By: Daniel Wilkins
In 2015, the Toronto Blue Jays were one of the most dominant teams in the American League. They won the AL East, finished with 93 wins, and lost the ALCS to the Royals. They had an All-Star lineup including Russell Martin, Justin Smoak, Josh Donaldson, Jose Reyes, and Jose Bautista. On the mound, veterans like R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle led the way while youngsters Drew Hutchison and David Price brought up the rear. In the bullpen, Aussie reliever Liam Hendriks was a fierce righty who set up 20-year old Roberto Osuna, who finished 4th in ROY voting.
But, it has all gone south since that magical 2015 season. In 2016, it was only a small step downwards, winning 89 games, and went from WC winners to runners-up in the AL, losing to the Indians in 5 games. In 2017, however, any happy sights the Jays had would all disappear.
A 76-win season and a whole lot of holes produced in the squad did not help. In 2018, a 73-win, 4th place finish really made the current Blue Jays a simple fragment of the 2015 squad that almost brought them a ring. The Vice President of The Dugout, Noah, believes the Blue Jays can be WS contenders by 2020. How do they do that?
Why just the infield?
Sure, every team has multiple holes, regardless of how good they are, but the Blue Jays’ issues are more obvious than hidden. While the infield is a trainwreck, the same can be said with the pitching. Also, I plan on discussing Toronto’s pitching situation, so stay tuned for that.
First base: Keep Justin Smoak
Justin Smoak was a 2017 All-Star, and his 2018 season wasn’t far from that. His .808 OPS is only 75 points lower. Even if a 75 point drop seems like a lot, it’s a lot better than during his Seattle tenure, when his OPS was in the 600s. He had 25 homers, an RAR of 21, and a WAR of 2.3. Along with that, you could have rising prospect Rowdy Tellez backing him up.
However, this is the last year of Smoak’s contract, as he becomes a free agent at the end of 2019. Since it wouldn’t be the best idea to start Tellez in 2020, the Jays could sign a free agent 1B in that class like Jose Abreu or Mitch Moreland.
Second base: Trade Devon Travis to Pirates for Adam Frazier
Devon Travis is very injury prone, and has missed significant playing time in almost all of his 4 seasons as a Major League player. A younger, healthier option would be Adam Frazier of the Pirates. Frazier is a utility man who specializes at second, and would be a nice option for Toronto to pick up. It’s not extremely certain which prospects would be involved in the deal, but, simply put, Frazier has better stats than Travis.
To avoid any bias considering Travis’s lack of playing time, Travis had more at-bats than Frazier (357 to 318). Despite this, Frazier has more hits (88 to 83), doubles (24 to 13), and runs scored (52 to 41). In percentages, Frazier dominates the field:
- Batting Average
- Frazier: .277
- Travis: .232
- Frazier: .342
- Travis: .275
- Frazier: .456
- Travis: .381
- Frazier: .798
- Travis: .656
Shortstop: Let Lourdes Gurriel Jr. develop
He has a 7yr/$22m contract for a reason.
Just because a player is not performing perfectly you have to give up on the man right off the bat. Lourdes Gurriel is a distinguished Cuban player that spent 6 seasons in the CNS (Cuban National Series) before playing in America. In 2017, his OPS was .607 because it is difficult to adjust to new atmospheres and pitching styles. For example, Japanese & Korean baseball is more centered around hitting. A prime example is Eric Thames, who spent a few seasons in the KBO before signing with the Brewers and hitting 40 homers.
If players can adjust flawlessly to new atmospheres, it’s fine. But, if players can’t hit or pitch at MVP levels right away, it’s not the end of the world. Gurriel’s own brother, Yulieski, had a low OBP and is now working his way back up.
Simply put, let Lourdes develop. If no progress is made in 3 or 4 years, come back to the issue.
Third base: Sign Mike Moustakas
Brandon Drury, who is considered to be the starting 3B for the 2019 Blue Jays, only played 26 games combined for the Yankees and Blue Jays in 2018. Along with that, he batted .169, had an OBP of .256, and an OPS of .516. Since it’s not practical for Richard Urena to start at his secondary position, you might as well make the most out of all of the salaries you’ve dumped into the Hudson Bay.
The money you’ve collected can now be spent on Mike Moustakas, who hit 28 homers and had an OPS of .774 in 2018. He also had an oWAR of 2.2, a oRAR of 23, and a WAA of 1.0.