A good number of Blue Jays fans are resigning to the fact that the team is falling short of expectations. While it is fair to say this season has become rather disappointing (41-46, 8.5 GB of AL East lead, 4 GB of WC), it shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who read my blog. If you’ve been reading my stories on a regular basis, you would have known about this for a while.
I could go on as to how Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro did a terrible job in the off-season especially handing the situation with free agents Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. But I’m taking a different direction. I’m willing to give Atkins and Shapiro a mulligan and start the 2018 season like 2017 never happened. Perhaps this time around they will get a real leadoff hitter, a power lefty bat, and some reliable relievers so Roberto Osuna won’t have come out of the bullpen every single game.
The play of Justin Smoak has been somewhat surprising. I say somewhat because he can always hit home runs and play stellar defence at first base. But Smoak has become a more complete offensive threat at the plate. His high batting average (.291 as of July 8) indicates he is making more contact with each at bat rather than swinging at bad pitches. And his 30 walks to this point tells us he is showing more patience at the plate and opposing pitchers are pitching to him more carefully.
For the Blue Jays to deal away core players is the stupidest thing they could do. It is one thing to give up on the season. It is another to give up on the players on the team. Injuries were a factor and they will continue to be a factor down the road. But guys like Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki are still capable of producing runs. Aside from Bautista, none of them are at the down side of their playing careers. You add Smoak to the picture and hopefully a healthy pitching staff, and the Blue Jays can be a contender next season.
You can make the argument that Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano could be dealt at the non-waiver trade deadline. Both are impending free agents and the Blue Jays can get something of value in return. Plus there seems to be plenty of arms available on the market this coming off-season who can replace Estrada and Liriano in the rotation: Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, and Clay Buchholz just to name a few.
I think the frustration of the season is making fans think a total rebuild is necessary. That is like detonating a bomb to start a campfire. There is no one in the Blue Jays farm system who can replace a guy like Donaldson, Tulowitzki, Bautista, or Kendrys Morales, at least in the short-term. Management needs to think very carefully before dealing away core players if they intend on being a contender in 2018.