The 2016 season is finally almost upon us. With Spring Training about 1 month away we can finally narrow down the Blue Jays 2016 club with some degree of accuracy. Without going into each player the team as a whole is in a fairly strong position. The offense is very strong, the defense is improved, the pen has firmed up and the rotation while not great has some average expectations. As a team they should realistically be a contender in the improved AL East but we can look deeper at the division another day.
Pillar came into 2015 with a chance to be the 4th OF after some mixed results at the plate. His defense would allow him to be a great 4th OF and he had something to prove at the plate if he wanted the full-time gig. Pillar responded with a huge breakout season he batted .278, improved to a .314 OBP, hit 12 HR and stole 25 bases. Add in his out of this world defense and Pillar put up a staggering 5.2 WAR, this from a guy who had to fight his way onto the team.
Pillar was no doubt one of the best stories in 2015 and he enters 2016 as the starting CF. While its hard to image he puts up an equally strong 2016 he should be a strong contributor. At 27 he is a late bloomer, but the hope is that his recent success carries over. With some improvement in the BB%, Pillar can ensure he stays the starting CF. He is an excellent defender, has great speed and enough power for CF. With that if his avg slips to the .250 range he should still hang on to his spot. Pillar is a player that could turn out to be a real steal for the Jays, much like…
Jose Bautista & Edwin Encarnacion
What happens with JB & EE might be the biggest story of 2016. Both are in their final team friendly option years of their contracts and currently both are set to be free agents at the end of the season. If I am being realistic the Jays can only afford to extend one of their sluggers.
JB has been one of the best stories in recent memory, his rise to an elite hitter is unparalleled, his bat flip in the postseason is of legends. From an emotional standpoint you do what it takes to extend him. However you have to consider that he will be 36 in 2017 and his days in RF might be limited. An extension to JB means in time he will be a DH or a 1B if he can make the transition. He is a great choice but that leads us to EE.
EE much like JB has been a brilliant power hitter and his salary/acquisition costs are also remarkably low. We are talking about two of the best power hitters in the MLB the last 5 years. Chris Davis just signed a 7 year 161MM deal and I would argue that JB & EE have been one step above Davis. All 3 have been the elite power hitters in baseball and Davis while not as consistent has the advantage due to age. JB & EE should not get $161 million but exceeding the 23 AAV is not out of the question.
The Jays should not give $50MM a year to two aging sluggers, it doesn’t make economic sense in light of the payroll and roster construction.They will have to pick 1 or let both of them walk at the end of the year. How Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins handle this situation should be one of the bigger stories in 2016. If I had to pick, I would actually go with EE. I really love JB but if I had to pick I think EE is the better investment. He already is your DH/1B, age is on his side and while I am guessing I think he will agree to the better term. JB will want to be compensated as an Elite RF slugger, while EE is already mostly a DH and that means a lot of difference in dollars. Keeping at least 1 I believe should be a top priority.
Sanchez has already been said to be in the #bsofl or Best Shape of His Life, after adding 25 pounds of muscle to his lanky frame. There is no debate that the former top prospect should be on the major league roster but there is an active debate over him being a reliever or starter. Sanchez has been downright nasty out of the pen with a 1.67 ERA, a .775 WHIP and a manageable BB/SO ratio. As a starter he has been okay with a 3.55 ERA but his peripherals haven’t been so shiny and in some cases ugly like his BB rates or BB/SO ratios.
The biggest problem is that there might not be a rotation spot available with Drew Hutchison and Jesse Chavez as his main competition. There is a valid argument that Hutchison at only 25 still deserves another shot in the rotation. Hutch has shown moments of dominance that are hard to overlook despite his horrific road splits. How this story plays out should be another top story in 2016. Sanchez will be stretched out to compete in spring but I would wager that he starts the year in the pen.
I am also looking forward to see if Roberto Osuna stays in as closer or if Drew Storen is given the job. Can Devon Travis get healthy and take the job at 2B. Can RA Dickey still give 200 average innings as he enters his 40’s. Lots of great stories and moments to come in 2016!
Imagine a Josh Donaldson back to back MVP!