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After taking the AL East title in 2015 along with back to back ALCS appearances, the Blue Jays occupied last place in the division for all but the final week of the 2017 season. Edwin Encarnacion is a Cleveland Indian and the greatness of Jose Bautista is all but a memory.
Despite the message that the team would get younger, faster and more athletic, the Blue Jays took the oldest roster in baseball onto the field, and geez did it show. Toronto was plagued by injury. Big names such as Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, Josh Donaldson, Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki hit the shelf, creating major shuffling in the lineup. Utility players: Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney, as well as minor league call-ups were asked to fill voids for outrageous stretches of time. Leading to the one word that best describes the Blue Jays’ season: inconsistency.
The honeymoon phase is over. Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins are officially on the clock and need to decide what direction the team will go in. It’s easy to point the finger and blame them for the Jays’ struggles, but you shouldn’t. They inherited a team with aging players on ridiculous contracts along with a farm system as thin as paper. Trying to appease a fan base who witnessed their first playoff berth in 22 years.
We saw what the World Series Champion, Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros did on their road to supremacy. History proves that the teams who draft and develop their cornerstone pieces can consistently contend for years. Trading away future assets to build a foundation of players in the latter part of their prime creates short-term success that ultimately runs a team’s farm system dry. Trading for players such as R.A. Dickey, David Price and Troy Tulowitzki put the Blue Jays over the hump and made them a contending team through the 2015-16 seasons, while depleting their prospect pool into one of the worst in the league. A lackluster outfield, brittle middle infield and untrustworthy bullpen headline the Blue Jays’ needs. So if the team doesn’t look fit (on paper) to contend, why not use this time to rebuild?
Considering that J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada and (most importantly) Josh Donaldson become free agents by the end of next season, it’s highly plausible to see them shopped by the deadline if the team finds itself drastically out of contention.
Many fans would cringe at the idea of losing their superstar third baseman, but the team didn’t dump money on Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion, and they shouldn’t on an aging Donaldson. Shapiro and Atkins can deal him at the peak of his trade value for future assets instead of signing him to an outrageous, long-term deal, or even watching him walk for free.
Toronto’s top prospects Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette aren’t expected to enter the league for a couple more years. The Blue Jays should acquire blue-chip, controllable talent to compliment the likes of Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman and Roberto Osuna, who are still controllable through arbitration. Forecasting is the name of the game in the world of professional sports. The Blue Jays better kick it in high gear pretty soon or they’re going to be s*** outta luck.