the Blue Jays had signed up for, and something that Montoyo knew he would face when he took the job as the bench boss in Toronto. However, it’s not hard to see that the 54-year-old is feeling more optimistic about what’s ahead this season. That’s more than fair considering he’s now equipped with a real starting rotation, and his lineup is full of promising young hitters as well.

All things considered, I’ll tip my cap to Montoyo’s work last season even if the Blue Jays only won 67 games. There were times when he only had one or two legitimate starting pitchers on the 25-man roster, and he managed to keep a positive attitude through a difficult campaign. On the plus side, the Blue Jays finished the season on a much more exciting note after the arrival of players like Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and a big second-half improvement from Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and that new young core and more give fans a lot of reason for optimism.

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It’s not as if anyone should expect that the Blue Jays will contend for a World Series this year, or even make a serious push for a playoff spot. However, there will be legitimate pressure on this team to make significant improvements, something that should be  feasible given the roster improvements from a year ago, especially in the rotation.

As Montoyo told Keegan Matheson of MLB.com, “We got an ace. He’s an ace. What that means is that, every time he takes the mound, we’ve got a chance to win.”. And Ryu wasn’t the only upgrade as the Blue Jays invested 24 million on a two-year pact for Tanner Roark, and traded a MiLB player for Chase Anderson‘s 8.5 million dollar contract. If you add up the investment for Ryu, Roark, Anderson. bringing back Matt Shoemaker for 4.2 million in 2020, and the 3.175 million Shun Yamaguchi will earn, the Blue Jays will spend just shy of 48 million on those five arms. That’s not a ridiculous sum by MLB standards, but it’s a fairly sizeable step forward from ownership, and the expectations will be a little different because of it.

The expectation should be a lot more competitive baseball in Toronto in 2020, and as I said above, a solid step in the rebuild process toward becoming a contender. I think it’s fair to expect a 10 win improvement for this team, and hope for something closer to 15 additional victories. What will be more important though will be the development of players like Guerrero Jr., Bichette, Biggio, and others like Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Danny Jansen, and even the eventual arrival of Nate Pearson.

As the Blue Jays truly transition from a rebuilding club to a contender, Montoyo’s relationship with their budding stars will be a significant thing to pay attention to. He’s such a likeable character that it’s hard to imagine him clashing with his players too much other than normal manager-player interactions, but it’s not so much about that. It’s more about if he’s getting the best out of his developing core, and whether he can help them transition into legitimate stars, and/or if he’ll be the right guy for the job when this team is truly ready to win again.

I’m not suggesting that Montoyo will be on the hot seat in 2020 at all, but I do think the start of the evaluation of his work will begin this year. Gone are the excuses of a largely flawed roster, or even the label of a rebuilding team, and the Blue Jays will be expected to be relevant. I don’t know that he has much of a chance to lose his job in 2020 unless things are a total disaster, but he could have a chance to really cement himself with this group going forward.

Next. Baseball America's updated farm system rankings. dark

After a 2019 campaign that was a true learning year for their young roster, and even their first-year manager, things should be different in 2020. With a lot more chips in his stack and a ton of enthusiasm, it should be a much more enjoyable year for Blue Jays’ skipper. After a season working with the cards stacked against him, let’s see what he can do now that he’s holding an “ace”, and some other pretty solid cards as well.

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