2017 toronto blue jays season preview
The question is simple: can the Blue Jays make it to the playoffs for a 3rd straight year? The answer is...complicated.
by Dave Segaert, Feb. 15, 2017
At first glance, the average Toronto Blue Jays fan couldn't be blamed for viewing the 2016-17 off-season as a disappointment. Jays fans seriously got after it this year, leading the American League in total attendance and average attendance, shattering television ratings, and consuming ridiculous amounts of insanely-priced merchandise. So how did the new regime of Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins, dis-affectionately know as "Shatkins," reward this all-of-the-sudden loyal fan base? By cheaping out big-time in their conspicuously half-hearted attempt at resigning Edwin Encarnacion, and by making little more than a ripple in the free-agent pool. Shatkins did make some hearts go a-flutter by being linked to at least 329 trade rumours involving big name players, like Andrew McCutchen, only to let everyone down again when the news eventually broke that the Blue Jays were never really in serious talks with anybody. So did the front office do enough to get the 2017 Toronto Blue Jays into the playoffs? Shockingly the answer is yes. It's time for the players to step up, not the front office. If you recap the off-season and piece together the line-up, there's room for optimism if you can get over the morally devastating and needless departure of Edwin.
The ballad of Jose Bautista was a strange one. Good for the Blue Jays to get him back at a virtual bargain, but it's not like they had a good plan here, they really just lucked into it. It was was more than obvious that the Jays were willing to let Bautista walk, and in fact hoping for it to happen because they clearly valued the uncertainty of a compensatory draft pick more than the uncertainty of an ageing slugger. The club seemed to have zero interest in re-signing Jose, but became the front runner by default after it became apparent that the rest of the league also had zero interest in signing him. Not because he can't still put up numbers, but because everyone thinks he's a giant ass-hole. In the end, Jose ate a big fat piece of humble pie, and both sides slinked back to each other with their tails between their legs and pretended like nothing ever happened. The upside for the Blue Jays is that they will get a player who couldn't possibly be more motivated.
Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce are two really good additions. For a team that's trying to contend, they certainly shouldn't be the biggest moves of the off-season, but they're still two really good additions. The pear-shaped Morales will be next to useless as a defensive piece, but he's a proven slugger who's numbers are bound to get better by moving from the cavernous ballparks of the A.L. Central, to the tee-ball parks of the A.L. East. He's also a contact hitter, something that will be a welcome addition to a Jays team that swung and missed like it was their fucking job last year. Another pleasant upside is the hilarity that comes from watching him run the bases.
Steve Pearce is another guy who
Last years edition made the playoffs despite and Brett Cecil. In the playoffs almost everyone seemed to struggle. So in the end the players have to step up, not the front office. Cecil is gone, but bounce-back seasons from even just 2 of the players listed above could be a serious boon to the offence. Add to this a healthy Devon Travis and some contact bats in Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce, and the Blue Jays line-up can potentially more than make up for the loss of Edwin Encarnacion and his parrot, who was more popular than most of the players last year.
Let's face it, the Blue Jays pitching saved their asses last year. The offense was beyond frustrating as the Jays magically transformed every sack-of-shit pitcher into Sandy Kaufax, striking out at a record pace, failing to have even remotely productive at-bats, and relying on home runs to score. So why can this year's team be better?
The Pessimist Says:
The Blue Jays lost a lot in the off-season. The beloved Edwin Encarnacion and his equally beloved parrot are gone, and not because he didn't want to be back, but because the Blue Jays front office misplayed the whole ordeal badly. Also gone are two of the Jays best relievers down the stretch in Joachim Benoit and Brett Cecil, and Michael Saunders, who despite his second half futility could still be considered a better option than the sad-looking platoon of Ezequiel Carrera and Melvin Upton Jr. As for free agent signings, it wasn't the off-season that Jays fans were dreaming of. Good for the Blue Jays to re-sign Jose Bautista at a virtual bargain, but it's not like they had a good plan here, they really just lucked into it. It was was more than obvious that the Jays were willing to let Bautista walk, and in fact were hoping for it to happen because they clearly valued the uncertainty of a compensatory draft pick more than the uncertainty of an ageing slugger. The club seemed to have zero interest in re-signing Jose, but became the front runner by default after it became apparent that the rest of the league also had zero interest in signing him. Not because he can't still put up numbers, but because everyone thinks he's a giant ass-hole. In the end, Jose ate a big fat piece of humble pie, and both sides slinked back to each other with their tails between their legs and pretended like nothing ever happened. The other free agent signings were Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce, who would be nice pieces for a contending club, but certainly should never be the crown jewels of your free agent resume. The pear-shaped Morales should see a boon in his numbers by moving from the cavernous ballparks of the A.L. Central to the tee-ball parks of the A.L. East, but is borderline useless as a defensive player, and will bog things down on the base-paths. Although many are touting the shrewdness of the Steve Pearce signing because of his versatility, lest they forget that Pearce is a player who's been in the big leagues for 10 years but has never been able to crack any lineup as an everyday player. The recent bullpen signings of J.P. Howell and Joe Smith have done little to quash the lingering concerns of the Blue Jays fan base, as both pitcher have seen their numbers decline steadily since they reached their 30's. Although the Jays made it clear that bullpen help was a priority going into the off-season, they sat back while the big names signed elsewhere, and swooped in for the scraps in February.
As for the holdovers from last year, it's almost impossible to say what the Jays will get from this cast of characters, many of whom looked completely lost for most of last year. The Jays endured down-years from Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin, and Kevin Pillar, and with 3 of these guys entering the twilights of their careers, it's hard to envision some miraculous comeback. Many fans are touting the return of a healthy Devon Travis as a catalyst to kick-start the offense, but the chances of Travis, who's shoulder seems to be constructed entirely of styro-foam, remaining healthy are about 400-1. Despite Buck Martinez's constant assurance that Troy Tulowitzki will "come around," it seems apparent to the rest of the world that the new Troy Tulowitzki is no longer an all-star on the offensive side, but rather a .245 hitter who strikes out three times as much as he walks. And what can you say about Russell Martin, other that that he hit .192 last year despite getting 3 days off every week.