The Blue Jays had a very successful season in 2020, but suffering a short-series sweep at the hands of the Rays should give the front office an important reminder.
There were times that I didn’t think MLB would be able to play the 2020 season, and even though it ended up being just a 60-game regular season, I may have enjoyed it as much as any season before it.
With the world having been turned upside down over the last six months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, having baseball back on our televisions was a welcome sight. The fact that the Blue Jays were actually pretty good made it even better, and there were a lot of important steps made this year. In 2019 the Jays were a 67-win team, and this season they managed to finish two wins above .500, and even qualified for the expanded playoffs. That’s growth regardless of how you measure it.
That being said, the Wild Card round against the Rays just provided an important reminder for the fan base, and more importantly, for the front office. This is a very talented young team with an extremely bright future, but they’re far from a finished product.
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There were plenty of growing pains this year, such as the notoriously bad base-running we witnessed far too frequently. There was also way too many defensive miscues throughout the year, and two errors early in Game 2 certainly contributed to their undoing on Wednesday. It’s an area that everyone from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to Bo Bichette will need to make strides going forward, obviously to varying degrees.
In the grand scheme of things, I think we should be very pleased with the step the Blue Jays took this year, especially when their core is built around so many young and inexperienced players. The success of the 2020 campaign will be a very beneficial thing, as will their having played in the playoffs, even if they were quickly swept. I truly believe that they’ll be better in 2021, and will likely improve even more for several years after that.
As exciting as that is to think about, the playoffs also revealed that the Blue Jays’ roster is not a finished product. Their lineup could likely use one more piece (maybe an upgrade at third base?), but the bigger issue is with the pitching staff. There were all kinds of encouraging seasons there as well, especially out of the bullpen, but they were clearly overmatched against the Rays. There’s also the possibility that starters-turned-relievers like Thomas Hatch, Ryan Borucki, Anthony Kay, Julian Merryweather and more will go back to starting next season, which really thins out the bullpen.
The Jays are also set to lose some significant contributors to free agency, unless they’re able to retain them. The list includes Taijuan Walker, Matt Shoemaker, Robbie Ray, Anthony Bass, Ken Giles, Jonathan Villar and more, and that could really change the dynamic of the roster. I imagine they’ll look to re-sign at least a few of them, but I think it’s also clear that the Blue Jays could use a few key upgrades. For example, even if Nate Pearson is ready to dominate out of the rotation in 2021, I don’t think it’s wise to assume that he will. With that in mind, I feel like priority number one needs to be a top-of-the-rotation arm. That could be retaining Walker and/or looking elsewhere, but an upgrade is necessary if they want to become true contenders.
I believe that this is a team that’s ready to take the next leap in 2021, but I’m not naive to the fact that they still have plenty of work to do, both internally and with adding to the roster. A lot of that was revealed against the Rays, and I’m sure the front office took note. That said, there are a lot of great pieces coming together with the Blue Jays, and I’m already looking forward to seeing what they can do next year.