The Blue Jays wasted another opportunity on Tuesday night, and given all of the circumstances at play right now, there’s a very good argument that the front office needs to be more aggressive in pursuit of improving this roster.
The glaring area of concern is in the bullpen, and unfortunately the Blue Jays have blown as many as four wins over the last week alone. It’s still relatively early in the grand scheme of a 162 game season, but the wins that have slipped away are starting to add up and could prove very costly by the time September rolls around.
The Jays are in an interesting place in their “rebuild” that started not long after Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro were hired. At that time they had inherited a veteran club that included stars like Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion. It was a painful end to that exciting era for the franchise, but in less than five years the roster has completely transformed and they’re back in a place where the Jays are expected to compete for a playoff spot again after their quick cameo in 2020.
If you ask some folks, the 2021 season is an important year, but not necessarily the time that this club is truly expected to compete for a World Series title. I’ll even admit that I’ve thought along those very same lines a lot over the past year, and there is some merit to the idea. That said, things have changed over the first two and a half months of this schedule, and I believe the front office has no choice but to treat this year in a different way.
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We’ve talked about this concept before at Jays Journal, but let’s go over some of the main points again. First, you never want to waste an MVP calibre season from one of your players, and that’s exactly what they’re getting from Triple Crown threat Vladimir Guerrero Jr. right now. In theory he will likely do this for many years to come in a Blue Jays uniform, but that’s far from a guarantee.
Then there’s the All-Star contributions that they’ve received from a pair of players on one-year deals. Robbie Ray re-signed quickly this past offseason and has been producing as a top of the rotation arm thus far. It’s entirely possible and even likely that the two sides will seek another reunion at the end of the year, but he’s going to get a lot more than eight million this time around. The same goes for Marcus Semien, who bet on himself and signed a one-year deal for 18 million after having a down 2020 season. He’s more than re-established his value, and I’m sure there will be a few lucrative offers waiting for him over the winter.
As if that’s not enough, a new argument has emerged in my mind, and admittedly it would be a bit of a gamble. Given the recent developments in Canada with the Covid-19 pandemic, I believe that it’s reasonable to hope for our beloved Blue Jays to return to Canadian soil before this season is over. The Montreal Canadians were given permission to cross the border to play in the NHL playoffs, and while it’s far from opening up the MLB schedule to Canada, it’s a step in the right direction. There was more good news on the Canadian sports front this week as well, as the CFL voted to proceed with their planned 2021 schedule, and hopefully the conditions will allow for them to do just that.
Imagine the Blue Jays returning to the Rogers Centre as a contender. The place would go absolutely nuts, and the value brought to the brand would be worth it’s weight in gold. If I’m in front office or ownership group right now, I’m pushing to invest in this team further and give baseball-starved fans a reason to absolutely pack the house upon their return. Maybe they know more than I do on that front about the prospective chances, but it feels like it’s at least possible.
Add it all up and it would be a shame to waste a great opportunity with such a talented roster. Sure, there should still be plenty of bright days ahead with a core that includes Vlad Jr., Bo Bichette, George Springer, Hyun Jin Ryu, and more, but you only get so many chances to chase a title. In my mind, they’d be foolish not to push very hard in that direction, and hopefully that starts with a trade for some relief help.