As the 2016 season approaches, I find myself looking at this Blue Jays team with cautious optimism. The offense is world-class, and likely still the top offense in baseball. Defensively, we are much improved from the start of last year. The bullpen looks solid, though relievers often have trouble staying consistent from year to year. The core of our starting pitching had a great second half of 2015, but our ace is still growing up, and the rest of the staff has all had some pretty bad stretches of pitching in recent years, with each turning in pretty average career numbers.
All this is to say that the team looks poised to contend if everyone stays healthy and performs up to or around their career averages. However, after the rabid excitement of the last half of 2015, I feel a distinct lack of buzz around the team as we near the start of the year. People who were riding on every pitch last year seem burnt out and unenthusiastic. Maybe it will all change when the season starts. Here’s to hoping.
One area of the current team that worries me is our lack of top prospects. We traded away some of our most promising young talent last July in order to make a push for the playoffs. It was a great ride, but now David Price is gone, as is much of our young talent, and we might only have one more year of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista in the middle of our lineup. The time to win is now. I must say that, to most observers, management has done a poor job of building a pitching staff that allows us to capitalize on the opportunity to win that this offence provides. I’ve heard the arguments about a tight budget, a falling Canadian dollar, and the fact that we only need average pitching to win. I have been an advocate of the argument that giving $217 million to David Price, while it undoubtedly makes us better this year, is too high of a price to pay for a team on a budget. There is an argument out there that Rogers made a ton of money from last year’s playoff run, and they should be reinvesting that money in the team. But, since none of the people I hear from have access to Rogers’ books, no one can say for sure that they haven’t done that in some way or another.
I worry that our window to win with the current group is closing, and we no longer have the next wave of prospects since so many have been traded away in recent years. It got me to wondering what our team would look like if we hadn’t made all those trades.
One of the first things that struck me when I began to research this is that we’ve actually drafted a lot of big league talent in recent years. Our roster has the highest number of home grown guys that I can remember, and that is even after trading away a number of draft choices who are now playing on big league teams elsewhere.
After going through the major trades, I quickly concluded that I am glad we made them. Sure, we could have a young team filled with the likes of Daniel Norris, Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, Kendall Graveman, Miguel Castro, with Jeff Hoffman and Franklin Barretto waiting in the wings. But we wouldn’t have Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, or R.A. Dickey. We wouldn’t have had David Price last year, and we likely wouldn’t have had a playoff run…and we would be a worse team this year than we are now.
The bottom line is that each trade had a part in getting us where we are now. RA Dickey has taken a lot of criticism from fans, myself included, but he was a key part of getting us to the playoffs last year. He has been a steady, if unspectacular, presence in our rotation since he was acquired. Sure, you may have been able to use the same prospects to acquire a different pitcher that was more suited to the AL East and the Skydome, but there is no question that the Jays have been a better team with Dickey than they would have been without him. Syndergaard may yet turn out to be great, but that likely won’t happen until after our veteran core has passed their prime. All in all, the Jays are a better team today thanks in part to some astute trades, and even in spite of some big trades that didn’t quite work out the way that they had hoped.
Another thing I was curious about was how the current roster was put together. Obviously, much of the roster was acquired under Alex Anthopolous, but I was surprised to discover how much of an impact still remains from the JP Ricciardi days. He was fired in 2009, but a number of players from his last draft in 2009 are still around, and of course the trades for Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista happened on his watch.
Here is the list of potential guys for our opening day roster along with how they were acquired and by whom:
|Pitchers||How Acquired||Person Responsible|
|Roberto Osuna||Free Agent||Alex Anthopolous|
|Aaron Sanchez||2010 Draft||Alex Anthopolous|
|Ryan Tepera||2009 Draft||JP Ricciardi|
|Marcus Stroman||2012 Draft||Alex Anthopolous|
|Aaron Loup||2009 Draft||JP Ricciardi|
|Drew Hutchison||2009 Draft||JP Ricciardi|
|J.A. Happ||Free Agent||Ross Atkins|
|R.A. Dickey||Trade||Alex Anthopolous|
|Steve Delabar||Trade||Alex Anthopolous|
|Brett Cecil||2007 Draft||JP Ricciardi|
|Bo Schultz||waivers||Alex Anthopolous|
|Marco Estrada||Trade||Alex Anthopolous|
|Gavin Floyd||Free Agent||Ross Atkins|
|Drew Storen||Trade||Ross Atkins|
|Jesse Chavez||Trade||Ross Atkins|
|Josh Thole||Trade||Alex Anthopolous|
|A.J. Jimenez||2008 draft||JP Ricciardi|
|Russell Martin||Free Agent||Alex Anthopolous|
|Ryan Goins||2009 Draft||JP Ricciardi|
|Edwin Encarnacion||Trade||JP Ricciardi|
|Devon Travis||Trade||Alex Anthopolous|
|Justin Smoak||Free Agent||Alex Anthopolous|
|Josh Donaldson||Trade||Alex Anthopolous|
|Chris Colabello||Free Agent||Alex Anthopolous|
|Troy Tulowitzki||Trade||Alex Anthopolous|
|Darwin Barney||Free Agent||Ross Atkins|
|Kevin Pillar||2011 draft||Alex Anthopolous|
|Jose Bautista||Trade||JP Ricciardi|
|Dalton Pompey||2010 draft||Alex Anthopolous|
|Michael Saunders||Trade||Alex Anthopolous|
|Ezequiel Carrera||Free Agent||Alex Anthopolous|
|Junior Lake||Free Agent||Ross Atkins|
|Darrell Ceciliani||Trade||Ross Atkins|
As mentioned, there is a lot of home grown talent here, and even though we could potentially lose a lot of veterans at the end of the year, I love the group of core young players that we have to build around for 2017 and beyond.
There are lots of things to be concerned about in 2016. Our big stars may leave at the end of the year. Our pitching might not be good enough. Our extraordinary run of good health from last year may not continue. We could be close at the trade deadline and not have the prospects to be able to make the trades needed to get us over the top. But fear not, there is plenty of reason for hope as well. We will score runs. Lots of them at times. This team will be fun to watch. Let’s not worry about next year right now. Let’s focus on 2016, and let’s enjoy the ride.