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Toronto Blue Jays Series Preview: 9/21 to 9/24

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Last call for the Blue Jays. Wasn’t it just a week ago that these two sides were duking it out for second place in the AL East? Now, Toronto sits in the 8th seed at 27-26 whereas the Yankees are four games ahead of them at 31-22. It ain’t over ’til it’s over, but barring a Blue Jays four game sweep, this series isn’t going to change the outcome of the AL East race.

Since we last saw them

Hasn’t been all that long since the Yankees and Blue Jays previously squared off. This will be the third consecutive week that these two sides have a series against one another. Most recently, the Yankees swept the Blue Jays in three games at Yankee Stadium. This wasn’t any ordinary sweep, by the way. The Yanks outscored Toronto 43-15.

Things haven’t gone much better for the Jays since they departed the Bronx. Toronto lost three of four down in Philadelphia, though it could have been worse. Philly tacked on 15 runs in Friday’s doubleheader to open the series. This, after the Yankees’ 43 run shellacking of the Jays’ pitching staff. Then, Toronto finally got a well-pitched game from Hyun-Jin Ryu, but still lost. Vince Velazquez outpitched Ryu to beat the Jays, 3-1. At long last, Toronto returned to the win column yesterday to salvage the series and break a six game losing streak.

Injury Report

  • Rowdy Tellez, 1B (strained knee)
  • Derek Fisher, OF (knee contusion)
  • Yennsy Diaz, RHP (strained lat)
  • Elvis Luciano, RHP (undisclosed)
  • Nate Pearson, RHP (strained flexor)
  • Matt Shoemaker, RHP (strained lat)
  • Trent Thornton, RHP (elbow surgery)
  • Ken Giles, RHP (strained flexor)
  • Jordan Romano, RHP (strained middle finger)
  • Jacob Waguespack, RHP (strained back)

Spotlight: Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

There are a lot of exciting young players on the Blue Jays. Whether its Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, or Cavan Biggio, one guy seems to get a little less notice: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. But like the first three, he’s got baseball in his lineage as older brother Yuli plays for the Astros.

The almost 27 year-old outfielder has been a strong contributor in Toronto since he debuted in 2018. Gurriel came up as a shortstop, but was moved to left field last year in favor of Freddy Galvis (though really in preparation for Bo Bichette’s call-up). Regardless of where he’s played, his bat has been superb.

Gurriel has a lifetime .285/.327/.507 (121 wRC+) in 807 plate appearances. He’s got plenty of power (41 homers, .222 ISO) and has a more than tolerable strikeout rate (22.9 percent) considering his power production. 2020 has been his best offensive season: .303/.348/.530 (137 wRC+), 10 homers, and a 19.9 percent strikeout rate in 201 trips to the plate. He’s also boosted his walk rate to 7.0 percent, comfortably above the 4.8 percent walk rate he had from 2018 through 2019.

If it’s not clear based on more than 800 big league plate appearances, Gurriel’s Statcast data also backs up his offensive results.

Plenty of hard contact leading to good results. And a lot of those hard hits have come against the Yankees this year, by the way. Gurriel enters this series with a .550/.550/1.100 batting line in 20 plate appearances against the Yankees this season. He also has three homers, two coming against Masahiro Tanaka.

Projected Lineup

  1. Cavan Biggio, RF (.247/.371/.409, 121 wRC+)
  2. Bo Bichette, SS (.306/.327/.551, 133 wRC+)
  3. Teoscar Hernández, DH (.307/.356/.639, 165 wRC+)
  4. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., LF (.303/.348/.530, 137 wRC+)
  5. Randal Grichuk, CF (.258/.296/.447, 98 wRC+)
  6. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B (.237/.312/.407, 96 wRC+)
  7. Travis Shaw, 3B (.233/.307/.397, 93 wRC+)
  8. Joe Panik, 2B (.248/.363/.333, 101 wRC+)
  9. Danny Jansen, C (.160/.297/.292, 69 wRC+)

Bench:

  • Alenjandro Kirk, C (200/.273/.200, 37 wRC+)
  • Jonathan Villar, INF/OF (.241/.310/.307, 73 wRC+)
  • Jonathan Davis, OF (.333/.500/.750, 233 wRC+)

Pitching Matchups

Tonight, 6:37 p.m. EDT:

TBD

The Yankees pushed back Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka in preparation for the postseason rotation, which opens up today’s slot. Michael King seems like a possibility to start tonight, though nothing has been announced.

RHP Matt Shoemaker

This will be Shoemaker’s first start in a month. He’s been on the injured list with a lat strain. In 25 2/3 innings pre-injury, the righty had a 4.91 ERA and 6.10 FIP. Tonight will be his first start against the Yankees as a Blue Jay.

Shoemaker.
Tomorrow, 6:37 p.m. EDT:

RHP Gerrit Cole

The Yankees’ ace in on a roll of late. He faced this same Jays squad last week and allowed just one run in seven innings. Expect Kyle Higashioka to catch Cole again.

RHP Tanner Roark

Roark has been dreadful this season (6.41 ERA, 7.71 FIP in 39 1/3 innings). The Yankees shelled the veteran last time out and surely are salivating to face him again.

Roark.
Wednesday, 6:37 p.m. EDT:

RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Tanaka had his longest outing of the season — 7 innings — against Toronto on the 17th. He’s been good all season (3.27 ERA, 4.25 FIP) and is getting ready for a Game 2 start in the Wild Card round.

RHP Chase Anderson

Like Roark, the Yankees crushed Anderson last week. Anderson’s had a brutal season (7.45 ERA, 7/15 FIP in 29 innings) and this Yankees’ lineup is not a good matchup for him.

Anderson.
Thursday, 6:37 p.m. EDT:

LHP JA Happ

The previously written-off 37 year-old lefty now has a 3.25 ERA after throwing eight scoreless innings against Boston on Saturday. His turnaround after two dreadful starts to open up the 2020 campaign has been remarkable.

LHP Robbie Ray

Toronto acquired Ray at the trade deadline, but he hasn’t been all that great. Better than Arizona (7.84 ERA and 7.28 FIP), but that’s a low bar to clear. In 16 2/3 innings with the Jays, Ray has a 5.94 ERA and 5.70 FIP.

Ray.

Bullpen Status

RHP: Rafael Dolis, Anthony Bass, Julian Merryweather, A.J. Cole, Thomas Hatch, Patrick Murphy, Shun Yamaguchi, Wilmer Font, Ross Stripling, T.J. Zeuch

LHP: Ryan Borucki

Bass (14 pitches), Hatch (27), and Yamaguchi (21) pitched yesterday. Everyone else has had a day of rest, although Borucki and Cole pitched back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday.

Toronto Blue Jays Series Preview: 9/15 to 9/17

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Another big series for the Yankees this week. Fresh off sweeping the Orioles, who were close in the Yankees’ rear view mirror, the Yanks now take on a team they’re chasing: the Blue Jays. These two teams squared off just last week in a similar situation standings-wise.

Their Story So Far

I more or less covered where Toronto’s at in last week’s series preview, so this’ll serve as an update regarding what’s happened since. After the Jays took two of three from the Yanks, they hosted the Mets for three games in Buffalo.

The Yanks’ crosstown rivals embarrassed the Jays in the first game, winning 18-1. But Toronto rebounded to win the final two games of the series, which brought their record to 26-20, a half game ahead of the Yankees (26-21) for second place in the AL East. Also: Toronto trails the division leading Rays by 3.5 games.

Toronto also got healthier during that Mets series. The team activated closer Ken Giles and shortstop Bo Bichette from the injured list just in time for the final stretch. The Yankees were fortunate to not face either of those two last week, but won’t be so lucky this time around. On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind Gary Sánchez welcoming Giles back in a redux of this:

The Jays are still missing a few key players, but there’s no question they’re stronger for this series vs. New York. Of course, the Yanks seem to be getting stronger too. The winner of this series will exit it in possession of second place, though these two sides will play again next week in Buffalo.

Injury Report

  • Teoscar Hernández, OF (oblique strain)
  • Nate Pearson, RHP (flexor strain)
  • Rowdy Tellez, 1B/DH (strained knee)
  • Héctor Pérez, RHP (undisclosed)
  • Elvis Luciano, RHP (undisclosed)
  • Matt Shoemaker, RHP (lat strain)
  • Jordan Romano, RHP (finger discomfort)
  • Wilmer Font, RHP (shin contusion)
  • Yennsy Díaz, RHP (lat strain)
  • Trent Thornton, RHP (elbow surgery to remove loose bodies)

Spotlight: Rafael Dolis

The Blue Jays were very active in the 2019-20 offseason, so it’s easy for someone like Rafael Dolis to get lost amid some of the Toronto’s other big signings, notably Hyun-Jin Ryu. And not only was Dolis somewhat of an afterthought in free agency, but he was also the second-most notable signee out of the NPB for the Jays. Versatile righty Shun Yamaguchi was the bigger name. But as it turns out, Dolis has been the team’s second-best acquisition in free agency, behind Ryu.

Before joining Toronto, Dolis dominated in relief for the Hanshin Tigers from 2016 through 2019. He notched 96 saves and recorded a 2.49 ERA while with Hanshin. This run came after Dolis struggled to break through in the US. He had reached the majors with the Cubs in 2011, 2012, and 2013, but scuffled. The Giants and Tigers took chances on Dolis in the two years after, but the right could never escape Triple-A.

Now 32 years-old, Dolis has emerged as one of Toronto’s vital bullpen pieces, particularly while Giles was out. He’s got a 1.61 ERA in 22 games and has struck out just over 29 percent of opponents. The underlying metrics also look terrific:

Dolis.

The big flaw in Dolis’s game is control: he’s got a walk rate north of 15 percent, though that’s yet to really bite him. Hey, if you limit hard contact and strike out a ton of batters, walks won’t really hurt too much.

We got a look at Dolis last week, who picked up a save against the Yankees. He struck out two in an uneventful 1-2-3 ninth. Even though Giles is healthy, it looks like Dolis will remain as the closer for the time being. He also nabbed a save against the Mets.

So far, so good for Dolis with Toronto. The stuff is legit and the results have followed. Quite the steal for the Jays especially considering his mere $1 million 2020 base salary and $1.25 million club option for 2021.

Projected Lineup

  1. Cavan Biggio, RF (.253/.372/.431, 124 wRC+)
  2. Bo Bichette, SS (.333/.361/.609, 157 wRC+)
  3. Travis Shaw, 3B (.248/.315/.403, 95 wRC+)
  4. Randal Grichuk, CF (.273/.316/.485, 113 wRC+)
  5. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B (.241/.321/.412, 99 wRC+)
  6. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., LF (.285/.339/.481, 121 wRC+)
  7. Jonathan Villar, DH (.248/.316/.312, 75 wRC+)
  8. Joe Panik, 2B (.261/.356/.318, 94 wRC+)
  9. Danny Jansen, C (.151/.292/.301, 69 wRC+)

Bench:

  • Alejandro Kirk, C (153 wRC+ in 4 PA)
  • Santiago Espinal, INF (61 wRC+ in 62 PA)
  • Jonathan Davis, OF (179 wRC+ in 9 PA)
  • Derek Fisher, OF (147 wRC+ in 35 PA)

Pitching Matchups

Tonight, 7:05 p.m. EDT:

Taijuan Walker (vs. Yankees)

Walker didn’t give up a run against the Yanks last week, but he wasn’t exactly sharp. In 4 innings, the recent acquisition surrendered 7 baserunners. That was right in the midst of the Yankees’ funk, so the #RISPfail doesn’t come as a surprise. Maybe a second look will do the Bombers better.

Deivi García (vs. Blue Jays)

This will be the first time we witness Deivi facing a team for the second time. Not only is Toronto going to get another look at the Yankees’ 21 year-old righty, but it comes within just a week of the previous matchup. García gave up just 2 runs in 7 innings against the Jays in Buffalo on the 9th.

Walker.

Tomorrow, 7:05 p.m. EDT:

Tanner Roark (vs. Yankees)

Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu took Roark deep last week, but those solo homers were all the Yanks could muster against him. It hasn’t been a good season for Roark (5.60 ERA), who the Jays signed to a two-year, $24 million contract in the offseason.

Gerrit Cole (vs. Blue Jays)

Cole was masterful against the Orioles on Friday in a complete game shutout. More of that, please. This is the first time he faces Toronto as a member of the Yankees.

Roark.

Thursday, 7:05 p.m. EDT:

Chase Anderson (vs. Yankees)

Like Roark, Anderson hasn’t fared so well after his free agent signing with the Jays. He’s got a 5.81 ERA in 7 starts and has only completed 5 innings twice. He’s never faced the Yankees, though he has opposed Luke Voit and DJ LeMahieu in the National League.

Masahiro Tanaka (vs. Jays)

The Yankees have been able to count on Tanaka time and time this year. He’s really had just one bad start (against the Rays, unfortunately). Otherwise, he’s been quite good as his 3.16 ERA reflects.

Anderson.

Bullpen Status

RHP: Rafael Dolis, Anthony Bass, Julian Merryweather, Ken Giles, AJ Cole, Shun Yamaguchi, Thomas Hatch, Ross Stripling

LHP: Ryan Borucki, Anthony Kay

Like the Yanks, Toronto was off yesterday so the bullpen is pretty fresh entering this series. If anyone’s tired, it could be Dolis, who threw back-to-back games to finish the series against the Mets. Otherwise, no one has thrown on consecutive games recently.


I feel like I’m always saying that “the Yankees should sweep this team”, but yeah, I’m gonna say it again here. The Bombers confidence is back, the reinforcements are coming, and the pitching matchup favors the Yankees in all three games of this series. Win them all and put Toronto in third place for good.

Toronto Blue Jays Series Preview: 9/7 to 9/9

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With two-thirds of the season in the books, the Yankees play half of their remaining games against the Blue Jays starting today. Convenient timing considering that the Yankees and Blue Jays are separated by just one game. Toronto took over possession of second place yesterday with a victory over Boston and the Yankees’ loss in Baltimore.

Their Story So Far

Toronto, 22-18 on the season, got off to a slow start but played much better toward the end of August. After going 7-11 to open the year, the Blue Jays are on a 15-7 run entering this series with the Bombers. As noted shortly before, Toronto is in second place in the division and appears well on their way to a postseason appearance. Pretty impressive for a team that’s suffered a good deal of injuries and is playing in Buffalo, rather than Toronto, this year.

Not only are the Jays in good standing for a postseason appearance, but the team also has sought to get better. The front office was very active at the trade deadline and picked up a few pieces. Toronto mostly addressed the pitching staff by trading for Taijuan Walker, Robbie Ray, and Ross Stripling. This, presumably, was in response to various injuries on the staff as you’ll see in the next section. Additionally, the front office brought in Jonathan Villar as insurance for Bo Bichette. Gosh, sure would have been nice to see the Yankees act with that kind of urgency at the deadline.

The Jays are coming into this series after an OK week. They went 4-4, including a loss to Baltimore last Monday followed by a seven game road trip vs. Miami and Boston. Toronto split a two game set against the Marlins and took three of five from the Red Sox.

Injury Report

  • Teoscar Hernández, OF (oblique strain)
  • Bo Bichette, SS (knee strain)
  • Nate Pearson, RHP (flexor strain)
  • Ken Giles, RHP (elbow discomfort)
  • Héctor Pérez, RHP (undisclosed)
  • Elvis Luciano, RHP (undisclosed)
  • Matt Shoemaker, RHP (lat strain)
  • Jordan Romano, RHP (finger discomfort)
  • Yennsy Díaz, RHP (lat strain)
  • Trent Thornton, RHP (elbow surgery to remove loose bodies)

Spotlight: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

We know all about Vlad Jr.’s potential. From his gaudy minor league numbers to his Hall of Fame bloodlines, Guerrero Jr. has been tabbed as the face (or one of the faces) of the Blue Jays rebuild. He debuted last season at just 20 years-old, but didn’t exactly set the world on fire. He hit .272/.339/.433 (105 wRC+) with 15 homers in 514 plate appearances. Did he have some impressive moments? Without a doubt. But the consistency wasn’t there. And to be fair, not many 20 year-olds get a chance to play at the highest level, let alone dominate from the get go.

After coming up as a third baseman, Toronto moved Guerrero Jr. to first base and designated hitter seemingly for good this year. He has still taken grounders at third, but first base seemed like the logical endpoint even before the decision was made. Defense just isn’t his strong suit, but his bat has more than enough potential to carry at an offensive-demanding spot like first base or DH.

This year, Vlad Jr. has a .259/.338/.455 (114 wRC+) triple-slash and six homers in 160 plate appearances. It’s a fine batting line, but it’s not quite up to expectations still. He’s hitting the snot out of the baseball (87th percentile in hard hit percentage), but he simply hits far too many balls into the ground. This was a problem we knew about last year, and yet, it’s only gotten worse.

In 2019, Guerrero Jr. had a 49.6 percent ground ball rate and hit 1.5 grounders for every fly ball. This year, he’s up to 57.3 percent and 2.3. That’s not good! He can crush the ball all he wants, but if he can’t figure out how to get more lift, he’s never going to grow into his power potential. Fortunately, he’s still producing at an above-average level as a 21 year-old despite this flaw. He’s still got plenty of time to sort things out. When and if he does, look out.

Projected Lineup

  1. Cavan Biggio, 2B
  2. Randal Grichuk, CF
  3. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B
  4. Rowdy Tellez, DH
  5. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., LF
  6. Jonathan Villar, SS
  7. Travis Shaw, 3B
  8. Danny Jansen, C
  9. Derek Fisher, RF

Bench:

  • Caleb Joseph, C
  • Santiago Espinal, INF
  • Joe Panik, INF
  • Teoscar Hernández, OF (injured, roster move likely before series starts)

Pitching Matchups

Tonight, 6:37 p.m. EDT: Jordan Montgomery (vs. Blue Jays) vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu (vs. Yankees)

Ryu has been excellent for Toronto after signing a four year, $80 million deal this past winter. In 43 innings, the southpaw owns a 2.51 ERA and 2.73 FIP. He racks up strikeouts (27.6 percent), limits walks (6.9 percent), and induces a ton of soft contact. The Yankees’ depleted lineup is in for a tough one.

Ryu.

Montgomery got shelled last time out and couldn’t complete the first inning. The Yankees badly need a rebound start from him here. The 27 year-old let brings a 5.76 ERA and 4.71 FIP into this one.

Tomorrow, 6:37 p.m. EDT: JA Happ (vs. Blue Jays) vs. Taijuan Walker (vs. Yankees)

This is the first time the Yankees face Walker as a member of the Blue Jays. Toronto just picked him up at the trade deadline. The impending free agent has had a nice season (3.26 ERA and 4.62 FIP) in 38 2/3 innings and has had two solid performances for Toronto already. He blanked Baltimore over six innings in his debut and surrendered two runs in 5 2/3 against Boston.

Walker.

Happ faces his former team on Tuesday. JA was pretty dreadful against the Mets in his last start and gave up four runs in five innings. Felt like it could have been worse considering all of the baserunners (9) he allowed.

Wednesday, 6:37 p.m. EDT: Deivi García vs. Tanner Roark (vs. Yankees)

Roark’s yet another new addition to Toronto’s rotation. Like Ryu, Roark came aboard via free agency. It’s been a rough start for him in his new uniform. He’s got a 5.74 ERA and 6.31 FIP in seven starts and has yet to record an out in the sixth inning this season.

Roark.

García’s third career start comes Wednesday. He was better than his final line indicated in his last start against Baltimore, albeit not as good as he was in his big league debut against the Mets. It seems like a pretty good chance that he’s going to remain a part of this rotation the rest of the way.

Bullpen Status

RHP: Anthony Bass, Rafael Dolis, AJ Cole, Julian Merryweather, Thomas Hatch, Wilmer Font, Shun Yamaguchi

LHP: Ryan Borucki, Anthony Kay

The bullpen had to work pretty hard in the team’s 10-8 win against Boston yesterday. Robbie Ray lasted four innings, so Font (31 pitches), Hatch (32), Cole (28), Borucki (5), and Dolis (14) had to make up five frames of work. Borucki and Dolis are probably available tonight, though the other three almost certainly aren’t. The only other arm likely unavailable tonight is Yamaguchi, who tossed 45 pitches on Saturday.

It’s important to note that Toronto’s bullpen has been a good this season, even with Ken Giles sidelined. It’s 3.11 ERA is fourth-best in baseball and its 59 shutdowns lead the league.


Offseason Review: Toronto Blue Jays

Back in December, fresh off the signing of Hyun-Jin Ryu, I penned a quick piece on the Blue Jays as a looming threat. Toronto may not quite be ready for the limelight, but they’re certainly not far off. They seemingly flew under the radar this winter, but it’s hard to describe the team’s offseason as anything other than a success.

Rotation boost

Whether you prefer ERA, FIP, or DRA, the Blue Jays had one of the worst pitching staffs in the majors last year. Trading away Marcus Stroman midseason was a curious decision, but wisely, the team turned around and rebuilt its rotation for the upcoming campaign.

Ryu, the reigning MLB ERA champion, was the big addition to the staff. Health has always been a concern for the southpaw, but when he’s healthy, he’s terrific.

Toronto didn’t stop with Ryu, though. The team also brought in Tanner Roark, Chase Anderson, and Shun Yamaguchi. Along with the return of Matt Shoemaker, who missed nearly all of 2019, Toronto has literally remade its rotation from top to bottom. Sure, Shoemaker made five starts for the Jays last year, but that’s the only carryover in the rotation from last season.

Now, this isn’t a terrific rotation by any means. PECOTA isn’t a huge fan of the staff:

PlayerProj. ERAProj. DRA
Hyun-Jin Ryu3.464.32
Tanner Roark4.234.88
Matt Shoemaker4.545.17
Chase Anderson4.375.02

There’s no projection for Yamaguchi, at least not yet, but that doesn’t preclude the fact that this group is better than last year’s low bar to clear. It’s a staff that buys more time for the team to develop young pitchers like Anthony Kay and Trent Thornton along with top prospect Nate Pearson. The depth also gives them cushion for Ryan Borucki’s worrisome elbow soreness. Not that any of these guys, aside from Pearson, are promising per PECOTA:

PlayerProj. ERAProj. DRA
Nate Pearson4.074.55
Anthony Kay4.585.36
Ryan Borucki5.616.17
Trent Thornton4.154.80

A flyer on Travis Shaw

What a difference one season can make. 2019’s version of Travis Shaw was unrecognizable compared to the hitter from seasons prior. Last year, Travis Shaw hit .157/.281/270 (45 OPS+) for the Brewers last season after a stellar first two seasons in Milwaukee. In 2017 and 2018 combined, Shaw slashed .258/.347/.497 (120 OPS+) and had established himself as a stalwart in the Brewers’ lineup. But that goodwill wasn’t enough for the Brew Crew to keep him around following a dismal 2019 campaign.

Shaw was projected to earn $5.1 million in arbitration, but after Milwaukee non-tendered him, he inked a $4 million deal with Toronto. Quite a bargain for Toronto, especially considering that they can retain him in arbitration next year should all go well in 2020. If not, it was worth a gamble.

For what it’s worth, PECOTA still likes the left-handed slugger. It expects a rebound year, albeit not to 2017-2018 levels. That said, adding a projected .242/.337/.479 (107 DRC+) hitter ain’t too shabby.

Even though Shaw was groomed as a third baseman, expect to see him mostly at first base for Toronto. He should get time at the hot corner too whenever Vladimir Guerrero Jr. DHs or has a night off.

Let the kids play

The focus of Toronto’s offseason was to rebuild its rotation, and for good reason. They did add Shaw to its position player mix, but considering the lack of activity elsewhere, the franchise’s mission is clear: let the kids play. Vlad Jr., Bo Bichette, and others are going be the club’s main attractions this season.

Guerrero, Bichette, and others like Cavan Biggio or Lourdes Gurriel may not have hit their peaks just yet, but they’re still going to be good in 2020. That’s a little scary now, but even scarier down the road. On the face of things, it doesn’t seem like their window is open just yet. Nonetheless, sometimes windows open earlier than expected. We saw that with the 2017 Yankees. That doesn’t mean that the Jays’ timeline will be accelerated, but it can’t be ruled out given the team’s talent.

PECOTA has Toronto at 77 wins at the moment, and if you’re familiar with how these projections work, you know that this isn’t an exact prediction. There are error bars to consider. Now, that could mean Toronto will be closer to the 67 win squad it ran out in 2019, but it also means there’s a scenario in which they win 90 games. And really, when you look at this roster, would it be crazy for things to break their way and fend for a Wild Card spot? I don’t think so.

Could they have done more?

There’s a lot to like about the Blue Jays roster and long-term prospects. That said, would it have been worth it to push a little harder for short-term improvements? Yes, they addressed the rotation needs in a major way. And sure, there are plenty of budding stars in its position player ranks. That said, there are some areas this roster is lacking that could hold them back for the time being.

The big weak spot: the outfield. Gurriel broke out last season, but after that, things are thin. Randal Grichuk, Teoscar Hernández, and Derek Fisher aren’t terribly exciting. The first two have power and Fisher has some former-prospect sheen, but someone like Marcell Ozuna would have looked really nice out there for them.

The Blue Jays’ bullpen is a problem too. Ken Giles is a terrific closer, but that’s just about all they’ve got. Anthony Bass is seemingly their second-best reliever, but that’s not saying much. They figure to shuffle through a whole bunch of arms throughout the season as they try to figure out what clicks.

Offseason Summary

Lastly, here’s a quick look at the changes to the Blue Jays major league roster.

In:

  • Hyun-Jin Ryu
  • Tanner Roark
  • Chase Anderson
  • Shun Yamaguchi
  • Travis Shaw

Out:

  • Derek Law
  • Luke Maile
  • Jason Adam
  • Ryan Tepera
  • Devon Travis
  • Clay Buccholz
  • Clayton Richard
  • Justin Smoak

The Blue Jays are a looming threat

Quick note: things will be pretty quiet around here for the next few days. From everyone at the Views team: we hope you have a great holiday season and a happy new year!

A new team has entered the Yankees’ rearview mirror: the Blue Jays. Now, Toronto isn’t ready to challenge for the division title just yet. However, the club is on a trajectory to do so in the not so distant future. Already loaded with a stellar position player core, the Blue Jays are making a concerted effort to improve its pitching staff this winter. And it’s more than just a few free agent signings that point to a bright future.

We’ve already heard aplenty about guys Toronto’s position player core. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette are going to terrorize opponents for the next decade. But Toronto’s young pitching? Not so much. So, the Jays basically remade its rotation of the last two months. Hyun-Jin Ryu is not only the latest addition, but also one of the top pitchers in all of baseball. It’s the kind of move that can accelerate the start the team’s contention window.

Ryu is the reigning ERA champ and will be in Toronto for the next four years. They’ve signed him through his mid-30s, so there’s sure to be some decline in that run, but it’s a big addition nonetheless. And by adding veterans like Tanner Roark and Chase Anderson, they’ve raised the rotation’s floor. The moves have also given the team more time to develop young pitching internally. Namely, Nate Pearson, a consensus top-100 prospect who reached Triple-A this year.

This winter’s spending is a reminder that Blue Jays aren’t some small market franchise, by the way. If this developing core and revamped pitching staff mesh well in the coming years, the team shouldn’t have a problem keeping the gang together. Rogers Communications, a massive telecom company that generated $1.7 billion of free cash flow in 2018, owns the team. That makes the Blue Jays a rounding error. Now, Rogers’ willingness to spend on the team has been suspect. They’re not exactly in the baseball business, but perhaps this winter’s behavior is a sign of change. In any event, Toronto is capable of playing on the same financial playing field as the Yankees.

The Blue Jays may not threaten the Yankees for the division title in 2020, but they’re going to be a pest. And it doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere for the early portion of the next decade. They still have a ways to go to catch the Yankees, but it’s not hard to envision Toronto fighting for division titles in the not too distant future.

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