Blue Jays 2018 Outlook @TheActualKJM
The 2018 season for the Toronto Blue Jays is more up in the air than it has been in a few years after a disappointing finish in 2017.
After back-to-back appearances in the American League Championship Series, there was hope among fans that maybe the Blue Jays could take that next step in 2017. It was a season that never saw them reach .500, had them sitting in last place for most of the year and finished a dismal fourth place in the division. However, this offseason saw the look of the team change quite a bit.
A few familiar faces will not be on the 2018 roster come March 29. Franchise icon Jose Bautista will not be returning after 10 seasons with the ball club as his option was not picked up. Backup infielders Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney have departed and signed minor league deals with the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers, respectively. Now as for the players that have been brought in, Blue Jays management has made some small but what seem like quality moves. The same day that they non-tendered Goins, they picked up infielder Aleydmis Diaz from the St. Louis Cardinals. The 27 year old from Cuba should provide a better offensive option off of the bench, especially with Troy Tulowitzki, Devon Travis and Josh Donaldson all coming off injury riddled seasons. Diaz was an all-star in his rookie campaign in 2016, dropping 17 home runs to go with an OPS (on base plus slugging) of .879 in 460 appearances at the plate.
The New Year rolled around and the Blue Jays continued to strengthen their middle infield with the acquisition of third baseman Yongarvis Solarte from the San Diego Padres. General manager Ross Atkins admitted that the club had been inquiring about Solarte for quite awhile, with discussions dating back to last year. Versatility is what appealed to the Blue Jays, as he can play all four infield positions so the team doesn’t see him solely as a backup third baseman. First base depth isn’t really an issue with both Kendrys Morales and Steve Pierce likely seeing time as backups to all-star Justin Smoak.
The Blue Jays kept solidifying their roster by making another deal with the Cardinals for Randal Grichuk, who’s already considered a front runner for the starting left field position. As well as signing veteran outfielder Curtis Granderson, who will presumably take Bautista’s vacated perch in right field, to a very team friendly one year deal. The outfield depth is pretty solid as well when you consider that Teoscar Hernandez is knocking on the door to a more prominent role in the outfield, as well as prospects Anthony Alford and Dwight Smith Jr. waiting in the wings. Veteran starting pitcher Jaimie Garcia signed just before spring camp broke to fill the fifth spot in the starting rotation.
So the real question is whether this team can contend in a division with revamped lineups in New York and Boston. Tampa appears to be cleaning house, getting rid of veteran Evan Longoria, Corey Dickerson and outfielder Steven Souza. Baltimore will likely not be much of a factor as the Manny Machado situation is still very much up in the air. Are they going to trade him and rebuild or are they going to re-sign and build around him? Their rotation is weak and all-star closer Zach Britton will miss the start of the season. If the Yankees and Red Sox start the season slow, the Jays realistically could have a chance at a second wild card berth. They’ve bolstered their bench and filled the rotation, however the threat of injury is still a problem, especially with baseball’s oldest roster. The Blue Jays’ average age is 29.7, which is tied for fifth oldest in the major leagues and third in the league for total man games lost due to injury last season at 1,454.
With a healthy rotation and middle infield, this team has a chance to possibly sneak into the postseason in 2018. The season could get interesting with Donaldson admitting that he will test free agency at the end of the season, as contract talks between his camp and Blue Jays management appear to have broken down and he would prefer to focus on the season. If the Blue Jays are out of contention by the trade deadline, it is a very likely scenario that Donaldson could get dealt. Atkins has said that it’s hard to envision the team being better without Donaldson, so that will be an interesting storyline throughout the season.
2018 could be a mixed bag for the Blue Jays. Will it be the last hurrah for the recent playoff era? Or will it signal the beginning of the rebuild, paving the way for the young star prospects like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette? Despite the split among fans, there is a still a glimmer of postseason hope in Toronto.