Blue Jays offseason preview: Powerful lineup needs help from rotation
The Toronto Blue Jays’ magical 2015 season came to a close with a loss to the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS. Despite the tough loss, the Jays have plenty to be proud about this season.
The Canadian club won 93 games, claimed the American League East and made their first playoff appearance since 1993, ending the longest playoff drought in baseball. The Blue Jays made some huge moves both before and during the season, acquiring key players in Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin, David Price, Troy Tulowitzki, Ben Revere and LaTroy Hawkins.
While it wasn’t the fairytale ending many people were anticipating, the Jays are set up for another strong campaign in 2016. Here are three things the Blue Jays need to focus on this offseason.
1. Figure out the front office. Former Cleveland Indians president Mark Shapiro will be appointed CEO and President of the Blue Jays following the end of the 2015 season. Whenever top executives take over a team, there is always some change within the front office — it’s reasonable to assume that Shapiro will evaluate his new staff and bring in people as needed. The first thing on his list will be to either extend general manager Alex Anthopoulos (whose contract expires on October 31) or find another leader. Once those executives figure out their roles, they will be able to proceed with offseason moves as they see fit.
2. Sign multiple starters. The aforementioned Price was a huge pickup for this team, stabilizing the rotation and providing some leadership to a young team. After acquiring Price on July 30, the team went an astounding 42-18 the rest of the regular season and the Jays went 9-2 in games he started. Heading into his first bout with free agency, it’s likely Price will receive a massive payday with many experts expecting him to top $200 million. The Jays will likely lose another rotation piece (and leader) in Mark Buehrle. While Buehrle didn’t make the postseason roster, he was an effective, durable innings eater, making 32 starts and pitching to a 3.81 ERA. He is a free agent in 2016 — it’s been reported that he is contemplating retirement. Righty Marco Estrada is also entering free agency this offseason.
With those three guys (possibly) gone, the Jays will sorely need to fill their spots in the rotation. Luckily for them, there are plenty of guys to choose from. They have their choice of top-tier guys (Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Johnny Cueto, Zack Greinke) and second-tier guys (Doug Fister, Hisashi Iwakuma, Jeff Samardzija, Wei-Yin Chen). The normally-stingy Blue Jays will need to open their checkbooks (chequebooks?) to sign multiple starters.
3. Get Devon Travis healthy. Early in the season, rookie Devon Travis was having a great year at the plate, hitting .304 with eight homers and 35 RBI through his first 62 games. He looked like an early Rookie of the Year candidate. Unfortunately, Travis went down with a shoulder injury that required surgery, but it looks like he will be healthy and ready to go for spring training. With Travis back, the Jays will again boast the most prolific offense in baseball.