A new era of Blue Jays baseball is just around the corner. The short lived glory days of 2015 and 2016 seem like ages ago, especially with almost every major piece from those ALCS teams playing elsewhere. The last two years were an awkward transition period filled with injuries and losing.
The fire sale for Jays veterans started around the trade deadline in the 2017 season, with President Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins looking at the future. The Francisco Liriano for Teoscar Hernandez trade seemed like a steal after the first 30ish games of the 2018 season, until we realized that Hernandez is a chicken with his head cut off in left field. Seriously, he looks like a lost GPS recalculating fly ball routes. It took just four games for me to favour Billy McKinney more.
The Joe Smith for Thomas Pannone trade was a great one, regardless if Pannone ever works out or not. Smith was an average reliever on an expiring deal – and in an era where relievers are as replaceable as ever – the low risk/high reward ceiling of Pannone was well worth it. In his first MLB start he took a no-hitter into the seventh (yes it was against the Orioles but still).
Shapiro and Atkins made a number of vet-for-prospect trades at the 2018 trade deadline, including trading World Series MVP Steve Pearce for…Santiago Espinal? Between Pearce and David Price, Boston should give the Blue Jays a three per cent royalty on all World Series profits.
J.A. Happ had his bags packed since May, and with a possibility of re-signing him in the offseason, Billy McKinney and Brandon Drury was a fine return. John Axford and Seunghwan Oh were both expiring deals that would be of no use to the Blue Jays. Will any of the prospects come to anything? Maybe. Only time will tell. Aaron Loup, the Jays longest tenured player, was dealt to Philly, marking the end of an (4.54) era.
Obviously the Roberto Osuna situation was what it was. The Jays had to trade him, even if the return wasn’t nearly what Osuna can and has been. Julian Merryweather, the prospect received for Josh Donaldson, is still recovering from Tommy John surgery in March. He posted fantastic numbers in AA in 2016, but struggled in AAA before needing surgery. If Merryweather turns out to be a solid starter, terrific. But if not, I don’t think Jays fans will be too disappointed, even if we traded a former MVP to acquire him.
Donaldson had to moved, as his calves and shoulders haven’t held up the past two years, and a 32 year old expiring contract with injury problems is a whole lot of risk, especially when your best prospect plays the same position.
Who knows where Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will end up playing in the field, but I don’t think Jays fans are paying attention to his glove as much as his bat. Guerrero made tomfoolery of AA pitching, batting over .400 in his time in New Hampshire. A much deserved promotion to Buffalo at the end of the season saw him bat .336 – an amazing feat for a 19 year old playing against grown men – including a stretch of four consecutive games with a homer (sidebar, of course the one game I went to in Buffalo this season was the fifth game).
The glove is fine. He is surprisingly nimble considering his size and weight, and has a very strong arm. Guerrero already has the aura that few ballplayers have. His Bisons debut saw more than 9,400 fans file into Coca-Cola Field, about 4,000 more than average. The following weekend saw over 10,000 fans. When a 19 year old is holding up lines at the border (for baseball, not criminal activity), he is something special.
He is currently batting .393 in the Arizona Fall League, and was named to the ‘Fall Stars’ roster along with fellow prospects Cavan Biggio and Nate Pearson. Pearson missed the majority of this past season recovering from a broken pitching arm he suffered after taking a line drive off the forearm back in May. Pearson lit up the radar gun in Arizona, throwing multiple 100+ mph pitches, topping out at a flaming 104.1.
With Charlie Montoya recently named manager of the Blue Jays, the plan is slowly but surely falling into place. Justin Smoak’s option was recently picked up, and while the 2019 season will likely be another losing year, the future is as bright as ever for the Jays. The turn of the decade should see success for Canada’s team. Just be patient.