As the Toronto Blue Jays limp into September, they find themselves in a familiar position: out of the playoffs. Not officially, but let’s face it, things are not looking good.
Despite taking two of three games against the New York Yankees over the weekend, the Blue Jays sat third in the American League East, a distant 10.5 games behind the division-leading Baltimore Orioles. And in the Wildcard chase, Toronto entered September five games out, with four teams to get past in order to reach a playoff position. As sad as it is to say, it’s over, folks.
So, once again, Toronto Blue Jays fans will spend September watching their team play out the season, trying to spoil someone else’s playoff dreams. They will hear the team talk about some of the younger prospects, and how September is a great opportunity for them to shine and make a case for a roster spot next season. And, of course, there will be plenty of speculation about the off-season moves that the team needs to make.
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The young prospects are, in fact, promising. We have all seen what Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez can bring to the pitching staff. And Daniel Norris is reported (by Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi) to be on his way up to Toronto to show us his stuff. While the official list of call-ups had not been released at the time of writing this post, Davidi also suggests that Sean Nolin (try to forget about that terrible emergency start last year) and Kendall Graveman could be on their way as well. These kids could, and likely will, all be a part of the pitching staff next year, at some point, and each is very talented. For fans, this should provide some hope and warranted optimism.
Jul 13, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; USA pitcherDaniel Norris
throws a pitch in the second inning during the All Star Futures Game at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Other September call-ups are likely to include familiar names like Dan Johnson, Ryan Goins, and Anthony Gose. Newly acquired outfielder/first baseman John Mayberry, Jr. (Philadelphia) will also be a part of the expanded roster, though he is currently on the disabled list. These players are looking to leave an impression with the Blue Jays’ management, in hopes of a landing a more significant role with the organization next year.
As for the off-season, there will be plenty of speculation about what needs to happen within the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization. First, and foremost, final decisions will need to be made on the future of GM Alex Anthopoulos and Manager John Gibbons. These decisions may hinge on the future of Team President Paul Beeston, as I wrote here.
Answering questions about the pitching staff will be paramount in the off-season. Are the young prospects ready? Can the bullpen be rebuilt? Is Casey Janssen going to carry on as the closer? Are Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey still serviceable parts of the rotation? What about J.A. Happ?
Jul 28, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcherR.A. Dickey
(43) pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
If the answer to that first question, “Are the young prospects ready?” is yes, then I think the rest of the answers fall into place quite easily. The bullpen and the rotation can be filled in with the kids, and some of the older arms can be moved. However, if the young kids aren’t deemed ready, there is some work to be done to rebuild the pitching staff.
Another big question mark this off-season is the outfield. It is almost impossible to imagine Colby Rasmus returning next season. He has struggled at the plate, and in the field. Even though he shows us flashes of what he is capable of, he is just too inconsistent to bring back. Anthony Gose is a superior defender, though he does not possess the power of Rasmus. Kevin Pillar has looked good over the past week, looking like a player with a point to make to management.
Apr 3, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Blue Jays center fielderColby Rasmus
(28) makes a diving catch in the eighth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Rogers Centre. The Indians beat the Blue Jays 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
A bigger outfield worry will be the future of Melky Cabrera. After a frustrating season last year, that culminated in the removal of a tumor from his back, Cabrera has been one of the best players on the field this season. Defensively, he has been fantastic, running down ball after ball that look headed for extra bases. And he has been stellar with the bat (.305BA, .355OBP, 16HR, 72RBI), arguably the most consistent Blue Jays’ hitter. He is a free agent at the end of the season, and will be in line for a significant raise on the $8 million he was paid this year. While it is hard to say exactly what it would take to get him back into the Blue Jays line-up, four or five years, at $48-$50 million is not out of line. Personally, I’d give it to him. If you can move out an expensive arm like Dickey or Buehrle, combined with letting Rasmus walk, there is more than enough money, without increasing the payroll.
Aug 9, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays left fielderMelky Cabrera
(53) hits a single during the fourth inning in a game against the Detroit Tigers at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
The only other critical off-season question is the infield. Is Brett Lawrie going to play second base or third base? Regardless, the Blue Jays need to get someone to fill the open spot, and that player needs to be a hitter. I would personally prefer to see Lawrie at second (I know, he is amazing at third) because he plays so aggressively, I think there is less likelihood of an injury running into the stands or after foul balls. A big bat at third is going to be easier to find, anyway.
Aug 5, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays third basemanBrett Lawrie
(13) fields a ball during batting practice before a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Kids head back to school today, ready for a fresh start and trying to make a good impression on teachers. They will be talking about the exciting things they did this summer and looking forward to all of the activities the new school year brings.
September will also see many Toronto Blue Jays’ players trying to make a good impression on management, in hopes of a job come next spring. Fans will be talking about the playoffs dreams created by an incredible 21-9 month of May, and crushed by a 36-43 record since. Oh, what could have been. Again.
Just another typical September.