If you had told most fans and pundits that the Blue Jays would sit last in the A.L. East as the season end approaches, chances are you would have been promptly asked if you were trolling. If you were talking to a big time Jays fan up here in Canada, you may have even been called a hoser.
Of course, here in the North, there was much cause for celebration during the offseason, as “Canada’s Team” dominated headlines by picking up the likes of Josh Johnson, R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes. The buzz was so considerable that not only was ‘playoff talk’’ alive and well, some people, including many experts, were saying the club was a World Series contender.
Now, with the season coming to a close, the Jays have had a horrific campaign and they will finish below .500. As a result, there are plenty of folks who are already writing the team completely off next year as well. Is it really time to overhaul the roster? That seems a wee bit premature.
From the beginning of this season Toronto was put in a deep hole, as All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes was sent to the sidelines after trashing his ankle. To date, the dynamic infielder has only played in 82 games, and during that time he’s batted .297, has 10 dingers and an OBP of .349. The Jays sure could have used that level of production for even just 140 games.
The Jay’s biggest star, Jose Bautista has once again put up big numbers, but hopes for an injury free season have once again been dashed. The highly touted Brett Lawrie was hurt early on, and the young third baseman has failed again to match the buzz he created in 2011.
Of course, there were question marks surrounding Josh Johnson heading into the season, but the hope in Toronto was that everything would fall into place for the former All-Star. The accomplished right hander, however, has struggled, injuries and all. The same can be said of Brandon Morrow, who has also demonstrated he can be a top tier pitcher in the past. Ricky Romero, the club’s former ‘ace’, has spent much of the years in the minors.
Making matters worse, last year’s NL Cy Young winner, R.A. Dickey, wasn’t 100% early on and hasn’t been able to match the massive hype that surrounded his arrival. In short, not only did the cards not fall into place for the Jay’s starting pitching, they fell off the table.
Now despite the miserable season and the thousands of panic buttons that have been hammered, there are reasons to believe the Jays could be a winner next year. Dickey certainly hasn’t been the jaw dropping pitcher he was last year, but he has managed to put up a wins-above-replacement (WAR) score of 1.9 (according to Fangraphs). Buehrle may come with a ridiculously steep price tag for 2014 (18 million…), but as expected, the veteran lefty has put up 200 innings and a solid WAR of 2.6. If Morrow can get healthy, and return to his previous form, the rotation will be in much better shape.
As as far as the field and bats, there’s a chance Bautista may not ever be a 150 game player again, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t put up good numbers when he plays. In 2013, “Joey Bats” recorded a 4.2 WAR score in just 118 games. Edwin Encarnacion continues to be an punishing offensive threat and has scored a 4.1 WAR for the season.
In addition, just when most folks had closed the book on Colby Rasmus and Adam Lind, in terms of whether they could be top tier players again, both men had solid seasons. Especially Rasmus, who has, under the radar, had an outstanding campaign.
Now of course, the Jays should clearly examine making some moves in the offseason, as there are holes behind the plate (JP Arencibia has a WAR of -0.6…) and in the pitching staff, but the idea there’s nothing there is silly. A few less injuries here, and some rebound seasons there, and the Jays could make the A.L. East even more competitive in 2014.