Happy New Year in 2018, baseball fans!
2017 was not a great year to be a Toronto Blue Jays fan, as most of the team under-performed. Aaron Sanchez was injured, Jose Bautista’s remaining life force was sucked away, most of the team was injured, strange locker room drama marked the early months of the season, and April concluded with an abysmal 8-17 record. Their record remained more or less .500 after April. It was painful to watch them tread water knowing the window of opportunity to compete atop the AL East was closing.
Thankfully, 2018 can mark a new beginning for the team. Saying goodbye to Jose Bautista is as good a way to cap off an era as any other way. I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the projected depth chart of the Blue Jays for the coming year. A fair warning: this is all going to be written based on the individuals currently in the system as of January 2018. I will be making suggestions based on the current free agents as of this month as well. As we get closer to the season, there will undoubtedly be new articles all about the players the Blue Jays will sign. In the meantime, I will be delving into each position and its current depth. Brace yourself for a lot of Fangraphs charts and the like.
PROJECTING JOSH DONALDSON’S FUTURE
Before I get started with any of the analysis or position posts, I wanted to take the time to make a projection of my own about one specific player on the Jays: Josh Donaldson. There have been numerous articles and tweets about what is going to happen to the Jays’ most valuable player. Given that last season was a bust, there has been plenty of warranted speculation over Donaldson’s future. The Jays may end up moving him before the beginning of the season. In the latest news, Canadian sports website Sportsnet reported that the Jays are not currently engaged in talks to trade the third basemen. This comes on the heel of rumblings that the Saint Louis Cardinals are still interested in Donaldson. You’ll recall back in October that Sportsnet also ran an article stating that Donaldson wants to sign in Toronto for the long haul. October feels like a long time ago given the mountain of articles stating that Donaldson was as good as gone.
ST LOUIS BOUND?
If Donaldson were to be traded, it would dramatically change the landscape of the team’s future overnight. Presumably, the Jays’ management (Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins) would not let the slugger go without seeing a high quality return that includes prospects. For the Cards, potential bait would include young pitcher Alex Reyes or catcher Carson Kelly. Several websites speculated the main piece coming from the Cardinals to Toronto would be 2B/3B/SS Jedd Gyorko. That would be a catastrophically bad return for the Jays. No offense intended to Gyorko, but he is 29 years old and has a few years of contract left that include a $9 million year followed by two $13 million years. By the time the deal is done, he’s not likely to be re-signed by the Jays if his price remains the same or escalates. Regardless of his performance, if the team is signalling a rebuild by trading Donaldson, why wouldn’t they work to claim prospects? If the Cardinals aren’t interested in giving up Reyes or Kelly in a deal, perhaps one of the Cardinal’s competitors in the NL Central will be willing to part with their top prospects. In short, the Jays shouldn’t be quick to deal away their superstar unless they are willing to fully commit to a rebuild and ask for top prospects over expensive stop-gap players. Even ones as tempting as Gyorko.
THE WRAP UP
For the first projection of 2018, I believe that the Jays will not deal Donaldson before the start of the season. He may yet be dealt in 2018, but Jays management has already (smartly) avoided any deals that would impede their long term plans for the team. Donaldson’s presence may or may not signal changes to the team. For now, I feel comfortable saying he isn’t going anywhere before April…unless of course he does and we welcome some highly touted prospects to Toronto as the team transitions back into not competing atop the AL East.
In the meantime, I hope you all enjoy the forthcoming series of posts about the 2018 Blue Jays. While they may not be good enough to compete against the Yankees or Red Sox in 2018, they will undoubtedly be fun to watch and a reliable source of exciting moments for MLB viewers.