It’s now or never for the Jays

on March 2017 | in Sports | by David Seigel | with No Comments

2017 is going to be a pivotal year for the boys of summer here in Toronto. And they better make it count, because as far as I can tell, the window is closing.

This year, we have a great starting rotation, but will it be as good as last year’s?

Stroman was ordinary. Estrada is battling back pain. Sanchez and Happ were a level of remarkable that would be nearly impossible to duplicate. Liriano could/should be as good if not better than Dickey was (and doesn’t force the Jays with the Thole factor). So best case scenario – let’s say they’re as good as 2016.

Lineup – sure we lost Edwin. But we picked up Kendrys, who is likely to enjoy his best season in our hitter’s park much like Josh Donaldson did the last 2 years. So that gives the Jays a lineup of Donaldson, Bautista, Kendrys, Tulo, Martin and a combination of production from Travis (if healthy), Pillar, Upton/Carrerra and newly acquired Steve Pearce. So let’s give them a best case scenario of the bats being about as good as they were last year, a season in which they declined greatly from 2015.

So that puts us at about 90 wins and another potential wildcard. So it’s integral to make the most of this potential playoff spot and go for it all. Maybe pick up a piece or two that put us over the top like Tulo and Price did.

May as well… because in 2018, things will be VERY different.

The 2018 free agent class will include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and of course, Josh Donaldson. And as much as Josh may love Toronto, when he’s 32 next year, he’ll need to cash in. This is not a man who has been raking in the big bucks for 8-10 years. JD had one year in 2007, and then only really got started in 2010. He was a late bloomer who accumulated about $3 million over his ENTIRE CAREER up to 2014. In 2015, his raise brought him to $4.3 million. In 2016, another raise (winning an MVP award helps) to $11.65 million. This year, the Jays’ best hitter will earn almost $19 million. The year-by-year increases will certainly end as Donaldson receives a massive long term contract, probably in the 6 year, $150-160 million range.

However, seeing how the Jays handled the Encarnacion situation, offering $20 million per year and not succeeding in bringing him back, Donaldson will be in the same boat. He will NOT look at the Jays as a team he can win with, nor will they overpay him the way other teams around the league will. (The Angels could use a premier third baseman, but more on that in a second).

After this season, Estrada and Liriano are both free agents. And again, if they resign him, who knows how Marco’s back will be. At 34, he won’t be likely to improve much. Russell Martin will be 35. Troy Tulowitzki will be 33. JA Happ will be 35 with one more year on his deal. Don’t get me started on old man Bautista. See where I’m going here?

One of the major reasons the Jays have competed the last two years: Because the Yankees haven’t. The Bronx Bombers have been shedding salaries and building a farm system. After jettisoning McCann and Texeira, the Yankees boast a lineup with a number of young stars (current and future) including Gary Sanchez, Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge and ace Masahiro Tanaka. A solid young core and a ton of space to spend some money to improve… Now imagine when Bryce Harper hits that free-agent market. Think he has any interest in remaining on the east coast for the largest contract ever signed? The Yankees have the history, the money and the allure. As for Donaldson? With only a few years left on Mike Trout’s contract, and Albert Pujols getting less effective each year, JD may be the perfect guy to solidify the lineup and fill that hole the Angels have at 3rd base. And we certainly know from Pujols and Josh Hamilton that the Angels don’t mind spending some money on players nearing the end of their prime.

In 2018, the Yankees and the Red Sox will both be much better teams. I won’t even get into the young core the Red Sox have and their spending potential on free agents (Manny Machado maybe?). The Jays will almost certainly digress. Best case scenario, the Jays somehow miraculously sign all of their UFA’s including Donaldson, they’re still older than you want them to be. And in baseball, experience can only go so far in comparison to youth, speed, power, energy and pure skill. And of course pitching – where Stroman may or may not have re-established himself, and Sanchez may be elite, or may be a flash in the pan.

I love this team. I want them to do well. But the writing is on the wall – after this year, they will probably start looking to unload salaries and rebuild the farm. Then we’ll see what kind of executive Mark Shapiro really is.

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