With a record of 89-73, the Toronto Blue Jays finished tied for second (with the Baltimore Orioles) in the AL East, 4 GB of the first place Boston Red Sox. They made the AL wild card game against the Orioles, and beat them. They also beat the Texas Rangers in the ALDS (3 games). They lost to the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS in 5 games. With stars Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion hitting free agency, GM Ross Atkins needed to save the team with some key moves. Let\’s see what Atkins did.
Key additions: DH Kendrys Morales, RPs J.P. Howell, Joe Smith, Dominic Leone, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, OFs Steve Pearce, Lourdes Gourriel, SPs Mat Latos, Brett Oberholtzer, 2Bs Jake Elmore, Gregorio Petit.
Key subtractions: DH Edwin Encarnacion, OF Michael Saunders, SPs R.A. Dickey, Scott Feldman, RPs Brett Cecil, Joaquin Benoit, Drew Storen, C Josh Thole.
Biggest move: The Blue Jays were able to re-sign Bautista, but Encarnacion left them for the Cleveland Indians. To replace \”EE\”, the Jays brought in DH Kendrys Morales. Morales signed a 3 year, $33 million deal. With his 22 homers and .290 average in 2015, Morales helped the Kansas City Royals win the World Series that year. It was an underrated signing by the Jays.
X-factor: Injuries have prevented 2B Devon Travis to have at least 500 ABs in a season. In parts of two seasons, he\’s hit .300 or better, hit around ten homers and 35 RBIs. Solid numbers.
Biggest bounce back: The Jays re-signed Bautista to a 1 year, $17 million deal. The reason he got less than expected? Bautista, who used to be a 50 homer guy, hit 22 homers (his lowest since 2009) and a .234 average, his lowest in a full season ever.
Biggest breakout: After a solid WBC for team USA, SP Marcus Stroman is looking to breakout in 2017. He had a 4.37 ERA in 204 innings last year, his first 200 inning year. He\’s only 25, and is getting better.
Guaranteed star: 3B Josh Donaldson wasn\’t as good in 2016 as he was in his AL MVP winning 2015 year, but he was still very good. He can have an average of .300, and hit 40 HRs and 100 RBIs in the same season.
The Blue Jays lineup should look like this.
1. CF: Kevin Pillar
2. 2B: Devon Travis
3. 3B: Josh Donaldson
4. SS: Troy Tulowitzki
5. RF: Jose Bautista
6. DH: Kendrys Morales
7. C: Russell Martin
8. 1B: Steve Pearce (platoon)
9. LF: Ezequiel Carrera
Their rotation will probably be this.
1. Aaron Sanchez
2. Marcus Stroman
3. Marco Estrada
4. J.A. Happ
5. Francisco Liriano
1B Justin Smoak (platoon with Steve Pearce), 2B Darwin Barney, OF Melvin Upton and C Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be on the bench.
Roberto Osuna will be their closer, with Joe Biagini and Jason Grilli setting him up.
Finally, for my prediction, I think the Toronto Blue Jays will make the playoffs (via the wild card) in 2017, but start to fall off the track after that.