Blue Jays At The Break: Where Do We Go From Here?
Source: AP Photo/John Minchillo
When you are at the bottom in both runs for and runs against, you are probably also in the bottom of the standings. That is where the 2019 Toronto Blue Jays find themselves at the All-Star Break, 23 games under .500 with a record of 34-57 and 17.5 games back of a playoff spot. Now we knew there would be growing pains with a roster consisted of mostly younger players and that they would still be better than the Baltimore Orioles. Aside from that, the team looks like it is far away from contending particularly on the side of starting pitching. There seems to be a lot more promise on the position player side of things but as all baseball fans would know, you need both hitting and pitching to contend. So how does this get addressed and where do we go from here?
No question that the the hitting is starting to come around, as the position player end of the roster is slowly but surely piecing together to form a group of young players for several years in the future. Around the horn in the infield, Vladimir Guerrero is at 3rd base, Cavan Biggio at 2nd base along with Rowdy Tellez as a 1st base / Designated Hitter with Danny Jansen behind the plate at Catcher. Veteran shortstop Freddy Galvis is holding the fort down until top prospect Bo Bichette is ready to take over at the major league level. The other 1B/DH is veteran Justin Smoak to round out the 6 infield positions. In the outfield, looks like they have a really good one in Lourdes Gurriel Jr. playing in left field, veteran Randall Grichuk in right field and Teoscar Hernandez for now is manning center field but could very well wind up as the every day DH when it is all said and done. There is talent up and down the starting 9 with solid players either on the team or in the system like infielders Richard Urena and Brandon Drury, outfielder Billy McKinney and backup catcher Luke Maile to round out the bench. There is hitting for average, power, speed, plus-defenders and great arms everywhere and it is just a matter of time until these younger players blossom with an offence ready to explode. When it is all said and done, the only holes they may need to fill is a starting centre fielder and / or a 1st Base-DH type player like Justin Smoak unless management can keep him around for a couple of more years as a stop-gap veteran like Galvis and Eric Sogard. Nothing wrong with having some veteran presence, especially when you have this much youth around the diamond on an every-day basis.
Whenever we talk about how long it is going to take for these Blue Jays to be a contender, there is no exact timeline but as far as I am concerned it will be whenever this team has a good starting rotation. Now that could be in 2 years, 3 years, 5 years or maybe even next year. But until management fixes this area of the team we will be talking about not making the postseason year after year again until it is fixed. The only legitimate starter they have getting them deep into games these days is veteran Marcus Stroman, who has been subject to trade rumors due to him being able to be a free agent after the 2020 season. The same contract time applies to Aaron Sanchez, who if he is not having some type of blister or whatever type of finger injuries he has not pitched well at all, and is having a lot of trouble finding his 2016 form when he finished with 15 wins and an American League ERA title. Trent Thornton, acquired in the off-season for former starting shortstop Aledmys Diaz, has had his moments as a rookie pitcher but also some down times as well which is to be expected. Everyone else is either a journeyman veteran that couldn't stay healthy the entire year to this point anyway or they have been forced to use the "opener" having a bullpen day which I personally dislike with passion. It is too bad that rookie Ryan Borucki, who looked good after being called up last year looked good but has been on the shelf all year with an elbow injury. This area of the team, which is the most important on any Major League Baseball team is a complete mess. This area needs to be addressed to start giving the team a legitimate chance to win on a nightly basis before the word "playoffs" is to be associated with this franchise again.
CONCLUSION AND MOVING FORWARD:
Look for more youth to be called up to the big roster between now and the end of the season, both on the pitching and position player sides of the team. While they have been keeping it respectable at times throughout the 1st half, we still could be looking at the Blue Jays losing 100 games for the first time since 1979, their 3rd year of existence four decades ago. It is safe to say however that starting next season there is nowhere to go but up as this season was basically a write-off before it started. Improvement has already been seen, but again only on the position-player side of things. The starting pitching staff has a long way to go just even to respectability so we will see where the future payroll dollars go towards, no doubt that area is where management needs to focus on addressing at the trade deadline and in the off-season.