The Toronto Blue Jays have raised the expectations of their fans due to their success the past three seasons and reached the playoffs for a second straight season. In 2016 they finished 89-73, good for second in the American League East and a Wild Card spot. The Wild Card game was a nail bitter, as the Blue Jays edged out the Baltimore Orioles in extra innings. They went on to sweep the Texas Rangers in the Division Series, but their season came to an end after losing the Championship Series against the Cleveland Indians four games to one.
2016 was the second straight season that the Blue Jays made it to the ALCS, losing both times, and fans in Toronto have increased by the hundreds due to the recent success. However the front office is faced with a number of huge questions entering the 2017 season, and the Blue Jays will need to make some moves this winter if they want to compete once again next season.[embedit snippet=”Milkins ads”]
They started the off-season early by signing Kendrys Morales to a multi-year deal, who will likely take over the DH role. There is still much to address, however, and the Winter Meetings will be the place to start.
Positions of Need
Outfield: The Blue Jays have lost both Michael Saunders and Jose Bautista to free agency, leaving them with an outfield consisting of Melvin Upton Jr, Ezequiel Carrera, and Kevin Pillar. Pillar is likely to keep himself in center due to his superb defense, but the Blue Jays are in dire need of two corner outfielders. They lost a huge bat in Jose Bautista, so an outfielder with some pop would be preferable if possible.
Outfield: The Jays have been connected to pretty much everyone possible in the outfield this off-season, so finding a suitor should not be too difficult for the front office. On the free agent market, Dexter Fowler and Ian Desmond would fit perfectly in the Toronto outfield. Fowler is coming off a season where he hit .276 with 13 homers and 48 RBI. Desmond, in his first season as an outfielder, had a great season, hitting .285 with 22 homers and 86 RBI. Desmond would likely have the edge over Fowler, as he could play multiple positions including short, in the case of Troy Tulowitzki hitting the disabled list.
Possible Trade Pieces
The free agent market may not be the easy answer for the Blue Jays, as they may choose to test the trade market instead. They don’t quite have the prospects to make a blockbuster trade involving minor leaguers, but players like Troy Tulowitzki and J.A. Happ could generate decent returns. Happ especially, who won 20 games in 2016, could bring back valuable offensive pieces to help fill the holes left by Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
One Bold Prediction
The Toronto Blue Jays resign their big slugger, Edwin Encarnacion, but without any kind of home-town discount. They won’t stop there, as they will trade away one of their pitchers, most likely Happ, in return for some more offense. This will put a heavier reliance on the young Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, but they’ll do enough this winter to compete once again next season.