AL East Preview: Toronto Blue Jays
Welcome to your rebuild, Toronto
Image via Zimbio (July 8, 2017 – Source: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images North America)
We’ll be rolling out all of our AL East previews throughout the week. Catch up on the Orioles preview here.
It feels like so long since the Toronto Blue Jays were a legitimate playoff threat with the American League MVP in their lineup. Now 3 years removed from an ALCS appearance, that window is long gone.
2018 once again saw the Blue Jays middling in mediocrity, finishing fourth in the AL East with a record of 73-89. With the Red Sox, Yankees, and the Rays as the real threats to make noise out of the East, let’s take a look at what the Blue Jays can salvage out of the 2019 season, including a new manager and arguably the most exciting prospect in baseball.
- Manager Charlie Montoyo
- LHP Matt Shoemaker
- LHP Clayton Richard
- SS Freddy Galvis
- RHP John Axford
- RHP Clay Bucholz (yes, the Clay Bucholz)
Charlie Montoyo will be at the helm of the Jays starting in 2019. He comes over from the Rays staff that popularized the idea of the “Opener” pitching approach and had been with the team since their conception as the Devil Rays in 1997 (along with those gorgeous jerseys MLB finally brought back). In his first opportunity as a manager at the big-league level, Montoyo will look to mold his young talent and manage a transitioning roster that is bound to see some changes around the trade deadline.
As for some of the players, the addition of Shoemaker and Richard will add depth and veteran presence to the Jays’ rotation.
Shoemaker, who is coming over after spending the first six years of his career with the Angels, will most likely inhabit the back end of the rotation. Shoemaker is coming to the Jays on a one year “prove-it” deal, as he attempts to fight his way back from an injury-riddled 2018 season.
Galvis will likely start at shortstop after the release of Troy Tulowitzki. He’ll bring a fresh feel of consistency to the position after appearing in all 162 games each of the past two seasons.
The Blue Jays decided it was finally time to part with ways with long time manager John Gibbons. His second tenure with the Jays started in 2013 and concluded with the 2018 season. He guided Toronto to two postseason appearances in those five years and an overall record of 488-484 in that span. Despite the amount of success he had with the team, with their playoff window clearly coming to a close, front office decided it was time for a change of direction.
The Blue Jays aslo decided to pull the plug on the Troy Tulowitzki experience. Tulo hasn’t seen regular season action since July of 2017. The five-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glover, and three-time Silver Slugger joined the Yankees this offseason after the Jays released him in December.
Martin was dealt to the Dodgers for a pair of prospects. Martin had become a staple utility man for Toronto, appearing in 447 games over four seasons for the Jays.
As all of these losses indicate, as Toronto is moving on from many of its veterans, it is time to rebuild up North.
Unfortunately for Jays fans and baseball fans alike, the arrival of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will most likely come sometime after Opening Day. The power hitting phenom will likely be held out until April as the club wants to push back his arbitration period and eventual free agency by not having play the entire 2019 season.
For now, we can watch his utterly ridiculous moonshots to get our fill.
To start the season, Toronto will have other young pieces to look forward to in their Opening Day lineup. OF Billy McKinney, INF Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and C Danny Jansen will all be looking to build off of solid rookie campaigns.
Meanwhile, the middle of the lineup is where the Jays will rely on the experience they have remaining on the roster. 3B Brandon Drury, OF Randal Grichuk, OF Kevin Pillar, DH Kendrys Morales and 1B Justin Smoak are all returning to the lineup. However, as mentioned earlier, don’t be surprised if you see some of these names come up during trade season, as the Jays will certainly look to be sellers at the deadline.
Front man Marcus Stroman had a rough 2018 season. He’s coming off of a career-high 5.54 ERA in just 19 appearances for the Blue Jays last season. He dealt with shoulder issues and a reoccurring blister, but has looked healthy this spring with good numbers. He’s earned the Opening Day start to kick off 2019.
Behind Stro, Aaron Sanchez will also look to have a bounce back year as the likely No. 2 starter. He also tossed a career-high ERA last year and will look to turn things around to strengthen the front end of the rotation.
The newly acquired veterans Shoemaker and Richard will fill out the back end along with second year man Ryan Borucki.
Toronto’s bullpen was nothing much to write home about last season and 2019 looks to yield more of the same. RHP Ken Giles will resume his role as the team’s closer. Last season, he picked up 14 saves in as many opportunities. However, he struggled to keep his ERA down as his outings were inconsistent, despite the saves. The bullpen will almost certainly be something the Jays will address throughout the season.
The Blue Jays will once again be stuck in AL East purgatory; not nearly good enough to compete, but not nearly as awful as the Orioles. The development of Vladdy Jr. will be the big story of the 2019 season, as the Blue Jays will likely dive headfirst into rebuild mode.